There is a certain nostalgia tied to construction paper for me. The smell of the bright pages takes me back to my childhood when my siblings, mom and I would cut out paper link garlands and lanterns to hang around our home for Ramadan. I knew Ramadan was coming when my mom bought a fresh pack of colorful construction paper and took out our crazy scissors that cut in all sorts of designs.
Waking up to my mom bringing the suhoor tray to my bedroom as she would rotate between my sisters and I is another memory that I hang on to. I knew Ramadan was here when we huddled around each other in bed eating our suhoor (pre-dawn meal) together half asleep. Ramadan for me was about attending iftar dinners at friends’ homes, hosting them in our own, and going to the masjid to eat in communion on the days my parents cooked alongside other families for the community.
Praying tarawih at the masjid and attending qiyam with friends was what Ramadan was all about. We would look forward to the annual masjid qiyam sleepovers, and tarawih nights where we got to see our friends, worship together and enjoy each other's company over some desserts and laughter.
As a first generation Muslim living in the West, I look back at these experiences and memories that define Ramadan for me and am grateful that my family and my community was able to engrain the essence of the month in us despite having minimal resources.
What Is Ramadan About Now?
Image source: Pinterest
In an effort to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive for my own children, I find myself getting lost in what Ramadan has become; a decor show and tell. Hear me out. While I am grateful for the abundance in resources and shops that are available now and like to support Muslim-owned businesses, every year I find myself getting overwhelmed by the latest trends and Ramadan products.
(In fact, I compiled a comprehensive list of Ramadan vendors and businesses for you for the past three years. See here, here and here.)
I see the importance of it all, and I am definitely one to decorate. This is not meant to wax negative about Ramadan decor. Besides, it is part of our religion and the sunnah to beautify our homes. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty
.“In keeping with the Islamic tradition that our homes are a reflection of our personality and values, as Muslims we strive to keep a clean home that reflects beauty, warmth and love.
Here’s the thing though: Here in America, we live in a society that thrives on celebrations, mostly of the non-Muslim kind. We want our children to feel the festivity of their own holidays and religious practices, and rightfully so. But, where do we draw the line? To what extent do we bend over to make our kids excited about their Muslim identity and holidays while also keeping the essence of what the observance of Ramadan and these celebrations are truly about?
It’s no coincidence that leading up to this Ramadan, I have taken some time to reflect on my intentions with what I’d like to do around the home and for myself and family. I see the excitement on my kids’ faces when I take my Ramadan decor boxes out. They feel the shift in environment when the decorations go up and know that we are preparing to welcome a very special guest, the month of Ramadan.
However, this year before hopping online to shop for the newest additions to my collection, I needed to set my priorities. Then I came across this
post on Instagram, and it all made sense. Reading what the writer had to say, I won’t hide the fact that I felt like it was directed towards me; A first-generation Muslim mom excited about the possibilities at my fingertips and living her childhood dreams through her children and taking it to the next level.
The topic of extravagance in decor came up, and we also talked about the importance of celebration, especially as mothers of young children in this society. [My halaqa teacher] told us to “decorate our homes but don’t forget to decorate our hearts.”
In the post, credited to Isra Hashmy, she writes about the proliferation of Ramadan traditions that draw from other religions, like a Ramadan tree or building gingerbread mosques. She warns against the excesses of enticing and exciting children through “superficial” means of decor and urges parents to build love and tradition around the observation of Ramadan through worship.
So, what can we learn from this?
How Can We Balance Beautifying Our Homes With Beautifying Our Hearts?
It made me think, at what point did we let go of the essence of Ramadan and our own cultural traditions and started to adapt western holiday traditions and make them “our own?'' All in the name of making Ramadan and Eid exciting for our children?
Let’s not forget that Ramadan is not Eid. Ramadan is the month of worship, Eid is the celebration. Let me be clear: While engaging in the local Ramadan bazaars and beautifying our homes is important, I invite you (and myself) to tie in the concept of worship and charity with your children. For example, preparing Ramadan baskets with iftar staples such as rice, lentils, olive oil, dates and honey and passing them out to families in need can be a great opportunity for your children to start off the month festivities on a charitable note.
In our community, a volunteer group has started this initiative as an annual event where donations are collected a few weeks leading up to Ramadan, and the community gets together to prepare and deliver the baskets.
As my children get older I have woven this activity into our annual Ramadan celebratory traditions by taking them to take part in the basket preparation before enjoying our local Ramadan markets where they get to take part in the fun.
Decorating and beautifying our homes for Ramadan sure is fun and gives us a beautiful feeling. The ambiance in the house changes when the Ramadan decor goes up. It excites our kids. I still love it and do it, but with moderation. My mind shift came during my weekly halaqa last week, my teacher was giving us some pointers as we prepare our families and ourselves for Ramadan.
Image source: Pexels
The topic of extravagance in decor came up, and we also talked about the importance of celebration, especially as mothers of young children in this society. She told us to “decorate our homes but don’t forget to decorate our hearts.”
(Want to support businesses who are donating to various charity campaigns for Ramadan? Here are six vendors to check out.)
This really resonated with me. We all know what it means to decorate and clean our home in preparation for Ramadan. But what does it mean to decorate your heart? Free yourself from any grudges. Forgive those who have wronged you, apologize to those you may have wronged. Let go of all distractions, both virtually and physically.
Designate a specific corner or room in your home for your personal ibadah (worship
). Clean it, beautify it, take out your Quran and lay your prayer rug down. Physically preparing yourself for the month of worship will allow you to go into Ramadan ready to receive Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.
Take some time to write down your Ramadan goals and intentions and make this an activity for the kids as well. Don’t set yourself up for failure by reaching for unattainable goals. Allah (S) loves deeds that are small yet consistent. You know yourself and your limits depending on your season of life
and your capabilities.
Live a Ramadan that is suitable for you and your family dynamic in order to maximize on the blessings and to thoroughly enjoy Ramadan and the worship of fasting. With its struggles and hardships, we can all attest to the beauty that Ramadan brings to our lives. It is a month that for a short 30 days allows the ummah to live in union, its own time capsule so to speak. While the hustle and bustle of our day to day never ends, there’s no denying the shift in routine and atmosphere. There is something special about worshiping in communion that makes the fasting and waking up for tahajjud that much easier.
So go ahead and decorate your home with your kids. But let’s try and keep it reasonable. And, let’s not forget to decorate our hearts and focus on our intentions in the process.
With only a few more days until the gates of mercy are open, I ask Allah (S) to make us of those who witness Ramadan, and aid us in its fasting and qiyam. Ameen!