That day, that morning is carved in my memory as if it happened yesterday and every Ramadan, I revisit it thinking of what had happened and thank Allah for His blessings. I was a new mother to two small children who were fully dependent on me. That Ramadan I really wanted to taste the sweetness of worship and to enjoy the closeness to Allah through fasting, praying Qiyam and reading Qur’an.
Before having children, Ramadan had been always a sweet stop in my yearly journey where I was able to recharge, renew my purpose in life and approach my ‘Ibaddah (acts of worship) with new spirit and zeal. That year, in particular, I wanted so much to achieve that, I planned, I placed reminders for myself around the house and was eager to encounter my best Ramadan yet. The lack of sleep at night and exhaustion throughout the day from looking after a house and two young children did not deter me, I was still hoping I’d feel the magical Ramadan spirit again.
Until that day when reality hit me hard. That week my husband was working the night shift, he left the house to go to work before iftar and as I was putting the children to sleep I felt so tired but between answering my children’s dozen requests and endless questions I had my head buried in my Qur’an book trying to read my daily portion. The clock was ticking, iftar time was approaching and my children had yet to sleep. As I was sitting on the children’s bedroom floor waiting for them to doze off so I can have my iftar I dozed off myself. I only woke up to the sound of my alarm announcing its time for Fajr.
That morning I sat there in my room with the curtains drawn and tears rolling down my eyes – I felt hungry, thirsty, weak and disappointed in myself. I missed iftar, I missed my prayers and suhoor (pre-fast meal). Having to face another day while I must feed, clothe, entertain and look after my children was too much to bear and the guilt for feeling that way was the source of even greater pain.
As I sat there, I told myself Allah doesn’t want me, I was too bad to be accepted at His gates, I would never taste the sweetness of worship again. Being a mum now meant the end of my closeness to Allah during Ramadan. While everyone was busy with worship, attending lectures, going to Qiyam at the masjid I felt that I was missing out and abandoned. Ramadan as a mum became an uneasy time for me.
No matter how many books and articles I read about the importance of what I’m doing now by looking after my children and the high rank of a mother, I still felt bitter and hopeless. I missed attending the Qiyam prayers at the masjid, I missed the long sujood and prolonged duaas with no children jumping on my back or pulling on my down hijab.
It was too difficult to let go of that image of what my Ramadan should look and feel like, but on that day, I made peace with my situation, accepted my reality and thought to myself Ramadan won’t be the same for me anymore. That the sweetness of Ramadan worship was not for me anymore.
But how wrong was I, how mistaken I’d been. That day, though painful, that week, though difficult. It paved the way for me to stop staring at the closed door and start to see the new window Allah opened for me. To change my approach and not to go to Allah alone but go to Him with my little and young family. The joy and the sweetness of worship came back hundredfold and it was not only me, now my children share it with me which makes it all worthwhile.
If you are in a similar situation now where you are tired, exhausted and thinking when will I ever taste the sweetness of closeness to Allah again? When you are questioning yourself and your relationship with your lord, when your young children are still depending on you and the guilt towards them and towards yourself is too much to bear – believe me when I say it will pass… And it will be worth it.
It will be worth it when you feel their little feet are pushing against you as they pray next to you. This will bring unexplainable joy to your heart. It will be worth it when their heads are buried in their hands making duaa to Allah and telling you it’s a secret but then they run to tell you they made duaa for you. It will be worth it when they express how sweet the dates are after they managed to practice on their fasting with you. It will be worth it when they talk about their love for the prophets and share their favourite prophet as if they are talking about their favourite superheroes. It will be worth it when they ask you to start your daily portion of Qur’an because they feel safe and calm when they hear you recite.
It is imperative that seasons change, after winter there will be spring – similarly, after hardships, there will be ease and after the period of exhaustion and caring for your young children, there will be joy in going to Allah all of you together.
If you are looking back at the month of Ramadan drowning in feelings of regret and guilt, thinking because you are busy with your children you did not do enough in Ramadan. If you are a new mother and you are frustrated, trying to juggle your responsibilities as a wife, mother and maybe working from home too with all the spiritual goals you set for yourself, you are not alone. I felt this way many Ramadans before. Hold on and persevere, you are not alone, you will not be alone, you’ll knock on His door again with your children next to you and it will all be worthwhile.
Elham Abdel-Baki is a mother to two children and Head of MAB Juniors.