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The Great Ramadhan Game Plan

Maria Zain shows how she managed Ramadhan with five children under nine years old and shares her plans for this year.

I have a confession: I used to be a deadbeat Ramadhan mum. Ever since 2005, Allah I had blessed me with one pregnancy after another, one beautiful baby after the next, hours and hours of nursing and nurturing – but all the obligations that came with those blessings were wearing my down, especially during the Holy Month.


I used to think it was impossible to enjoy Ramadhan between changing nappies and breaking up fights over Duplo; between preparing one healthy snack after the other and throwing them a tin of biscuits; between losing out on fasts (due to legitimate motherly dues) and turning into the nightly monkey bars during Tarawih.


But then, something changed. Perhaps as my first two grew older I learned to grow, too. I began to understand how to plan better for Ramadhan and how to make it better.


And last year, things really did happen. Approaching last Ramadhan, I began to understand better the trials of being a mother and the rewards that came with it, if only I could control my own emotions and mental focus. I realise, that Allah ta’ala was raising the challenge for me every year, and it was time for me to raise my game.


Alhamdulillah, as I asked He (SWT) guided me through these challenges, and while I thought the challenges would not get more difficult, the Ramadhan of 2013 came a-knocking. We already had a massive challenge in the midst: a relocation to the UK right after our fifth positive pregnancy test. After much calculative delays and planning, we found the latest week I was legally allowed to fly by aircraft and landed in London  right after ‘Eid. Amidst the madness of decluttering, recycling, packing our belongings, emptying the house, and handling the relocation of paperwork for two adults and four children below the age of eight, we were going to face Ramadhan right before a climactic juxtaposition.


Tears came to my eyes as to how challenging the existing situation was without having to deal with the fast and two Ramadhan-enthused children who were pining for my support.


But I changed my mind and my heart. Two days before Ramadhan started I pledged to fast this time around even with this pregnancy. I decided that I was going to take on Allah’s (SWT) challenge graciously.


We did it, we really did! My seven-year-old daughter and I had fasted the whole month, hanging on to each other (as well as the cardboard boxes and suitcases), and her six year old brother – the biggest eater of the family – tried and tried again for the first half of the month and finally, one fine day, made it to iftar, and then he rolled with it for the last two weeks without batting an eyelid. I even found myself writing daily reflections of the month.


The sense of peace and tranquillity I experienced during ‘Eid prayers was like no other, and this was four days away from our flight (with baby in utero at 34 weeks) that would take us half way across the world.


And now, in 2014, Allah, by His Graciousness, has raised the bar again. I am exclusively nursing again, I have two enthusiastic children waiting to fast, and two other little ones who will want to stay up during the camp-outs.


We are also expecting a nineteen-hour fast, right smack in the middle of summer. The panic attack of such realisation lasted for half a day, but then I gathered my thoughts from my meticulously formulating mind. Because I want to reap as much as I can (whether fasting or not), here is my Great Ramadhan Game Plan for Summer 2014:


I will exhume positive vibes and attract positivity during Ramadhan
Gone will be the days where I used to mope and worry about what I did not or could not do. Instead I will accept the position which with Allah has honoured me as a mother of five wonderfully loud and intelligent children. I will impart my love for Ramadhan upon them and light those inner flames that are already burning away to please Allah beyond their own measure. Within this mindset, I will also set my expectations at a level that will not leave me disappointed.


I will continue to guide and support my children throughout the month
I will focus on their Islamic studies and their spiritual needs. I see my daughter committing one extra Juz of the Qur’an to memory by the end of the month and reading Surah Kahf on Fridays. I see my son perfecting his prayer and hopefully completing Juz Amma by ‘Eid. I think my temperamental middle child may just catch onto the memorisation and come slowly out of his coy shell to join us in prayers. I look forward to going through aqeedah and seerah thoroughly after obtaining some lovely resources online and using what we have at home already. And I will definitely look up a toddler-friendly craft project every other day.


I’m re-igniting my love affair with the slow cooker
There’s no better time to start compiling one-pot, soulful and comforting meals for a family of seven. I am looking forward to more time away from the stove, save for maybe baking a batch or two of cookies or savouries. With the one-pot cooking, it would be a great idea to get the little ones in on adding the ingredients to the pot – all in the name of celebrating and appreciating home cuisine.


We will be camping out as a family!
We will be ditching our bedtime schedule for the greater good of hydration and stocking up on meals for the short hours that we’ll have awake between Maghrib and Fajr. I see the kids staking out after Maghrib, roasting marshmallows over candlelight. I may even get them a small tent to camp-out in the living room that will, of course, have enough room for their dad who will join in on the fun. I will stock up on pre-loved board games and maybe a deck of cards. While I have always loved the idea of reading Qur’an by a roaring fire, I may just buy them a really fancy torch. And for this year, I really won’t mind the older two sleeping after Fajr and taking a nap in the afternoon.


I will make time for me
I don’t know how I will manage the camp-out with the older children while the three younger ones keep to their own disciplined sleep schedule. But by consensus with my supportive and understanding husband, we foresee our sleep-in-shifts-strategy that we often adopted when the babies were newborns. And this year I will be committed to focusing on the Qur’an. I will write down my goals for recitation, memorisation, and tafseer studies. As with Tarawih, which has always been special for me, I plan to put in my best efforts to see those rakahs through during the depths of the night. I’m going to learn new du’as, compile the spontaneous ones that often come to heart before Ramadhan, and discipline myself on my dhikr. I look forward to Qur’an Weekly on YouTube, and I’m bookmarking my favourite Shuyookh and their lectures.  If I am unable to fast this year again then this is the very least I can do for myself.


I am rewarding myself and the family
As part of of exhuming positive vibes, I’ve already started getting new clothes for ‘Eid for the entire family. I will not have to think of that anymore, especially not while we are reading through the seerah or memorising the asma-ul husna.


I trust in Allah that He knows how and when to raise the bar to push us to use our potential. Between our one-pot lamb stews and memorisations of the longer surahs; between  outings to the local park during the afternoons to camping out by flashlight; between learning a new du’a to watching an animated lecture, I am vowing to be on top of my game this Ramadhan, and dare I say, make this our best one ever.



Maria Zain was a prolific contributor to SISTERS magazine, writing extensively about issues including parenting, inter-cultural relationships, homeschooling and homebirthing, and even Muslim fashion. In December 2014 Maria Zain died, insha Allah a shaheedah, related to birthing her sixth child, who survived. SISTERS magazine will always be indebted to Maria for the immense work she did for the magazine as well as for the SISTERS family as a whole. We ask that readers consider donating to a fund for her six children in hopes to help their father continue to raise them in the loving and deen-centered style the parents worked so hard to foster.

Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/mariazain