We are reminded all the time that Ramadan is a month like no other… and therefore, should not be treated like a normal month. It’s hours, minutes and seconds are precious… and yet, with Ramadan traditionally comes iftar invites, sehri gatherings, sports events and the like. And with that, potentially, the usual chit chat, time-passing and other things that are often not so fruitful.
So how can we marry the two? I have put together a list of ways we can change this gatherings into ibadah, Inshallah, if we do it right! Some are the usual ones, and hopefully some may be some new ideas for you 🙂
- Clarify your niyyah
It is highly recommend to feed others during this month, and so inviting people over for Iftar is a great way to fulfil this. But whether you are inviting others, or going somewhere yourself, ensuring that your intention is to do it because it is an act that pleases Allah will hopefully bring blessings into your evening. Even if you go to play sports, clarifying your intention that you are doing it to keep your body healthy during this month, so that you can serve Allah in other ways, will allow you to transform that sport into worship.
- Don’t overdo it
Now that your intention is sorted, it is important to remember that balance is important. Moderation is the way in Islam, and this is the same. There is no need to attend every event that is going on, or accept every invite. It is OK to be choosy and attend a select few which you think will be beneficial for you
- Have a talk
Last night I attended a wonderful family gathering where we got together to celebrate the birthday of Imam Hasan (as), as well as enjoy some quality time together with cousins. The highlight of the evening was a short talk by a cousin, which was simple, practical and very effective. Adding meaning to a gathering by a short talk is a wonderful way to bless the occasion!
- Share goals for the month
One lovely thing to do – especially closer to the beginning of the Holy month – is to identify and share at least one goal for yourself for Ramadan. We did this in a friend’s group one year, and found that hearing other’s goals not only inspired us but helped us clarify our own, and motivated us to see it through! To top it all off, the hostess gifted us a little notebook for penning down these goals and other reflections during the month, and had blessed it with a personalised message for each of us!
- Share a hadith each
If you feel a talk is too formal, or perhaps no one attending can give a talk, then another great way to get everyone learning as well is to ask all coming to bring a hadith to share. When we did this at a gathering of friends recently, we found that the hadith that everyone chose to bring really inspiring and led to some great discussions!
- Share any other info – a favourite verse, a favourite line of a dua, a new Quranic dua you want to learn, one thing they have learnt so far, etc!
In the same vein, why not branch out and give guests a little fun homework! So they can bring a favourite verse that they like, or their favourite line of dua, a new Quranic dua they want to learn to recite in their Qunoots, or even one thing they have learnt so far in the Holy month.
Somebody hosted a themed iftar last year – the theme was ‘His Love is in the Air’ 🙂 All the friends were actually asked to do all four of the suggestions above! Furthermore, they were asked to present it nicely, but were not told why. When everyone had eaten, they began sharing their four things and showing what they had put together. Once each person shared what they had chosen and why it was meaningful to them (which was beautiful in itself!), they picked a name out of a hat and in line with the verse, “You will not attain piety until you spend of what you love; and whatever thing you spend, Allah knows of it.” (3:92), they then were asked to gift their presentation of their favourite verse/dua etc, to that person whom they picked.
Then in line with Allah’s promise of giving us more when we give something, they each got a little something as a gift. The gifts were little things to do with the kitchen and home, such as a cake tin, worktop saver, etc, but each item had a small dua to go with it! So for example, with a tray, the message read: “A tray can hold so many things and requires a balancing act to carry! This Ramadan, may you put all of your prayers and problems on Allah’s tray and leave the balancing to Him!” and so on…
Alhamd it was a lovely evening filled with the remembrance of Allah in the most beautiful, personal way.
P.S. Here is the poster I got! It was so cleverly done, with pictures to symbolise each of the four things, and the text behind.
- Discuss a good book
Last year we started a book club, and held our first sehri during the month of Ramadan. The book was secular, but had lots of links to Islam and as we all shared our thoughts and relevant hadith on the topic, it felt like a beautiful session with God at it’s center. Why not choose a book a month in advance, and set a date to discuss it during a gathering?
(P.S. This wasn’t the book we read for Ramadan, this came later… but you get the gist ;))
- Hold an event for a greater cause
There is a group in our community who host a beautiful iftar every Ramadan, and it’s ultimate goal is to raise money for charity. We pay tickets to the event, and there are raffles sold with lots of people donating their services as prizes; lots of money is raised, and an evening of community building and fun is had in the process!
