My First Ramadan 18th June, 2015
I remember when I was seven years old, there was one month that everyone used to prepare and wait in anticipation for. It was a big deal, as everything seemed to change in this month. We used to go to the mosque every night and my mum and dad would pray a lot. They didn’t eat or drink anything either and just a little in the evening; but I do remember mum cooking a lot! My cousin, Mariam and I would sit at the kitchen table every evening and practise the recitation of the Qur’an. It was in this month that I mastered the Arabic alphabet to enable me to recite the Qur’an fluently. I was proud of that.
It was when I first started wearing hijab (veil) that this special month approached again. By then I knew why mum and dad never ate during the daytime in this month. It was called the month of Ramadan. In madrassah (Islamic School), they taught us that this month is a very spiritual time for Muslims and fasting is a form of spiritual fulfilment. It is also something we are obliged to do and forms one of The Five Pillars of Islam. It sounded so exciting and I couldn’t wait to fast! I knew my parents would be so proud of me!
The day before Ramadan came around and mum and dad told me I would need to go to bed earlier. I was confused and upset but I did as I was told. It took me ages to fall asleep, as I wasn’t used to sleeping this early. I tossed and turned but eventually I must have drifted off as soon afterwards, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder trying to wake me up.
“Fatema! Fatema! Wake up sweetheart; it’s time for suhoor (pre-dawn meal)”
I opened my eyes reluctantly, “But Mum, it’s still dark? I’m not hungry and I’m so tired!”
“It’s the first day of Ramadan, remember? We are having Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) so we can fast, come on wake up”.
Yes! I remembered it’s Ramadan! I sprang out of bed and ran to the bathroom to wash my face. I then went downstairs to join Mum and Dad at the table. I felt so grown up!
We recited some Duas (prayers) and then ate together. After we had eaten, dad said it was almost time to begin the fast. I asked him how he knew this and he told me it is because it is almost time for sunrise. Fasting takes place between sunrise and sunset. He explained to me that every morning of my fast, following suhoor, I would need to recite a niyah (prayer of intention) before beginning my fast. He explained this is declaring to Allah SWT of your intention to fast and is of the utmost importance.
We performed our salaah (morning prayers) and then mum told me to go back to bed and she would wake me up in time for school.
At school, it was weird how all I could think about was food! I wasn’t usually this hungry all the time but the more I thought about it, the more my tummy rumbled. There was an embarrassing moment in assembly where everyone was quiet for a moment, and my tummy made the loudest noise ever!
When it was almost time for lunch, I could smell all the wonderful aromas coming from the canteen into the classroom. I was so glad Dad was coming to pick me up for home dinners because my tummy was hurting.
When Dad picked me up at lunchtime, he asked me how my fast was going. I said I didn’t know why I couldn’t concentrate and just kept thinking about food and drink. My mouth felt dry and horrible. He told me that because I wasn’t able to have food, my mind was thinking about it even more. It was my first fast and it would get so much easier. I thought about this all the way home… and food, of course.
When I got home, I performed wudhu (ablution) with mum and performed the daytime prayers. By then, it was time to go back to school.
In the car, dad told me to try and avoid thinking about food as that would help me to stay strong. He told me that there were so many children out there in the world who didn’t have food or water. He also said that some of them don’t have parents either! These children are called orphans. This really shocked me, how would I live without mum and dad? Who would I talk to? Who would wake me up for school or buy me new uniform? Who would wake me up for school or even take me to school? I don’t have any money (well, I do sometimes save some of my pocket money, but still). How would I eat? Or even cook? Where would I stay? I wouldn’t be able to stay in our big, beautiful house because my pocket money wasn’t enough to pay all those bills I see Dad going through at the dining table every month. Come to think of it, who would even give me that pocket money? I would have nothing!
Stay posted to read part 2 of Fatema’s Ramadan experience. Coming soon.
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