The holy month has finally arrived and I wish every beloved sister of mine all over the world a happy and blessed Ramadhan! How are you doing so far? Feeling excited? Or is your mind now occupied with the sense of hunger and thirst in your stomach? It’s okay – you are certainly not alone with the frustrating dilemma, thinking that you should now actually feel closer to Allah (SWT), your faith increased, but instead just trying to survive from one day to the next. You are tired and hungry and on top of this is a bunch of guilt – you continuously ask yourself, what’s wrong with me?
No doubt, fasting the month of Ramadhan is a real challenge for every Muslim: avoiding food and drink most of the day, trying to engage in extra worship on top of your busy daily schedule, hot weather and tiredness. But actually, as a teenager, you are in the best position to benefit from this blessed month. Having fewer responsibilities on your shoulders and more free time is a gift – particularly in Ramadhan. You likely don’t have little kids to take care of, work 8+ hours in a full time job or have to cook every day, wash and iron the clothes and clean the whole house. When we are teens, we are so occupied with our own problems and sudden mood changes, we do not appreciate what we have: the free time and just our studies to think about. Sorry, am I am sounding like your mum? But believe me, it’s true.
The true purpose of Ramadhan
I converted to Islam at the age of 16. So, as a teen, I spent three Ramadhans in my home country, Hungary, before settling down in Cairo. I can say that, since then, I haven’t felt this month as easy and heart-lifting as I used to. Yes, I know, it should be the opposite. I am not saying I don’t love the atmosphere of Egypt during Ramadhan, where houses are decorated, every Muslim fasts (I assume), mosques are on every corner, the recitation of the Qur’an fills your room and you can join the taraweeh prayer if you wish without much travelling. But what is the real purpose of Ramadhan? It’s about strengthening your relationship with Allah (SWT) and charging your “iman-battery” for the next 11 months. This is what our intention must be and what we sometimes tend to forget in a Muslim-majority environment. We have huge meals for iftar and suhoor or watch Ramadhan shows and films on the TV instead of praying some extra rak’ahs, wasting precious minutes from this short, but highly blessed, period of the year.
As a teen, in Hungary, I was a full-time student living with my non-Muslim parents at the very beginning of the school year, so I had plenty of leisure time focusing on how to benefit most from Ramadhan. Almost every day, I used to go to the closest mosque, which was still one hour away from my home, just before Maghrib to meet my friends – and usually stayed there till the end of the taraweeh prayer. I remember one Ramadhan when I even moved to my best friend’s home who lived closer to the masjid and we spent the days reading and memorising some ayat of the Qur’an, listening to Islamic lectures, talking, going to the mosque or having friends over for iftar.
Fasting in good company
I believe that good company around you is one of the most essential elements for a beneficial Ramadhan. Even if you don’t live in a Muslim country, you can meet your Muslim friends or make new friends at the mosque or online if you there aren’t many Muslims near you. Of course, I had non-Muslim friends from school – and actually Ramadhan was a good opportunity to talk to them about Islam – but I tried to occupy every minute of my day with something useful and not to get trapped by the desires around me, like the smells of food in cafes or wasting time on Facebook. I am not saying you should ignore your non-Muslim family or friends in Ramadhan – I also spent quality time with my family and non-Muslim friends – but your priority now, this month, is your faith.
So in Ramadhan, you do need to struggle much harder than usual with the hunger, thirst and tiredness, but it’s vital not to waste your time – it’s only four weeks out of a whole year! You will see, it flies by quicker than you can imagine. Allah (SWT) will certainly appreciate your efforts and, later in the year, you will actually find yourself missing Ramadhan and, later in life, the gift of free time that you had as a teen!
Timea’s Ramadhan Tips
• Prepare for Ramadan; fast at least 1-2 days in the month of Sha’ban, start listening to lectures daily (I highly recommend brother Nouman Ali Khan who has many videos particularly addressing teenagers), get your body and mind ready to feel the blessing and not to end up suffering and counting down the days till the end of it.
• Write down the realistic goals you want to achieve this Ramadhan; you can even make a schedule and stick it on the fridge or somewhere where you will always see it. Remember that you do not need to have huge goals; the most important thing is to do them regularly. If you work in the summer or have school, you will certainly have less time, so manage these goals accordingly. Read only half juz from the Qur’an, pray 4 rak’ah as tarawih prayer instead of eleven. No problem – just reach your goals regularly. Start praying any of the sunnah prayers. If you listen to music, avoid and replace it now with the Qur’an or Islamic nasheeds. After fulfilling all your planned goals, you will feel amazing. Not only that, but these small deeds will hopefully become part of your everyday routine even after Ramadhan. Did you know that people need 28 days to create a new daily habit?
• Worshipping does not only mean praying and reading Qur’an. It can be any halal action with the right intention. So help your mum with the house chores (especially if she is a non-Muslim, as it can be an amazing way to give daw’ah), play with your siblings, visit your grandparents or a sick relative, check your wardrobe and give out those clothes which are just gathering dust. Do everything with the intention of doing it for the sake of Allah (SWT).
• Benefit from the last ten nights of Ramadhan: have a “pyjama party” with your friends in someone’s home – but instead of watching horror films with cans of coke and popcorn, pray together, listen to Islamic lectures, read Qur’an to each other or just listen to a beautiful recitation.
Timea Aya Csányi is a revert sister from Hungary living in Egypt with her husband. She works at Onislam.net as counselling editor of the family section. She is a freelance writer and art journalist in Hungarian and English and an active blogger.