Eat, Pray, Learn: The Importance of Family Ramadan Rituals
As I watched my two-year-old son mimicking my uncle’s prayer patterns yesterday, I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t remember when and how I learned how to pray. I don’t even know who taught me.” To which he responded, “You learned by watching.”
Just like that, I flashed back to my parents in our tiny living room praying on a frayed red prayer rug — my younger brother climbing on top of them, and my older brothers standing next to them. Sure, there had to be instructions provided at some point, but so much of what we know and do comes from exposure.
Here are some family rituals to be mindful of this Ramadan:
1. EAT TOGETHER!
For many, this can be tough. Work and school hours may conflict; and still, some of us are away from our family for one reason or another. Thankfully, we have the power of technology.
Make it a priority to sit down and break your fast with your family every night it is possible. Set the table together, give everyone a role. My five-year-old gets to put out plates and silverware. My two-year-old gets to set out the napkins. My husband cleans the dishes while I prepare food and check saltiness. Do they do this without my request? No, not yet. But consistency will get us there insha’Allah.
Last Ramadan, during quarantine, we would FaceTime parents and siblings to ensure we were all awake for Suhoor. During Iftar, we FaceTime to break fast on many days. But each night, my nuclear family and I had the privilege of sitting down and eating together, alhamdulilah.
Some of us believe in strictly eating at the dinner table; I grew up this way. And true, some meals just need the coziness of communal eating. But on days when we eat pizza or spinach pies, everyone can happily sit around the coffee table watching our favorite Ramadan lecture series.
Eating together anywhere during Ramadan brings so much peace and comfort after a long day of fasting. We are able to appreciate each other's presence, and plant positive seeds in our children’s minds, and hopefully they look forward to sharing similar moments with their families someday.
2. PRAY TOGETHER
Growing up watching my brothers pray with my parents, and most days joining myself, always felt so serene. Salah jama’a is one of the most healing things for me to witness and engage in. This feeling of unity, whether you are praying beside your mother or next to complete strangers, comes from engaging in something powerful that ties you to your Deen and to billions around the world. It is something so personal and universal all at once.
Fajr and Maghreb are the best Salah to prioritize with your family during Ramadan. If you can do every Salah together, even better! But prioritize these two: the beginning of the fast and the conclusion. This not only will make you feel more accountable for the remainder of your daily Salah, but will build a communal foundation through prayer for your family to rely on.
Along with prayer, Dua’a of course helps me personally get through the day. I love that I never had to try to memorize the “breaking fast” Dua’a. My parents recited it every day at iftar time, so I was raised hearing it. Then my older siblings picked it up, and began to say it too. Soon after, I was reciting it myself. It’s amazing how children absorb their surroundings! Point blank.
3. Learn Together
My favorite thing about my five-year-old going to an Islamic school is that he jumps into the car on the way home and starts to tell story of a Prophet that he learned about that day. Usually I can recall the story, but wouldn’t be able to remember the details myself.
I didn’t have the opportunity to attend a Muslim school growing up. While my parents enrolled me in Saturday school to learn Arabic, it was mostly through discussions with my family that I learned these stories. Of course as I matured and my curiosity ensued, I began to read and research them on my own, and attended lectures whenever possible. What I remember most is doing this all by myself. I wonder how much more in tune with my religion I would have been if Islamic discussions had been a part of my daily life at school or home.
My husband and I decided last Ramadan would finally be the one where we eliminated distractions and turned up the Ibadah. No entertainment series, no post iftar naps. We followed two Ramadan lectures every single day. We read Quran and discussed some Islamic tales that we never really had the chance to learn. Insha’Allah I hope to set a higher standard: I want to learn and discuss one new thing from the Quran daily. This can take 5 minutes. Instead of bedtime stories with our boys, we can discuss different stories from the Quran.
So this Ramadan, make a more concerted effort to spend more time with your family. More meals shared, Salah prayed together, and simple check-ins will fill your cup as well as theirs insha’Allah!