We celebrate our Ramadan traditions

It’s a time for reflection for everyone, including the altMuslimah staff. Join us in reflecting upon our memories and traditions during the month of Ramadan. From family time escapades to the gift of solace, we each have something we would like to share with our readers.

By Zehra Rizavi

I have fuzzy but fond memories of Ramadans spent in my paternal grandfather’s home in Islamabad, Pakistan. I would insist that my mother wake me up in the twilight hours so I could join the adults for the pre-dawn meal, known as suhoor, and fill up for my mini-fast. I had been assured that if I abstained from food from sunrise until lunch, Allah would reward me as though I had fasted the full day—a sweet but entirely fabricated concept, I later found out, intended to mollify children’s demands not to be left out of Ramadan.

A night owl from my earliest years, I would normally have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of bed at 4:30 a.m. but on these days excitement replaced my grumpy drowsiness and I would scurry to the breakfast table laden with warm toast, jams, omelets, kabobs, cereals and even a sticky, cloyingly sweet dessert called jalebi. My favorite were of course the aloo parathas-– flat, unleavened breads stuffed with spicy potatoes and fried on a griddle. Somehow, with the family chatting and laughing, I didn’t find it difficult to eat at this strange hour. After eating, and at the nudging of my mother and grandmother, eating some more, I would return to bed, feeling very grownup and very Muslim.

I look back with a smile at the chubby, pig-tailed six-year-old who was so impatient in her desire to practice a pillar of Islam and, more importantly, so eager to please Allah and I regret how age and worldly distractions has blunted some of that nascent spiritual enthusiasm. I don’t believe we can ever recapture the innocence of childhood but this Ramadan I hope to reclaim a bit of that sincerity, that excitement that I brought to the suhoor table 25 years ago.

By Hafsa Ahmad

Ramadan is undoubtedly the most special time of year for Muslims around the world. Even more so for Muslims in America because we grow up surrounded by a plethora of religious holidays but without one of our own. So when Ramadan finally rolls around, it feels like it’s our turn. Our turn to skip school, feast with our families and celebrate. Eager to showcase our religious enthusiasm in the form of lights and colors, my sisters and I tried to decorate the house for Ramadan/Eid. Failed attempts include:

1- The “Ramadan tree” –which was really just a sad store bought plastic tree draped with lights and surrounded by wrapped gifts;
2- Green and white paper streamers—these lined our living room ceiling and hung on for months past Ramadan until they slowly succumbed to gravity, one by one;
3- Paper lanterns—which we had crafted in Islamic school and brought home, along with glitter glue under our nails and paper cuts on our little fingers.

One decoration tradition has survived. Christmas lights! Green twinkling lights that my siblings and I arranged to read “HAPPY RAMADAN” became the cornerstone of our yearly Ramadan decorations. The night before the first fast, my little brother and I would tiptoe downstairs, while the rest of the house was sound asleep, to hang these very special lights (the likes of which we were never able to find again, much to the consternation of every iftaar guest we hosted!). Waking my little brother up after midnight always marked for me the true arrival of Ramadan, and waiting for the sleepy excitement of our sisters and warm appreciation of our parents felt like our first Ramadan gift.

When I moved away to attend college, suhoor was simply not the same without these lights winking at me while I scarfed down cold cereal and a protein bar. Now, as I spend my last Ramadan at home before moving away again, I revel in every light bedecks our house and hope to carry this tradition to my new home.

By Asma Uddin

During Ramadan, everything turns upside down. You eat breakfast before dawn; the first signs of anger and temptation suddenly also become the first reminders of restraint; and your experiences of community, if they involve communal prayer, involve more silence than chatter.

And for some of us, your nights become your days.

The regular schedule: work during the busy, bright day, and sleep away peaceful nights. The Ramadan schedule, at least in my household: move slowly—if at all—during the day, and be your most vibrant in the darker hours. Don’t waste the silent night by sleeping. Read! Pray! Meditate! Consider yoga to get you past your post-iftar slump. Catch up on the work your mind was too tired to focus on during the day.

In my home, this schedule turned upside down is our most cherished Ramadan tradition. My toddler son asleep, his terrible-two’s-tendencies no longer a distraction, my seven-year-old daughter and I sink into the living room couch, books in hand. She with the latest adventures of Tinkerbell, me with Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty. We compete (or so she thinks) to see who can get through a chapter more quickly, but mostly we just sit side-by-side, immersed in our different worlds, but enjoying even more the world where we can finally sit in silence, the sky outside dark, and just read.

By Najiyah Khan

Over the last fifteen years I have collected dozens of books on Islam: Tariq Ramadan, Al-Ghazali, Ingrid Mattson and Martin Lings, along with many other authors, share the bookshelf. My passion for collecting Islamic literature quickly outpaced my ability to read the books I bought and many still languish on the shelf with unopened bindings. Every Ramadan I make an effort to make my way through two or three books in hopes of slowly shrinking the “To Read” section which far outnumbers the “Read” section. I feel enlightened and inspired as I slowly make my way through each book and am always ready for another recommendation, another gem to add to the shelf.

A friend suggested the Muhammad Asad translation of the Qur’an, saying the footnotes are clear and extensive, giving the history and context behind every chapter. I quickly ordered the three volume set. I am nearly finished with the first volume (chapters 1-9), over a year after I began this journey. It is a slow but steady course. I finished a large portion of the first volume last Ramadan; the detailed footnotes are overwhelming at times, but filled with great commentary and clarification.

In these first six days of Ramadan I have read more pages than I have in the last six months. My devotion deepens in Ramadan to a level I find difficult to achieve during the other eleven months of the year. With three and a half weeks remaining in this precious month, volume two waits patiently on the shelf. InshAllah, its binding will soon be opened as I continue my journey to gain a deeper understanding of our holiest book.

By Shazia Kamal Farook

Last Ramadan, my husband and I, in the throes of a move, kept a stash of dates and juice in an icebox while we waited to settle into our home. We were blessed, taking full advantage of the grand suhoor and iftars provided by the local mosque. Although we didn’t have the conventional set up for Ramadan, our first one together allowed us an opportunity to reach deep inside ourselves for our spirituality during a very busy, very duniya-fied time in our lives.

This Ramadan, my husband and I will hopefully continue the traditions we enjoyed last year- going to night prayers together, waking each other up for the pre-dawn meals and looking for cool spots to break our fast.

As I write this, I smile thinking about the different Ramadan traditions I have participated in my life so far: eating dates soaked in milk for the pre-dawn meals while growing up, attending the highly anticipated sister’s suhoors with my college Muslim Students Association (which meant cars packed with Muslim girls headed to Denny’s at 3:30 a.m. for pancakes), and assembling sack lunches for the homeless in Berkeley. After college, my Ramadans included weekend all-nighters with my friends as we mosque-hopped to hear our favorite speakers talk about spirituality in our generation.

Reflecting now, I am beyond excited to see what we come up with this year, Insha’Allah! Perhaps a hybrid experience of all of the above…

Topstory Photo Source: sogoodislam.wordpress.com

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