My daughter is your child’s Muslim friend. She comes to school every day in a brightly-hued hijab (headscarf) with a contrasting headband. She has been counting down the days at home for something very special to her. If she was at school today, she would sit beside your child gleefully and tell them that today is Ramadan. When they would ask her about it, this is what my Muslim daughter would tell her friends about Ramadan.
Looking for the Moon
If she was sitting with her classmates for Rug Time, she would put her hand up in excitement. When the teacher called on her, she would tell her friends proudly that last night she stood outside looking for the moon. She held her father’s hand and walked outside right at sunset time and looked to see a very thin crescent moon up in the sky. Though she couldn’t really see it, she loves this tradition because it tells her that Ramadan is about to commence.
She would let them know that this means that Muslims will be fasting from before the sun comes up until the sunset. It is a month when Muslims work on improving themselves by connecting to God through good deeds and worship. And this month is special to her and other Muslims because it is celebrated with families and community.
Once the moon has been sighted, she joyfully hugs her family (all seven members) and tells them “Ramadan Mubarak!” which means Happy Ramadan. Her eyes shine bright with enthusiasm because she knows how special this month will be. She feels it.
My daughter would tell her friends about the lights strung outside our door and throughout our home. And the lanterns hung from the ceiling. She marvels over the decor of shiny colors and glittery accents spread throughout the home.
My Muslim daughter would tell her friends that, though she was too sleepy to wake up early, her family woke up before dawn and ate suhoor (early morning meal). They ate meals packed with nourishment like dates, breads, milk, and eggs. And that after eating this meal they would not eat anything else until the sunset. Not even water.
She likes to keep a practice fast by not eating anything one hour before sunset. Though it’s really tough smelling all the food her mom has been preparing, she loves fasting like everyone else. At sunset the adhan (call to prayer) is melodiously called out by her brother letting everyone know that it’s time to open our fasts.
My daughter would proudly announce how she loves to pass out dates to her family. Each one of us would open our fast (iftar) with a date and some water. She would only take a small bite, since she only likes dates a little bit.
Nights in Prayer
After eating our meal, my daughter likes to sit next to her dad as he recites from our holy book, the Quran. Ramadan is also known as the month of the Quran. This book was revealed to our Prophet Mohammed by the Angel Jibrael in the month of Ramadan. His recitation soothes her and makes her feel warm and cozy next to him.
As her eyes begin to get droopy, she suddenly remembers the long evening prayers, called Taraweeh. Usually her family goes to the mosque for these prayers, but this year and last year have been a little different. She’s kind of excited to read the prayers with only her family. She stands on her prayer mat next to me or her dad and performs salat (prayers).
My daughter would tell her friends she prayed all night, but the truth is she dozed off five minutes after the prayers started. Her dad scooped her up and placed her in her bed so she can sleep dreaming of all that will unfold the next day.
A Month of Charity
My daughter will tell her class about the “charity baskets” placed on our shelves. The month of Ramadan is also a month of charity. Muslims donate their time, money, and food to those that are less fortunate. Like fasting is compulsory to all healthy and able people older than 13, so is charity. Charity is mandatory for all those who have been blessed so that they may help others in need.
We teach this concept to our kids by making baskets that the children use to give each other little gifts and notes of encouragement. They write kindness notes anonymously and put them in the baskets. They know that kindness is a form of charity, too. By the end of the month they will accumulate a basket full of notes, homemade gifts, and handmade coupons. My daughter tries to peek into her basket when no one is looking!
Last Ten Days
The last ten nights of Ramadan are especially important. We spend these days in seclusion to meditate, pray, and reflect. To connect with God and nourish the soul with time and contemplation that the everyday deprives it from. My little girl loves the tent we prop up in the corner of our family room. We leave books and prayer mats in there. String lights to the roof of it and place a blanket inside. We tell the children they can go in and zip it closed anytime they want to spend alone time to think about God, read about Ramadan and Islam, or pray. My daughter usually lies down and reads a book inside (“It’s Ramadan, Curious George” is her favorite). Or she sits with her hands up in prayer asking God to convince her parents to buy her toys. My Muslim daughter would tell her friends her wishes are a lot like theirs.
Celebration of Eid
My daughter would also tell her classmates her favorite part is the celebration that comes at the end of the month called Eid. She has already given us a wish list that’s a mile long. If it has Elsa’s name or face on it, she wants it! Muslims celebrate Eid by joining in prayer at the mosque, then greet each other with “Eid Mubarak” and hugs. We exchange gifts and smiles, and eat many special treats. And of course she loves the sparkly dresses she gets to wear with hands decorated in mehndi (henna) and adorned with bangles.
As my daughter details, her life during Ramadan portrays the joy and happiness it brings to all Muslims. Ramadan is a month of prayer, and peace that is found from it. It is a month of kindness, and the humility that is learned from it. It is referred to as a month of patience, because of the stamina that is developed from it. Ramadan provides the opportunity of self-reflection, and the inspiration that lights from it. And it is a month of drawing nearness to Allah (God), and the love that flows from it.
My daughter would proudly tell her friends about her special holiday because she’s been counting down the days for months. She’d want her teacher to read out loud her favorite Ramadan book that she gifted her class; because it makes her feel included and celebrated. She would want to share stories of Ramadan with her friends and hope that they feel some of that joy too. She’s their Muslim friend; she’d want to tell them why Ramadan is so special to her, and Muslims around the world. On behalf of my daughter and all Muslims, Ramadan Mubarak!