The Ramadan Reflections over at Muslimah Media Watch are wrapping up for another year. For my second reflection I wrote about an experience that truly illustrates some of my personal frustrations about motherhood and spirituality — so I’m cross-posting it here to be included in our ongoing series. 

Enjoy!


Help I’m alive…

The Grand Mosque in Kuwait.

The outdoor courtyard at the Grand Mosque in Kuwait.

We’re late. My favourite popular imam has already begun leading the second rakat for Qiyam ul-layl, the night prayers. We dash from the car and run across the street, our feet soon gliding upon smooth marble floors at the largest mosque in Kuwait.

My sister-in-law leads the way. One hand holds a chair for our pregnant cousin and the other clutches her black abaya as she power-walks ahead. A corner is turned and the scent of cardamom laced coffee brings a smile to my face. Hundreds of people are milling about. Some grab free water and dates, others coordinate with friends – everyone is searching for a place to pray. There’s a crush of people trying to enter the women’s section in the outdoor courtyard, but a female police officer is closing the gates, saying it’s full. Squeezing in, my sister-in-law grabs my arm and drags me inside.

We join the line and I open my Qur’an app, quick to find the right section so I can follow along. My eyes fall into their own rhythm – absorbing the English meaning before jumping back to the Arabic. Up, down and up again. Left to right, then right to left. The languages and words begin to meld together in cadence with the reciter. I lose myself in calligraphic script and try desperately to write the meaning onto my heart.

Suddenly a woman grabs my arm. I’m disoriented. She’s insistent. It’s clearly something terribly urgent. “Ta’ali!! Ta’ali huna!” “Come! Come here!” She grabs my arm harder and tries to pull me out of the prayer line. She’s saying more but I can’t understand her.

My mind races. Is she upset that I’m reading from my smart phone? Does she want me to fill the gaps in the line behind? I frown, angry that she’s disrupting my prayer and quickly pull my arm out of her grasp. Then she lightly brushes my shoulder. (more…)

Mothering in Ramadan can be difficult without support. And it’s not just the demands of children, work, cooking, family or guests that can effect a mother’s participation — but also the immense personal pressure to find and create time for worship. Especially during the last 10 days when moments of solitude are at a premium for people to really focus on prayer, Qur’an and dhikr.

In our second post in this ongoing series on motherhood and Ramadan, I offer some thoughts on the larger social and religious constructions that can prevent mothers from enjoying a more fulsome spiritual experience and look at the benefits of empowered mothering.


Nursing and reflecting in an 'Asr glow.

Nursing and reflecting in an ‘Asr glow.

Three dessert spoons break into a molten chocolate lava cake — satiny, near-black cocoa ganache spills out, mixing with raspberry coulis swirls and vanilla ice cream. Savouring the moment and sighing into our coffee cups, we soon start laughing over a shared love of decadent sweets.

I’m sitting with two other mothers — one from Yemen, the other from Kenya — reuniting after a long time at a cafe in Kuwait. We have seven children (and one on the way) between the three of us. In a rare moment we’re finally alone together without our kids to distract us (except for a new sleeping baby and Ivy who is occupying herself quietly with a snack). After getting caught up on each other’s lives, I direct the conversation toward experiencing Ramadan and the delicate balance between the demands of motherhood, family and personal spirituality.

A pregnant Samiya complains that she barely has time to read the Qur’an. She’s feeling divorced from Ramadan this year because she is not fasting — and with a house full of visiting relatives, she often finds herself in the kitchen. Today her back and sciatic nerve pain is especially bad and she wishes someone would simply offer her a seat so she can relax and focus on herself, her prayers and the growing baby. She’s really hoping to attend Qiyaam-al-Layl, the night prayers, with the other adults in her favourite mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan, but will probably end up praying at home. That is, if the kids cooperate and go to bed on time. “Alhamdulillah, caring for children is a form of worship,” she sighs.

Bushra has a slightly different outlook and experience this Ramadan. She has somehow found the strength to fast, despite breastfeeding her new son and running after her two other children. And while God has blessed her in this regard so she can enjoy the act of fasting — she is especially looking forward to what comes next, when her children are old enough to look after themselves. Right now, she’s trying not to stress too much about doing any extras and is just concentrating on her children. But she won’t be caring for little ones forever and needs a plan for the future. When I ask her about what she intends to do when that time comes, she says simply, “Ibadah.” Worship.

Then she reminds us with a serious intensity:

O you who believe, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. (The Qur’an 63:9)

There is so much emphasis on the elevated position that mothers hold in Islam, that we’ve created a culture taking the institution of motherhood for granted.

(more…)

My recent post on creating a child-like Ramadan generated a lot of attention on Twitter and Facebook — with many commenting about the frustrating balance between motherhood and the sometimes unfair expectations placed upon mothers during Ramadan — usually at the expense of their spirituality. I thought it might be productive to create spaces where people could share stories, commiserate, debate or come up with plans of action to address the issue. Especially now that we’ve entered the last 10 days of Ramadan.

I’ve teamed up with the amazing Asiah Kelley, to explore some of the problems in the discourse on motherhood and Ramadan — which we’ll look at over the next two postsAsiah Kelley is a fantastic person and mother and I am honoured to share her work with all of you. Please join me in welcoming her as she shares her thoughts and reflections on the importance of recognizing motherhood spirituality.


khatm

Ramadan is supposed to be the month of mercy. But for many mothers and wives, it can feel merciless. The work is unrelenting — food preparation, child care, house work, and all the while trying to fit in any act of worship possible.

Muslims start mentally and physically preparing for Ramadan at least a month ahead of time. The excitement builds as people think of all the food they will eat, and all the events they will go to. Young girls shop and prepare their outfits for the different parties they will attend. Boys think of the fun they will have staying up late nights with their friends, while sleeping it off the next day. But mothers? They just might tell you that Ramadan is met with a sense of dread. All the expectations — their family’s and their own, are hard to live up to.

Something has to give, and that something is usually the mother.

Ramadan crept up on me this year. My husband came home from the store with $45 worth of Gatorade, and I was more than confused until he said “For Ramadan? It starts next week.” I guess I knew on some level that it was coming, but had been ignoring it. In fact, I was dreading it. Since having my daughter two years prior I had slowly sunk into an iman hole. My faith was shot.

Ramadan wasn’t a welcome friend, it was a reminder of how bad of a Muslim I considered myself to be.

(more…)

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