This is a bonus article for our special Altmuslim/Patheos Muslim Ramadan #30Days30Writers blog project, in which we showcased the voices of 30 Muslim leaders, activists, scholars, writers, youth and more (one on each day of Ramadan) as part of our commitment to own our own narratives and show how we are one Ummah, many voices. To demonstrate how our Ramadan experiences are shared yet unique to each of us. Eid Mubarak, everyone! As we celebrate Eid and say goodbye to Ramadan, let us remember the beauty of Tarawih nights and what we strove for this Ramadan in hopes of carrying it the whole year through.
Nu’maan bin Basheer (ra). He says: “Once the Messenger faced us and said: “Straighten your rows”. He repeated this thrice. He then said: “By Allah, you must most certainly straighten your rows or else Allah Ta’ala will disunite your hearts.” I then saw the people joining together their shoulders and ankles. [Abu Dawood]”
There are few greater pleasures in the world for me than spending the nights of Ramadan praying in congregation, standing in between my two daughters — shoulder-to-shoulder, feet-to-feet.
“Whoever stands in prayer with the imaam until he (the imaam) concludes the prayer, it is recorded for him that he prayed the whole night.”[Recorded by Tirmidhi}
I grew up in the Middle East, namely United Arab Emirates and the Sudan and spent the summers in Pakistan where my parents are from (well they were born in India and are migrants to Pakistan) — where women just did not participate in tarawih in the masjid.
Now my father realizes what the women in his household were missing out on and holds tarawih in his house so my sister, sister in law, niece and mother as well as the women in the neighborhood in Islamabad can enjoy the blessings of a roomful of people listening to the recitation of the entire Quran, bowing to their Rab in unison.
At the masjid, they learn the about the sores in the body of the Ummah. “Thank you for talking to me,” says a Black American sister to us at a predominately South Asian congregation. “You are the first sisters who have spoken to me.” She has been attending salah here for two years.
I give their hands a squeeze right before we start a new set of rakahs.
When my children were younger, I would yearn to join the aunties in our Islamic Center in California with their water bottles, microfiber footies and prayer rugs. I would sneak in a rakah or two with a little one hanging on my back, one ear on the qari’s recitation and the other making sure that the baby wasn’t up in her car seat.
Growing up in the masjid, they would play with their blocks while I stole a few moments with God.
After their brothers were born, it was just easier for this nursing mama to stay home while my husband attended tarawih.
We never used our formal dining room, so we made it into a sanctuary — our family prayer room. We painted it in Biltmore warm colors, Terra Cotta and Turning Oak leaf, lined it with books and a spacious prayer rug. This was our masjid in the house. Here is where the girls learned to pray, and I would lead our jama’a. “Learn to guard the sacredness of your worship,” I mother to them.
The neighborhood kids would come to read Quran in our little musalla, and it was the most blessed place in the world for us.
As the angels beat their wings in this blessed month, my angels played with a Buzz Light Year doll. I would spend Ramadan nights back then crying alone, for family, for sins accumulated over the year. They would watch the moon waxing and waning through the big window and keep an eye on their baby brothers, watching me praying for Palestine and Afghanistan.
Their chubby hands wiping the tears from my face, “Don’t cry Mama, don’t cry.”
Now they tell me, I think you found Layla tul Qadr (Night of Power), and Angel Gabriel came to shake hands. So I say to young parents — hold on with sabr (patience), a wonderful time is awaiting you, feed your toddlers’ souls and they will become young Muslimahs.
Now that they are older, we do our 7-11 post-tarawih runs loading up on junk food that we usually avoid during the year to punctuate the night as we search for the Night of Power. One hour of dhikr or Quran equals a candy bar and a Slurpee, rinse and repeat.
‘For Jannah, let the competitors, compete says the Quran, so we do — directing our hearts towards Allah, racing with each other “in the path of forgiveness from [our] Lord” (Hadith), striving together.
We are hoping to catch a whiff of Jannah, which is Ramadan, as the Prophet said “subject yourself, throw yourself at the wind, extend your arms to the wind. He will never be among the wretched if he catches one of those whiffs.”
“I thought Ramadan was an opportunity to reset my soul.” — I lament at the personal national, and global tremors that have cracked my soul. This year I feel like I am just floating — waiting for my Ramadan high. I have had better Ramadans — more spiritual, more connected.
I am scared of the coming year, scared because I used to think Ramadan was my fueling station, but I am running on empty. How am going to survive the rest of the year?
“Allah loves to forgive, Mama,” they say as they daughter me.
“Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuh, ibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee – O Allah! You are forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me.” [Recorded by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmithi]
And indeed in Surah Baqarah, Allah talk about rules on Ramadan and fasting (2:183-185). Then when we get to the fourth verse, the topic suddenly changes to du’a – “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.” (2:186)
They stand next to me, touched by the first blush of womanhood … my heart swells in du’a — Alhamdulillah to live to see them grow and enjoy worship!
As I turn my face to give my salam to the angels on right and then my left, “peace and mercy of Allah be upon you,” joyful at the union with Allah through prayer — I see my own sweet angels and wonder, how they will spend these Ramadan nights with their children?
Among those We have created there is a community who guide by the Truth and act justly according to it. (Surat al-A‘raf, 181)
It is not enough that we teach our children rituals; we must make sure that our children learn that Islam is beyond the walls of our masajid; Islam is free from the threads of our masallas.
My girls are 13 and 11, so we walk shoulder to shoulder on the metro to protests and die-ins: Against Guantanamo, drones in Pakistan and Yemen, for Gaza and Egypt. They are places far away but near to our hearts.
Today I left the two of them behind to fill the gap in a row up ahead during tarawih, I have to trust them enough to know that they will not join the ranks of the chit chatting young in the back enamored by the glow of their smartphones, but will forge on shoulder to shoulder without me, still yearning for Allah, racing for Jannah, reaping Ramadan.
Hena Zuberi is the editor-in-chief at MuslimMatters.org.