- Top it all off with Sadaqah!
And lastly, a lovely way to top it all off is to encourage giving when people attend a gathering. For younger children, inviting them to bring in food to donate to a food bank, or new gifts to give to refugees or the sick, is a lovely way to incorporate charity into an event. For adults, having a sadaqah box present on the table alongside the food, and inviting people to donate to a cause is also a lovely idea.
Have you had any meaningful gatherings during Ramadan? Please do share!
Over the half-term, the Children’s Islamic Library held an event where each group focussed on a book.
11-15 year olds:
First up, The Breadwinner
“In the half-term break, the Children’s Islamic Library organised a book club for 11-15 year olds to discuss a book called The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. We were also going to watch an award-winning, animated movie based on the book. They recommended that we read the book before we came.
The Breadwinner is about an 11 year-old girl called Parvana in Afghanistan living under the strict Taliban law. Parvana’s dad had been wrongly arrested, and since women and girls were not allowed to go out on their own, Parvana had no choice but to dress up like a boy to earn a living for her family. Parvana had to be extremely cautious to keep her disguise a secret. I won’t give away anymore in case you haven’t read this book, and I highly recommend that you do.
As soon as we arrived in the annexe, we got on with watching the movie. Most people enjoyed the film, although we noticed a few differences between the book and the movie, such as missing characters and slight changes in the storyline. After the film, we all introduced ourselves, then went on to discuss the major themes and concepts dealt with in the book, such as courage, perseverance, resilience and consideration, and how the characters displayed these. Everyone expressed what they thought of it overall, and whether they liked it or not. Most people agreed that it was better to read the book before watching the film. Apparently, there is also a sequel, which I am really looking forward to reading.
It seemed to me like everyone thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, and it was definitely a good choice of book for the book club. I can’t wait until the next one!”
By Jannah Virjee
7-10 year olds:
Next up, ‘Meet the Masumeen’:
“It was ‘the’ Friday afternoon I had been looking forward to since my mum told me I was going to go for the Children’s Islamic Library event.
Prepared and excited we arrived at the annex where we were asked to go upstairs to where our group was doing the Book review and activity based on the book titled “Meet the Masumeen,” which is about a class of children who have a magic rug and go into the past with their special teacher and learn about the Masumeen and their special qualities.
We were warmly greeted by Azra Aunty and settled down to hear her read the chapter on Imam Husain a.s in her eloquent voice. After that we watched a clip about the 14 Masumeen and then went on to do the activity which was making necklaces with attributes relating to each Imam. To do this we had to answer questions about the Masumeen which were around the room and collect all the different pieces related to them.
I really enjoyed my afternoon and came home having learnt a lot and sharing it with my family.
I thank the Children’s Islamic Library for organising this event and I look forward to attending more of their sessions in the future.”
9 years old
4-6 year olds:
And last but not least, Pip The Monster Lost His Heart:
The 4-6 year olds started off with a story reading session about Pip The Monster Who Lost His Heart but only managed to find it when he visited Kerbala and said “As Salaam Alayka Ya Aba Abdillah”
We realised Allah had blessed us with more intellect than Pip and although saying Salaam to our Imams is important, following them is also very important!
A multi sensory treasure hunt with four rations was laid out to enable all kids to engage in the activity
So off we went to search for four treasures that our beloved Imam Hussein (as) loved: Salaah, Quran, Istaghfar and Dua
The Salaah treasure Hunt station had pictures of Salaah actions to put in an order and kids had to guess that the actions were part of Salaaah. Only then they could collect the first piece of their heart.
Here the kids listened to some Quran recitation and had to guess it was Quran! Some kids responded back with their fav memorized suwer, after guessing a few suras they then searched for the second piece of their heart hidden under the Qurans.
Here the kids got to sniff and associate Istaghfar to a beautiful smelling perfume which takes away our bad smelly deeds. The third pieces of their hearts were hidden inside a Tasbih basket
Here kids had to decode the clue using letter codes. The secret message read: “Call Upon Me” and guess that Dua was their last and final clue which led to finding their last piece of heart, hidden inside Dua books.
With their heart all complete, they glued it on their special craft activity. Then they went on to design their own flags to take to Kerbala with them very soon one day InshA!