Ramadan, which begins on April 2, is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. It is a time of intense prayer, charity and, for adults, fasting from sunrise to sunset. This week’s religious leaders discuss how younger people can be introduced to Ramadan’s spirit and practices.
Isma H. Chaudhry
Board of trustees co-chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury
The spirit of Ramadan redirects our attention from self-indulgence toward devotion to Allah (God) and service to humanity. Children can get the most out of this month by understanding that Ramadan is a time for becoming more conscious of God, of performing charitable works and showing compassion to others.
Many of us have hectic schedules, with limited opportunities to attend to family, mental health and self-care needs. Ramadan is when we take the time to be reminded of the blessings of family and community. Assisting in preparation for the community iftars (after-sunset meals that break the fast) can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for children. Families should help children participate and even take the lead in starting charitable initiatives. This helps youngsters develop an empathetic heart and a generous, charitable soul, qualities that are the essence of Ramadan.
Encouraging children to fast once they are of age helps them understand the plights of the less fortunate around the world and fosters the attributes of gratitude and humility. Ramadan’s focus on congregational prayer, scriptural reflection and meditation can improve young people’s emotional well-being.
Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community with Mosques in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Amityville
When I was 11 years old, I traveled across the globe to my parents’ birthplace. As I walked unfamiliar alleys, I saw children who were just like me, sitting on the dusty floors, polishing shoes. I reminded myself that had I not been blessed with all the opportunities afforded to me, I could have been any one of these children, soulful but deprived. This reality is the hallmark aim of Ramadan. The goal is to realize the suffering of others by putting yourself in their shoes (or lack thereof) whether they are young or old.
Although children and teens are not permitted to fast because their bodies are still growing, they can join in the spirit of Ramadan by giving to the poor, helping their parents, uplifting themselves morally and pursuing heights of spiritual progress, all while disconnecting from materialistic wants.
To appreciate what you have, sometimes you have to live without it. And it’s far better to do it willingly than unwillingly. In the end, Prophet Muhammad taught, "like for others what you like for yourself."
Faroque Ahmad Khan
Chairman, Interfaith Institute of Long Island, Westbury
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, is full of reflection, discipline, spiritual growth, time management, sharing and caring. It’s also a month of empathy and compassion. Quran 2:183 says, “Believers, God commanded fasting for you just as he commanded it for those who came before you, so that you might be mindful of God.”
Thus during Ramadan, adults who are able to are obligated to abstain from food or drink from dawn to sunset. Ramadan fosters solidarity and togetherness at the predawn meal with parents and the breaking of the fast at sunset, followed by late night taraweeh prayers with the larger community.
Younger people can participate by listening to family members, scholars and elders discuss Islam, Ramadan and Prophet Muhammad, helping them develop a better understanding of why such practices as praying, fasting and zakat (charity) are meaningful and valuable. These opportunities for human connection can make teens and youth more reflective, confident, compassionate and dedicated to the needs of others, allowing an escape from the busy and self-oriented bubble they often find themselves in while at school or with friends.
Younger people are reminded that life only has meaning through cultivating relationships with others in the spirit of Ramadan.
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