Ramazan in these testing times

02 May 2020

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Illustration by Ahmed Amin
Illustration by Ahmed Amin

We usually look forward to the holy month of Ramazan with eager anticipation. Though fasting is not easy in the hot and long summer days, the tasty dishes at iftar and sehr are worth the thirst and hunger. Sherbets, shakes and juices are served at iftar to quench the thirst of the long hot day, and most mothers spend hours in the kitchen preparing new delicacies to suit the taste buds of all family members. Come sehr and you wake to the aroma of piping hot parathas and omelettes, shaami kababs and flavoured milk lassi or cereals of your choice.

There is the excitement of get-togethers at iftar and roza kushai (first fast), which may be yours or a friends’. Many children play outside the house after taraweeh prayers and they can stay up late when schools are off for end of Ramazan and Eid holidays.

For all of my young friends, the icing on the cake is definitely the Eid shopping! Night after night, children accompany parents to shop for clothes, shoes and toys. We often witness scenes in shopping centres when embarrassed looking parents are pulling away a sulking child from a shop when he demands something out of their budget’s reach.

Sadly, this year we will be celebrating Ramazan and Eid in a very different and rather grim situation. The coronavirus, or Covid-19 as it has been named, has taken the world by storm. The distant-looking disease which started from China, has shut down nearly the whole world. The kind of Ramazan we are experiencing now is one that no one could have imagined even in nightmares.

I just want to guide you all about how you should adapt to this disturbing scenario, so that you and your family can make the most of these blessed days.

Locked down, but not bored

As Pakistan, like most other countries in the world, is going through a lockdown, we all must learn to live in these circumstances in the best possible way. Instead of fretting and troubling you parents with complaints of boredom, try to find interesting activities at home. You can look up DIY projects on the internet and make the most of the leisure hours by engaging in the things you are interested in.

Read good books and try to improve your vocabulary and writing skills. You can also play board and other indoor games with your siblings and parents in your free hours.

Beat the uncertainty about exams

This year, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, schools had to be closed without any prior notice. After the initial excitement of the sudden vacation has settled down, students are confused whether the exams will be held on the reopening of schools, or they will be promoted on their yearly performance. You all must understand that whatever you will study in the next class will be a continuation of what you studied during the previous academic year.

Make the most of the leisure hours you have now and make a proper time table and plan for your studies. Every student has different timings which suit his or her aptitude to revision. You may sleep immediately after Isha prayers and study after sehr. Those of you who feel dull or sleepy when you are fasting can study during the nights.

Use the free time you have, to improve in the area you feel you are weak in. You can seek help from an elder sibling or your father in a mutually decided time.

Don’t be too demanding at iftar

Dear friends, I am sure you all are mature enough to understand your parents’ difficulties in these disturbing times. Most of your fathers (and mothers too, if they are working women) are at home, and maybe working from home too, since more than a month. Businesses have come to a halt and many have lost their source of income.

In these tough times, when budgets are stretched and when the lockdown makes grocery shopping difficult, cooperate with your parents in settling for a simple iftar. You all know how much mummy loves to cook your favourite dishes, especially when you are fasting. Settle for one or two simple, economical and less time-consuming dishes this year. Instead of making a long face and sulking at the iftar table, keep a cheerful demeanour. This will keep your parents’ spirits high when they feel that you realise and share their burden.

Be a helping hand

For the sake of precaution, most households have instructed their maids and other helpers to take a paid leave. This means extra work for mothers, which is a drain for their energy during the long and hot fasting hours. As everyone is home during this Ramazan, all should utilise this opportunity to help out with the added household work.

You can clean up your rooms, make your beds and lay and clear up the iftar and sehr tables. You can also help her in the kitchen by wiping the slabs after the cooking is done and putting washed and dried dishes in the cabinets. The older ones can also do dish washing and chopping vegetables and fruits.

Looking after a younger sibling while mummy takes a power nap will relieve her a lot. Watering plants, sweeping terraces and open areas are all tasks that are usually done by your gardeners. You can take turns to do these jobs.

In most homes, I observe children arguing and sometimes fighting on who will do simple household chores, each trying to imply that it is the other’s duty. Most of the times, mothers get so agitated by resolving these unnecessary quarrels, they prefer to do the work themselves even if they are bone tired!

This Ramazan try to be more responsible and organised. Divide the chores among yourselves so that there is no space for any argument and your homes run smoothly without the external helpers.

Dear friends, doing house work is not only a Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Not only will you be rewarded in the Hereafter, it will also make you feel good about yourself.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin
Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Turn to Allah with humility

The coronavirus and the resulting shutdown has let loose unprecedented hunger and poverty. Daily wage earners and the white-collared people are the hardest hit, as they have meagre savings. It is becoming more difficult for them to provide two square meals to their families.

This Ramazan, take out time daily to remember how blessed you are. We all can never thank Allah enough for His endless bounties and infinite kindness. The least you can do is to try to help out people who are not as lucky as you.

Pray regularly five times daily and make duas to keep you safe from the coronavirus, and for the safety of your family, friends, Pakistan and for all the people of the world. In these grim times, only a heavenly intervention can keep us safe, so invoke Allah’s mercy with a lot of prayers.

Set aside some time daily to read the Holy Quran and books about the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). A very beneficial family activity in this Ramazan can be to try to understand the Quranic verses you read. Ask any of your parent or grandparent to explain the meaning and its interpretation so that you have a better understanding of the Holy Quran and its teachings.

A shopping-less Eid

Shopping and Eid go together, but this time, there is going to be little of that due to this lockdown. Even if markets and malls open up before Eid, stay away from them strictly. This advice is not only for safety’s purpose, but also to give you a notion to differentiate between needs and wants. You may want new clothes and shoes for Eid, but ask yourself this question first, “Do I need these things or could this money be used for a better cause”. Reply honestly and act according to your conscience.

Won’t it be wonderful that you ask your parents to give away to the needy, the amount they had set aside for Eid shopping? And since people will not be going to meet family and friends like all Eids, just one set of new simple clothes is fine for the kind of sombre celebrations suitable now when so many people have lost their lives to Covid-19 and others are fighting for theirs.

Remember that happiness does not come from new things or clothes, it comes from peace of mind and a clear conscience. With the large number of deaths worldwide and the pain and hardships Covid-19 has brought to people, we should not celebrate Eid with merriment. A quite lunch with your family members at home and heartfelt prayers for better and healthier days is the best way to spend Eid this year.

Stay home, stay safe. Have a blessed Ramazan and a happy Eid.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 2nd, 2020