by Fudia Muhammad
The Holy Month of Ramadan is anticipated to commence on the evening of Sunday May 5, 2019, which means the first day of fasting will begin on Monday May 6, 2019. Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of the lunar calendar year. Each year, approximately 1.8 billion Muslims all over the world observe this Holy Month by fasting (abstaining) from food and drink during the daylight hours. This sacrifice is obligatory for every Muslim who has reached puberty and is free from health conditions that would prevent them from fasting. In addition to fasting, Muslims are mindful to make their daily prayers; read the entire Holy Qur’an; increase charitable contributions; refrain from quarreling; commit no unscrupulous acts – and married couples do not engage in sexual intercourse during the daylight hours. Nearly one-quarter of the world’s population will unite and observe this strict discipline for 30 days.
The Holy Qur’an reads, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil” (2: 183). This verse addresses those who “believe.” A Muslim is simply one who submits his or her will to do the Will of Allah (God). So, the principles of Ramadan are not exclusive to those who identify as Muslims, it’s for all those who choose to submit to the Will of God. We could argue that every Black man and woman by nature is a Muslim. But regardless of our labels, every believer in God should desire to guard against evil; so, we invite and encourage all of our Brothers and Sisters to join us every year for a beautiful month of fasting and prayer.
Children who are too young to abstain from eating and drinking during the daylight hours, do NOT have to be excluded from receiving the tremendous reward gained from self-imposed discipline. Below we list seven ways in which younger children can participate and benefit during this month. These are only suggestions. It is advised to first have a conversation about them with your children, then implement some – or all. Each goal should be adjusted as needed so it’s age-appropriate. We pray that all will be encouraged to make every Holy Month of Ramadan a family affair!
- One good deed a day / Charity: Now this is a worthy goal that can be accomplished at almost any age. Every religion and even those who claim to be agnostic believe in the “Golden Rule” – or variations of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is never too early to teach and train our children to be kind and considerate of others. There is no greater deed than one that has a direct positive impact on another person, but they are not limited to this. Good deeds or acts of kindness are boundless, but if children need a jumpstart, be sure to offer suggestions. Anything from picking up trash in the neighborhood to giving their sibling a compliment; or making a “thank you” card for their teacher, to completing an unassigned chore, are all considered good deeds. Monetary charity, clothes or toys can also be donated to a worthy cause. Charity can also be expressed through volunteering one’s time to feed the hungry, keep company with the elderly, or visit with children who are ill. At the end of each day, make time for each child to share their good deed for the day and its impact.
- Prayer: Prayer is a pillar of Islam second only to Belief in One God. Depending on their age and/or their level of discipline, prayer at best is probably inconsistent for very young children. They usually either pray only with their family or in congregation. Or, they may only pray before a meal or right before bed. Whatever the level of prayer, the goal is to increase. If a child does not pray at all, they should be encouraged to pray at least once a day. If they only pray once, increase it to twice a day; if twice, then increase to three times; and so on. At a minimum, regardless of what time our children rise in the morning, it is best to begin their day with prayer. It is never too early to build a personal relationship with Allah (God).
- Read Holy Qur’an: The Holy Qur’an is compartmentalized in many different ways. One way is division by ‘Parts’ – it has a total of 30 Parts. Adults and teens who fully observe Ramadan are required to read one Part each day, so that by the end of Ramadan, the entire revelation has been read from cover to cover. Simply include the younger children in the daily readings. It would be wonderful if schedules and time would permit the entire family to read the Holy Qur’an aloud together every day. The family can have a designated shared reading time and even the children who are not yet able to read should be invited to listen to the revealed Words of Allah (God) being read. One does not have to be able to read to benefit from being immersed in the Word – it is all being recorded in the brain and mentally absorbed.
- No fighting or arguing: Fighting is strictly forbidden during the Holy Month of Ramadan. The only exception is if we must defend the life of self or others. We are to avoid arguing and quarreling as well because it robs us of the peaceful spirit of God. Depending on the number of children in a household, their ages, gender, and other family dynamics; this could be quite the achievement for siblings. Imagine 30 days without any bickering and all differences settled in the best manner – now that’s a small glimpse of heaven!
- Personal sacrifice: The most difficult aspect of the observance of Ramadan for most is the abstention from food and drink during the daylight hours. This is because we are abstaining from something that is natural – it is natural and necessary to eat and drink if we want to live, but we are asked to suppress this natural instinct for 30 days (during the daylight hours). A sacrifice such as this is too great for very young children. However, they can sacrifice and strengthen discipline in other ways. They can forgo indulgences that may be personally enjoyable, but not a necessity. So perhaps children can sacrifice eating sweets or junk food; sodas or land animals – allow them to choose but encourage them to choose something that will really challenge them. They can also sacrifice the amount of time spent watching television, playing video games, surfing the internet, going to the movies or aimless socializing. The goal of personal sacrifice and abstention is self-control, self-mastery. If we begin this practice in our youth, not only will we be able to master self, but eventually our immediate environment.
- Overcome one bad habit: According to the scholars and experts, it takes about 21 days to break a bad habit and form a new one. This rule is not exclusive to adults; which means that during the month of Ramadan our children can rid themselves of at least one bad habit. It is important to first have a clear understanding of why the specific habit is not good for them, so they will stay the course. It is also imperative to get started on this goal right away as time is a factor that dictates their success.
- Set one worthy goal: The idea here is not to have the goal accomplished by the end of Ramadan, but rather for our children to be in a position physically, spiritually and mentally to be ready to take on a worthy goal. This goal may take a week or several months to accomplish; but they will be well prepared and have actual evidence it can be done, having disciplined themselves for the last 30 days. It is no small feat for a child to accomplish these seven goals and successfully observe Ramadan. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad wanted to see his followers “supremely disciplined.” It takes a disciplined individual to accomplish any goal worthwhile.
May Allah (God) bless each member of our family to have a successful and blessed Ramadan!
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing. https://www.givebirthtoagod.com/)