By Umm Khalid
A mother’s Ramadan is very different from the Ramadan of other people, especially mothers of babies and very young children. This is due to the nature of this stage of motherhood.
I am a mother of five mashaAllah wa alhamdulillah. My children are ten years old and younger, with my youngest one born only ten weeks ago.
Every mother in my position knows this simple reality:
My time is not my own.
I cannot allocate it however I want or spend it doing whatever I wish. Even during Ramadan, the most blessed time of the year! The month of increased worship, decreased sleep, and fasting.
Yet while most Muslims around her are fasting, decreasing their sleep, and increasing their worship, a mom of young children is:
- Not fasting (if she is in her period of nifas ie. postpartum bleeding, or facing complications with pregnancy or breastfeeding).
- Not decreasing her sleep because she’s already severely sleep deprived with her baby/ toddler/ young child with a million needs that somehow seem to surface mostly in the middle of the night.
- Not increasing her worship by much, because every time she tries to pray her five fard prayers, the baby is screaming to be nursed, or when she sits to recite or memorize Quran, her toddler bangs his head on the table corner and shrieks with pain, or when she attempts to pray tahajjud or a short taraweeh in the quiet sanctuary of her room at night after all the kids are finally tucked into their beds, the silence is shattered as one of the kids comes running into her room to announce that his brother has vomited all over the bedsheets she had just washed.
In all of these situations, day and night, she sighs, puts down the Quran she had just picked up or takes off the prayer gown she had just put on and goes to tend to her children and their nonstop urgent needs.
And she feels sorry for herself, feels as though she is the only Muslim in the world who’s not fasting or praying extra salah or reciting Quran in Ramadan.
And she feels guilty, feels that she is very behind on her `ibada.
And she feels anxious and worried, thinking that she’s wasting this precious month that is supposed to be dedicated to extra acts of worship, yet here she is letting it pass her by like this! Ramadan is a uniquely tremendous opportunity and not taking advantage of it makes her feel depressed and defeated. She gets more anxious by the day, as she helplessly counts down the days left of Ramadan.
This is the untold experience of the mothers of newborns, toddlers, and dependent children during Ramadan.
It’s often untold because this mom already feels bad and doesn’t want to advertise how foolish she feels internally for letting Ramadan slip through her fingers. So she watches other Muslims crowd the masajid, wake up at night for long tahajjud prayers, and complete the recitation of the Quran multiple times over, while she nurses the baby.
If this is you, my dear fellow mother of little ones, know that you are not alone.
Know, also, that there are two types of `ibada (worship), as Ibn Taymiya رحمه الله writes:
1. `Ibada of the limbs ( عبادة الجوارح )
2. `Ibada of the heart ( عبادة القلب)
You, right now, don’t have the chance to do much `ibada of the limbs, like extra long prayers or fasting or reciting lengthy passages of Quran. Do as much as you can of these physical acts of worship, but if you find that it’s not very consistent, don’t despair.
You can still do a lot of `ibada!
Focus on `ibada of the heart.
This is truly the CORE of all worship, the inward aspects.
Here are some ideas for `ibada of the heart for you to try to focus on:
1. Niyyah, النية: Intention
We all know the hadith,
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إنما الأعمال بالنيات وإنما لكل امرئ ما نوى…
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Certainly, actions are by intention, and for each person is that which he has intended…”
So intend to feed a fasting person, as you cook iftar and suhur meals for your fasting husband (and older children). InshaAllah you will receive the reward.
Also, on the topic of intentions, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم once was walking back from the Battle of Tabuk (غزوة تبوك ) with his men when he said something beautiful:
عن أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ لَمَّا رَجَعَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنْ غَزْوَةِ تَبُوكَ فَدَنَا مِنَ الْمَدِينَةِ قَالَ إِنَّ بِالْمَدِينَةِ لَقَوْمًا مَا سِرْتُمْ مِنْ مَسِيرٍ وَلاَ قَطَعْتُمْ وَادِيًا إِلاَّ كَانُوا مَعَكُمْ فِيهِ. قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَهُمْ بِالْمَدِينَةِ؟ قَالَ ”وَهُمْ بِالْمَدِينَةِ حَبَسَهُمُ الْعُذْرُ.”
Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) related:
“When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was returning from the campaign of Tabuk and had drawn close to Madinah, he said: ‘In Madinah there are people who, as you traveled and crossed valleys, were with you.’ They said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, even though they are in Madinah?’ He said: ‘Even though they were in Madinah. They were kept behind by (legitimate) excuses.”
Allah knows what your legitimate excuses are, which have kept you from being able to increase your physical worship. He will reward you for what you had intended to do, even if you didn’t get to do it.
2. Shukr, الشكر: Gratitude
Cultivate in your heart an entire attitude of gratitude to Allah. Think of all the blessings Allah has granted you (including the very children who are keeping you from those physical acts of worship!), and thank Allah from your heart for His amazing blessings. And we know that when we thank Allah, He increases us!
“إِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ …
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…” (Surat Ibrahim, 7)
3. Sabr, الصبر: Patience, Perseverance
The attitude of a Muslim is either a state of shukr (gratitude) or a state of sabr (patience and perseverance). Either way, you gain reward from Allah, whether good or “bad” things happen in life.
عَنْ أبي يَحْيَى صُهَيْبِ بْنِ سِنَانٍ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ الله ﷺ: عَجَباً لأمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ لَهُ خَيْرٌ، وَلَيْسَ ذَلِكَ لأِحَدٍ إِلاَّ للْمُؤْمِن: إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُ، وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خيْراً لَهُ. رواه مسلم.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said,
“How strange/ amazing is the affair of the believer! His matters are all good for him, and this is not the case for anyone but a believer. If a happiness occurs, he is thankful and it is good for him. And if a misfortune strikes him, he patiently perseveres, and it is good for him.”
4. Rida, الرضى: Contentment
This is an inner state which is fast disappearing in our age of materialism, social media, and constant comparisons with others. Many people are plagued with feelings of discontent, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. They don’t like what they have and want what they don’t have.
Aim to inculcate in your heart a sense of satisfaction and contentment with the qadar of Allah and with He has given you. Especially in material things. Try to work on not comparing yourself to your friends, your cousin, or online influencers (who are exaggerating in their descriptions of their vacations, editing stuff out from their life, or using filters in their selfies anyway!)
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: انظروا إلى من هو أسفل منكم، ولا تنظروا إلى من هو فوقكم، فهو أجدر أن لا تَزْدَرُوا نعمة الله عليكم.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Look at those who are below you, and do not look at those who are above you, for that is more likely to hold you back from belittling the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you.”
5. Dhikr, الذكر: Remembrance
This one can be both an act of the heart as well as of the tongue. Remember Allah as much as you can, as you go through your day taking care of your children, husband, and family. You can still use your tongue even while your hands are busy, keeping your heart engaged in the remembrance of Allah.
Things to say: Astaghfirullah, أستغفر الله. Alhamdulillah, الحمد لله. SubhanaAllah, سبحان الله. Make du`aa. Send salawat on Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم.
There are many more acts of `ibada of the heart, but this long-delayed article is already too long, and your baby is probably crying for you by now!
May Allah rectify our affairs, purify our hearts, and have mercy on us in this month, ameen.