Ramadan is the holy month of fasting, prayer and reflection for millions of Muslims worldwide. It is also one of the five pillars of Islam, which are core principles and practices that Muslims follow. Muslims fast every day during Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset. Even if you're still practicing a bit of social distancing, Muslims can still use this time to connect with their faith and loved ones.
It's also an important time to introduce the concept of Ramadan to young children in an exciting way, especially when they may have missed out on activities and events over the past years. Here are my top tips for introducing kids to Ramadan.
1. Share food
Ramadan is a time to learn self-control, and it can be tempting to continually over-indulge in the evenings when you break your fast, which is known as iftar. It's certainly something I am guilty of! So, if you have lots of food, it's a great opportunity to share meals with your neighbors, especially ones that you don't know very well. I've done this before and it's a wonderful way to build new friendships and is very much appreciated by people. (Wear your face masks, of course.) Plus, taking your children along with you to knock on your neighbors' door to give them food will be something they will remember and help create a new tradition. You can go the extra mile and plan to make food packages to give to homeless shelters, too.
Ramadan is a great time to connect with non-Muslims, too, and while there may not be the opportunity to invite everyone you know over for iftar, bringing people food to their doors is a good alternative. Depending on where you live, you may be allowed to enjoy iftar with friends and families in small groups outside (please check the guidelines for where you live).
2. Create a Ramadan atmosphere
My daughter and I love to do arts and crafts projects together. This year, we will be making cards during Ramadan to give to her school friends. It's also a friendly way to inform fellow parents about Ramadan and the children might even want to create one of their own. We like to make and buy decorations to put around the house to give it a more festive feel. You could also transform a small corner of your house dedicated to prayer time with reminders from the Quran.
3. Build your Ramadan book and toy collection
I am also an avid book reader and have passed that enthusiasm onto my daughter. I've invested in lots of books this year and have built a collection of Ramadan books to create a special book basket. I chose my books based on how diverse and multicultural they are. The majority of books available do not have a Muslim protagonist, so it's important to show young Muslim children their religion and culture does exist—and that it should be celebrated. I also base my decisions on the type of language being used and pick books with different varieties of illustrations.
My family and I are multilingual, so I have also bought some books about Ramadan in other languages such as Arabic to mix it up. I also have Arabic posters and puzzles, which I will be taking advantage of during Ramadan. You could also make your own puzzles with cardboard.
4. Connect with people
For new Muslims, Ramadan can be a lonely time, especially if they don't have anyone to celebrate it with. If you know of someone that is either alone or new to Islam, try to extend the hand of friendship. Islam is a great way to build social interaction and create long-lasting ties with people. Once a friend asked me to call them early in the morning to start their fast, which is known as suhoor. She really appreciated the fact that she wasn't alone and began her fasting day with a phone conversation. It was something very small that bought her a lot of comfort.
You can hold virtual iftars with your family and friends to create a social atmosphere. It's important to also help older relatives that might not be as technology savvy, to prevent them from feeling excluded. You could also hold a Quran class or pray together online.
5. Give money to charity
Ramadan is a time for compassion, so it's important that you budget to give to charity, if your financial circumstances allow it. I will be teaching my daughter about zakat (compulsory charity), by putting a few pennies each day in a special jar that we have decorated to give to charity at the end of Ramadan.
Many adult Muslims give Zakat to international causes, but it's also important to give money to people who need it in your local community. The pandemic has meant that many people have lost their jobs and loved ones. You can ensure that money goes to those who need it by researching and contacting your local charities. Charity is also a way to stay connected to people. If you are unable to pay Zakat, you could give away clothes you no longer want to a charity shop so that someone else can benefit from them.
Ramadan can be tiring, but these tips should help provide some relief. The most important thing to remember is to use Ramadan as an opportunity to reflect, spiritually re-energize and be kind to yourself.
Ramadan Mubarak to all of you!