Explaining Ramadan to Your Children
Ramadan Kareem! Our beautiful month has arrived and we will greet our friends and family with the kind words of Ramadan Mubaruk, which means Ramadan blessings or Ramadan Kareem which means Ramadan is generous.
“O you who believe fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you can learn self restraint”. (Quran, Surah Al Baqarah 2:183)
The Meaning of Ramadan
Ramadan is taken from the word 'ramad' which means, that which is intensely or vehemently heated by the sun, and the word 'ramdhaa' means, the intense heat of the sun. The Arabs changed the names of the months from the ancient language, they named them according to the seasons in which they fell, and this month fell in the days of intense heat and that is why it was named Ramadan. This month was named Ramadan because it burns the sins of people with righteous deeds (source: MuslimMatters).
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the visual sighting of the new crescent moon. Ramadan (like all the other Islamic months) adheres to the lunar calendar (which follows the phases of the moon), and since this is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar (which follows the sun), it comes eleven days earlier every year. This means that Ramadan will occur in various seasons and weather throughout the years.
Sawm is the Arabic word for fasting, and is the fourth pillar in Islam, which is incumbent on all Muslim males and females who have reached the age of puberty, and who are mentally and physically fit. A person who fasts must refrain from dawn until dusk from:
However, there are many people who are exempted from observing fasting. People such as:
Those who are on a journey
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
Women who are menstruating
Fasting is an act of worship, so those who miss their fasts, are required to make up the equal amount of missed days later in the year. Those who are unable to fast at all, must feed a needy person for each missed Ramadan fast.
"Every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties." (Al-Baqarah 2:185).
In Ramadan, Muslims awaken before dawn, when the "white thread becomes distinct from the black thread," (Al-Baqarah 2:187), for an early meal called suhoor. Suhoor helps our physical health by providing the essential nutrition and strength to sustain our body during the long hours of the day. It is recommended that one who intends to fast should:
Have dates with suhoor
Make your intention to fast for that day
We should not have suhoor too far away from Fajr Narrated Anas: Zaid bin Thabit said, "We took the Suhur with the Prophet . Then he stood for the prayer." I asked, "What was the interval between the Suhur and the Adhan?" He replied, "The interval was sufficient to recite fifty verses of the Quran."
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Eat suhoor for in suhoor there is blessing.” (Bukhari, 1923; Muslim, 1059).
"How excellent are dates as the believer's suhoor." (Abu Dawood 2:303).
At dusk, Muslims break their fast with a meal known as Iftar. It is considered to be a time for families to gather together and share a supper. It is recommended at iftaar to:
Hasten to break one's fast
Break one's fast with dates and water
Say Bismillah and make your intention to break your fast
The Prophet (SAW) said: “The people will continue to be fine so long as they hasten to break the fast.” (Bukhaari, 1957; Muslim, 1098).
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: " The Messenger of Allah (SAW) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if there were no (fresh dates) then with dry dates, and if there were no (dried dates) then he would take a few sips of water." (Abu Dawood 2356; al-Tirmidhi 696).
When the Prophet (SAW) broke his fast he would also say: "Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, Inshallah.” (Abu Dawood 2:765).
The Virtues of Ramadan
Ramadan is a gift to Muslims because it helps us to achieve Taqwa or God-consciousness. It teaches us sincere love for Allah, patience, unselfishness, kindness, moderation, willpower, discipline, a spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood, to name a few. In the Quran and Sunnah, the month of Ramadan has advantages over the other months, because it will bring our attention to the following virtues:
1. It is the month of the Qur'an
In regards to revelation and study. On the authority of Ibn Abbas: Angel Jibreel used to meet the Prophet (saw) every night in Ramadan and used to study Quran with him. We are strongly advised to recite the Quran even more during Ramadan, and if possible, to complete the entire Quran at the completion of Ramadan.
"...The month of Ramadan, during which the Qur'an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance and the criterion; and whoever of you is resident, let him fast the month." (Qur'an 2:185).
2. It is the month of Seclusion
In the last ten days of Ramadan, many Muslims go into seclusion, known as Itikaf, for prayer and meditation in search for Lailut ul-Qadar or the Night of Decree. Many spend this night in supplication to Allah. The exact date that this night falls on is uncertain, but it is widely agreed that it occurs in the last ten days of Ramadan, and some evidence that it occurs in one of the odd nights or on the 27th of Ramadan. To spend this night in payer is considered to be more rewarding than a thousand months of devotion.
Ibn Umar said, "The Messenger of Allah (SAW) used to seclude himself for the last ten days of the month of Ramadan."
3. It is the month of Generosity
We should be more generous in Ramadan by having a good attitude, sharing our knowledge, giving money, and using one’s position of authority or physical strength to help others. Combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching Jannah.
“The Messenger of Allah (SAW) was the most generous of people [in doing good], and he was most generous of all in Ramadan when Jibreel met with him, and he used to meet him every night in Ramadan and teach him the Qur’an. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) was more generous in doing good than a blowing wind.” (Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 6).
The Prophet (SAW) said: “In Paradise there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep.” (Reported by Ahmad 5:343; Ibn Khuzaymah 2137).
The Prophet (SAW) also said: “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” (Tirmidhi, 3:171; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1:451).
4. It is the month of standing in Voluntary Night Prayer
Throughout this month there are long nightly prayers during which lengthy chapters of the Quran known as taraweeh are recited. These prayers, although not compulsory, are greatly recommended. The word taraweeh comes from the Arabic word for 'rest', as during these prayers worshippers sit for brief periods to rest before resuming their prayer.
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, "Whoever stands (in voluntary night prayer) during Ramadan, with faith and in expectancy of reward, his previous sins are forgiven for him."
5. It is the month of the Compulsory Fast
By fasting and giving your stomach a rest, it is regarded as a method of self-purification. Cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short period of time, helps a person to gain true sympathy with those who go hungry. Fasting is a very enriching experience as one transcends the needs of material components for spiritual uplifting. It is as if a person goes into maintenance by recharging one's batteries for the rest of the year.
Allah says, "So, whoever among you witnesses the month should fast." (Qur'an, 2:185)