A few days ago, a friend of mine sent me this text message:
I’ve been meaning to write to you about how Ramadan has been. I’m so tired by nighttime that after my short taraweeh at home, I sit for a few minutes to do dua and no matter how much I want to sit long and make dua or read Quran or listen to a lecture, I can barely keep my eyes open and am usually knocked out by 11 or 11:30 pm.
Spiritually i think I’m feeling like I’m in a good place. I feel better than the last couple of years even though physically I’m doing less. How is that possible? I also am
happy not going to taraweeh at the masjid which is how I’ve always felt. I do feel a bit guilty about it but I’m trying to be honest with myself. I don’t know what to do to amp up the physical duas/Quran reading, etc.
These are common sentiments for moms during Ramadan, especially moms of young children, toddlers, and babies.
There are two distinct issues here: The worship issue and the masjid issue. Let’s tackle them in turn.
I remember when I had my second baby, it was the fifth of Ramadan. A Ramadan baby means no fasting, no praying, no physical acts of ibadah really because you have a one day old newborn!
This is how it is for some of us moms. You are not fasting due to pregnancy, post-natal nifas, or breastfeeding. You feel like Ramadan is passing you by, almost like you are standing on the sidelines (with your little kids!) watching as your fellow Muslims fast, pray, go to the masjid, while you are…babysitting. It can feel like not much really changes for you between Ramadan and the rest of the year. You feel depressed about this and guilty.
This is the first issue. Moms have less time and energy for worship. The solution might be to start by asking yourself: Is it possible to do fewer physical acts of worship but to get more reward or to feel like you’re in a better place spiritually?
Ramadan (especially during the long summer days and short nights) for moms of young kids is challenging, no doubt. For me at least with four young children alhamdulillah, it’s all I can do to fast for so long and run around after my kids and take them out to parks, playgrounds, the library, cook and clean, that by evening (noon?) I’m exhausted! When it’s maghrib, I pray, eat iftar, then it’s already isha, then I pray a relatively short tarawih, then I’m knocked out. I told myself I’d go to bed at 10 pm every night so I can wake up at 4:30 am for suhur and not be sleep deprived, but I can’t manage it. I sleep at 11 pm if I’m really on top of things. I’m severely sleep deprived constantly.
So that reality leaves very little room for long tarawih, long recitations of Quran, and other lengthy acts of worship. But I’m trying to remind myself that alhamdulillah, Allah has made my daily grind my worship, if I set my intention. If I intend for my cooking, cleaning, childrearing, errands, grocery shopping, nurturing my family, etc., to be for His sake, inshaAllah He will reward me for it. So I just try to remember to make that my intention, niyyah.
The other point here is that Allah knows what you’d be doing in terms of ibadah if you could! He will inshaAllah, out of His infinite mercy and love and compassion, reward you for the things you would have liked to do but simply cannot, due to your circumstance as a mom of young kids. You could get the reward for reading the whole Quran, standing in long nafl prayer, and joining in tarawih, all based purely on your intention. This is what we learn from the hadith:
إنما الأعمال بالنيات وإنما لكل امرئ ما نوى.
“Indeed, actions are only by intentions, and for each person is that which he has intended.”
Also this hadith deserves reflection:
إِذَا مَرِضَ الْعَبْدُ أَوْ سَافَرَ، كُتِبَ لَهُ مِثْلُ مَا كَانَ يَعْمَلُ مُقِيمًا صَحِيحًا
‘When a slave falls ill or travels, written for him [in reward] is like what he does when he is not traveling and healthy.” [Bukhari]
عَنْ 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 please 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.'”
But also, I do think that in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the daily tasks, there can be tiny pockets of time in which I can sit and read Quran for 10 minutes, even if the kids are noisily playing around (or on) me. Or I can pray a sunnah, even if I pray that sunnah sitting down (because I am so tired). And the opportunities for dhikr and sending salawat on the Prophet ﷺ are always available. No act of worship is too small as long as there is sincerity in it.
I’m kind of an all-or-nothing person, so I will sometimes think, “Well if I can’t do all of the acts of worship, then I can’t do any!” It sounds funny to put it in writing, but many of us think like this. But it’s not the right mentality when it comes to worship. If I can’t do everything, I can still try to do at least a little bit when I can. There is this Arabic saying to help me avoid all-or-nothing thinking:
ما لا يُدرك كله، لا يُترك جُلّه
“What cannot be attained completely, the majority of it should not be neglected.”
We can focus on the small things and always be hopeful that Allah will reward us for the big things that we wish we could do were it not for our other responsibilities.
Now we come to the second issue: For moms, it can be extremely hard to attend tarawih at night in the masjid. Praying tarawih at the masjid in congregation, listening to the beautiful recitation of the imam and interacting with Allah’s words, is a very Ramadan-specific worship. But between the kids and their bedtime, to the lateness of the prayer timing and mama’s own bedtime, it’s often just not feasible. Even if some nights, a family member can babysit and let you go to the masjid for tarawih, sometimes your sheer exhaustion at night prevents you.
The solution is to realize this: Alhamdulillah women don’t have to pray at the masjid, and in fact, their prayers at home in their own rooms hold more reward! Sometimes I’m just amazed by Allah’s mercy and love. For men, who don’t have to spend the kind of time and energy we do on children, Allah has mandated that they have to attend prayers at the masjid for more reward. For women, whose situation Allah knows best, with our responsibilities at home, with kids, and life, He has made it easy for us by letting us get greater reward at home! I’m just astounded at the deep wisdom Allah has built into Islam based on the details of our lives. As Allah tells us in the Quran, ألا يَعلَمُ مَن خَلَق؟ “Does He not know, He who created?”
Allah has created us human beings, our natures, and our lives. Islam follows accordingly. It’s beautiful.
Umm Khalid was born in Egypt but moved to the US at a young age. She completed memorization of the Quran early in life and then attended Harvard University for her undergraduate studies. She studied Anthropology with a regional focus on the Middle East and graduated with honors. She has served as campus chaplain at a women’s college in New England while teaching Quranic recitation.
Umm Khalid is the mother of four children whom she home schools using a curriculum she personally developed, focusing on Islamic tarbiya and inculcating strong convictions for young children.
For more Islamic parenting and homeschooling info, you can follow Umm Khalid on her Facebook page.
Umm Khalid teaches online at Alasna Institute.