The countdown for the blessed month of Ramadan has started. A sense of purpose can be seen, to start preparations and welcome Ramadan, and end the month with the most desirable reward: salvation from the fire In sha Allah. Many articles I have read so far talk about managing the long fasting hours, attending Taraweeh at the masjid, reciting the Quran in thirty days, along with the planning of a Ramadan schedule. All these articles inspire me with so many brilliant ideas and help me with my personal schedule. But, as a wife and a mother I admit that when Ramadan comes, there is an important task that occupies part of my thoughts: preparing the blessed meals, suhoor and iftar.
From my point of view, preparing these two meals is a heroic mission. Dealing with food while fasting, setting the table at low energy levels, being responsible for waking the family for suhoor and cooking French omelettes at 3 AM are a few examples! All of these tasks are what Muslim mothers do silently with a smile. In this article, I would like to share some of my tips I keep in mind in order to accumulate barakah from these daily unavoidable tasks and include them as part of my ibadah schedule.
Maintain Niyyah in Your Heart and Thoughts
“He who provides a fasting person something with which to break his fast, will earn the same reward as the one who was observing the fast, without diminishing in any way the reward of the latter.” [At-Tirmidhi].
What a recompensing hadith! I will not mention the splendid reward of fasting because I think all of us already know it. But the thing is, by keeping the intention of breaking the fast of every family member, we can get the same reward they get. If your family consists of four members, then every iftar you will get 4 extra rewards! What an excellent deal! It is our choice to make this a source of hasanat for the thirty days of Ramadan.
Involve the Family Members
“And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression” [Qur’an: Chapter 5, Verse 2]
One of the traditions of Ramadan is that the whole family gathers at suhoor and iftar. Added to this, there is no better chance than the barakah of Ramadan to make the little ones take some responsibilities. Don’t be egocentric, make them involved in accumulating hasanat with you!
Gather your little sisters, brothers or your young kids. Be charming and explain to them the great reward of fasting, breaking the fast of Muslims, the barakah in suhoor, etc.
Make a list of chores they can do to help according to their age and abilities. Let them participate in listing these tasks (wake the family for suhoor, setting the table for iftar, clearing the table, washing the dishes etc.). Change chores each week so that they do not get bored. At the end of each week, ask for their reflections: what were the easy tasks, challenging tasks and what they learnt from their chores.
When you have these reflective sessions, make sure that adults and other older members of the family are around and can hear you. They might enjoy the sessions as much as the little ones and participate effectively!
Multi-Task During Your Kitchen Hours
Some recipes require your total concentration and attention. However, listening to the recitation of the Quran will not affect your task and will double the reward of your kitchen time. I personally like to watch Islamic programs while cooking. I choose the convenient time for me by watching a TV repeat telecast or a YouTube version.
It really is difficult to list the tips you can do to multi-task in the kitchen because each woman has her own way and each recipe has its own requirements. However, here are some of my tips:
- Use yesterday’s meal to feed the non-fasting little angels while preparing the dishes for the day
- Reciting Quran with your kids or little sisters and brothers. You can put the last part of the Quran (30th juz) as your goal with them and help both to be productive
- Cleaning parts of the kitchen that you have not had a chance to clean yesterday (fryer, oven, stove-top, etc.)
- While the meal is being cooked, make sure you clean the mess and organize the kitchen simultaneously. This way, you have less work to do after iftar
- Beware of using up too many dishes and silverware while you are preparing the meal or when you set the table! This will save you a lot of effort when doing the washing up
What I mean by productive outcome is not the large quantity of a meal. Rather, it is how we can use one meal to generate the next one. This point, like the previous one depends on every woman’s recipes, family customs, etc.
- Plan in advance the next two days meals (suhoor and iftar). Make sure you have all the ingredients. When you start to cook, try and prepare part of the following suhoor while preparing iftar. You save time as all the washing up is already done and you get an extra 10 minutes before Fajr to pray Tahajjud.
