Today, i’m excited to introduce a new series on the blog called Ramadan Stories. In these stories, mothers, from around the world, share their most beloved childhood memories of Ramadan. This is the first story in the series.
Yasmin Begum is a 55 year old Islamic school teacher with 3 beautiful daughters. Originally from Indonesia, she shares some of her fondest childhood memories of Ramadan. She also addresses some of the challenges she faced as a Muslim mother in America, striving to create a nurturing Islamic environment for her daughters in the hopes of instilling the love of Islam in their hearts.
Please share some of your favorite memories of Ramadan.
For me as a young girl in Indonesia, Ramadan was the best time! We loved Ramadan in Indonesia as kids. Because us kids had whole month off from school, we had a lot of free time. What we did in the morning, usually after sahoor and Fajr prayer is go out to play and just walk around together. Then we would come home and sleep till Dhuhr. Then after Asr, we would go to masjid and have so much fun. We stayed from Asr to magrib for Iftar, prayed taraweeh and then come home late at night.
So you spent the entire time between Asr and Taraweeh prayers at the masjid? What did you do for all those hours?
There were so many activities. All of my friends were there so we loved spending time in the masjid. We read Quran together and played with our friends. Also, we would get goodie bags everyday from the other mothers and our teachers. The teachers would challenge us to memorize more Quran so me and my friends would compete with each other. We had fun!
That was more than 30 years ago. Now, its different because the kids have school. I don’t know if their ramadan is as much fun with school work and busy schedules.
How did your mom encourage you to read Quran and start fasting during Ramadan?
My mom never had forced me to read the Quran or keep fasts. The environment in Indonesia was enough to encourage us to do that. We all knew we had to pray and did it together in the masjid. We all fasted from a very young age. All of my friends went to the masjid together and read Quran daily. We would even have competitions to see who could memorize more Quran.
That’s why I challenge the kids I teach at the masjid to memorize more surahs. I give them small challenges and encourage them because I know they can do it! This is also why we give out goodie bags to all the kids in the masjid every night during Ramadan. We want the kids to be excited when they come to the masjid.
Unfortunately, it’s different now. The kids now have so many gadgets and distractions. I don’t know if that’s the reason but I think it’s becoming harder for our kids to come closer to Islam. I don’t know if the kids even like coming to the masjid.
We really have to push them and help create that environment for them so they love praying and memorizing Quran. Kids needs to have fun in the masjid so they feel welcome and loved by everyone in the masjid.
So when you became a mother, did you try to maintain your childhood traditions for your kids here in America? Were you able to recreate that exciting Ramadan environment for them?
I tried my best but it was very hard. I really tried. I would bring my daughters to the masjid every weekend for the whole day. It’s easier in the winter months because the days are shorter. Summers are hard. I tried not to force my kids but I tried to recreate that environment for them. I spent time with them, helping them read Quran. I lovingly encouraged them.
When my kids were young, my goal was to make sure they read a few ayahs before going to school. After breakfast, I would read 2-3 ayahs with them. I did that till the end of junior high school. After high school, I didn’t force them because of their school work. But I really tried to build that foundation for them. That is the most important thing. I would make sure to let the school know my daughters were fasting so they could be pulled out of gym. You have to advocate for your children in this country.
My daughters started fasting at the age of 6. I never forced them and let them take days off when they wanted. Usually they didn’t want to skip days even if a friend was having a birthday party at school. I would give them ideas so they didn’t feel left out. I would send an empty container to school so they could bring home the birthday cupcakes to eat at Iftar so they didn’t feel left out during Ramadan.
I wasn’t working when they were young so I would drive to my daughters’ school during Ramadan and bring them home for a nap during lunch. I knew they were exhausted and I wanted to help them the best I could practice their Deen.
We have to create ease for our children because holding onto your religion in this country is not easy. Our kids struggle and we need to offer our support as mothers. If you set the right foundation and encourage them, constantly cheering for them, your kids will surprise you when they are grown. They will, inshaAllah, hold on tightly to Islam.
I want to thank Yasmin Begum for sharing her memories with us. She is an exemplary role model who tirelessly devoted herself to the tarbiyah of her children Tabark Allah. May Allah swt reward her. Ameen
Feel free to post any parenting questions or advice you may have for Yasmin in the comments below and i’ll be sure to pass it along to her inshaAllah.