- If you usually wake up sleepy and groggy for suhoor, try to prepare the dishes the night before. Cover them with clingwrap and put them in the fridge.
- In my country housewives prepare the first, and sometimes the second and third steps of some recipes and freeze them before Ramadan. In most cases, all what they have to do is to cook or bake it before iftar. I find this a brilliant idea because you can provide the hungry stomachs food in less time and effort, and this is especially useful when you have visitors over. Further, it gives you extra free time to dedicate for ibadah while fasting.
- Do not make so much food unless you are going to consume it the next day. Some families have no issues in eating leftovers. However, try and estimate the amount of the food required and never throw away or waste food!
Make Sunnah a Priority
Every good deed has it reward, but in Ramadan it is multiplied many times! What a relief to trust Allah and enjoy His rewards beyond our expectations. Sunnah is one of the most prominent sources of guaranteed reward. The challenge comes in keeping the intention of doing certain acts as sunnah. The following are some sunan related to the Ramadan meals:
The Prophet said: “Take suhoor as there is a blessing in it.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
With the long fasting hours this Ramadan, I am sure that we are all committed to have suhoor. We truly need it to maintain the energy in our body. My only advice is to not forget the niyyah of applying the sunnah in your suhoor in order to have its blessings. Try to pray Tahajjud before having suhoor or after it. This will give your suhoor a spiritual taste.
Break your fast as soon as the sun sets and before you pray Maghrib.
Allah’s Messenger said, “The people will remain on the right path as long as they hasten the breaking of the fast.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
It is recommended by the Prophet to break your fast with water and dates, pray Maghrib and then have the iftar meal. We know how difficult it is for many to resist the delicious aromas and stop drooling over the food. My recommendation is to not let the family enter the kitchen or the dining room before the prayer. Instead, you can remind the family to perform wudhu and lay the table only with a pitcher of cold water and dates. It will get easier for you all to adapt to this sunnah In sha Allah.
Make dua and thank Allah
The Prophet said: “Indeed, the fasting person has at the time of breaking the fast, a supplication that is not rejected” [Ibn Majah]
As wives and mothers, we have plenty of dua to ask for our family, along with our own personal desires and problems. At the moment of breaking the fast, things usually don’t go as planned. Try to plan in advance and make a dua list (for your family, husband, kids, dunya, akirah and for the Muslim ummah). Trust yourself that you deserve what you are asking Allah almighty for, and trust Allah almighty that He is listening to YOU and will answer your supplication at the perfect moment.
Allah almighty says: ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
When you finish your meal, thank Allah for blessing you with an Islamic family, this gives everyone a sense of unity and love. Thank Allah for providing you with enough food and cold water. There are many Muslims who break their fast all alone or with not a great variety of food. Explain this to the little ones and together make dua for them!
Share Your Passion
“May fasting people break their fast with you, may the righteous eat your food, and may the angels send blessing upon you.” [Abu Dawood]
This was a supplication of the Prophet when he broke his fast at Sa’d bin Mu’adh´s house. We have mentioned the priceless reward of breaking the fast of Muslims. And we have said that Ramadan meals are blessed ones. Sharing your food with others, especially poor ones, is the first precious lesson we experience in Ramadan. Whether you invite people to your place, or send them food; whether it is a luxurious meal or just a simple one, you will get the same reward In sha Allah.
- This sunnah does not mean spending all day in the kitchen cooking luxurious meals to feed 15 fasting Muslims everyday.
- Try to choose simple and nutritive recipes that are not labour intensive and time consuming.
- Do not invite too many people at once. 2-3 extra guests will not require extra efforts on your menu.
- You can host an iftar party in your non-fasting days. You get as much reward as if you were fasting
These are my modest tips for productive and rewarding meals in Ramadan. I hope you get to use them. I am sure that each woman has her own productive tips and tricks as well. Do not let these tips stop in your kitchen. Share your ideas and get more reward. Please include me in your Ramadan duas.