Balancing cooking & worship in Ramadan

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The blessed month of Ramadan is fast approaching and many of us are busy making preparations to make this a special time for our families. Ramadan is a time for voluntary acts of worship, sharing with those who are less fortunate, and reflecting on the message that Allah has given to us.

Overall, the goal of this month is to develop ourselves spiritually and to become closer to Allah. These effects are then to be carried with us throughout the remainder of the year. This is the beauty of Ramadan; a gift and blessing from Allah.
 
One issue that is commonly discussed is concern about the amount of time that sisters are required to spend during this month in cooking and related preparations. Much of the emphasis is often placed upon food and breaking of the fast. Undoubtedly, this was not meant to be the focus of such a spiritual time, but it has evolved into a sophisticated system in some cultures. The following questions then arise: "If a woman is spending so much time on this aspect of the blessed month, how much time does this leave for more important acts of worship such as prayer and reading Quran?", "How can a woman balance her desire to please her family and guests and her wish to perform more acts of worship?"
 
We posed these questions and related ones to sisters. We have presented some of their responses below which you should find enlightening. It is important to emphasize that sharing food with others is highly rewarded in
Islam, particularly if the recipients are the poor and needy.
 
This is something that is strongly encouraged not      only during Ramadan, but throughout the year. What may be helpful to consider is that there are many types of foods and various methods of preparation that do not require a great deal of time and effort, but that can be enjoyed just as much as more elaborate dishes. This element itself can be very beneficial for the balancing act.
 
A woman should always be aware of how her scale is being affected by the various acts that she engages in. If worship side is weak, it may be time to rearrange priorities. Our focus should be on Allah and the beautiful
Scripture that He, Almighty, sent during this glorious month. May Allah help each of us to experience a rewarding and joyful Ramadan.
 
Comments from Sisters
 
  • 'Aa'ishah, a mother of three teenagers. Her husband has extensive social relationships and usually has to invite many people to eat at their house during Ramadan. [Los Angels, California]
"My children and husband are always helpful and understanding. I am too. Even though cooking is tiring to me, I am always willing to do it (I cook a large variety of foods and I never get any outside help), and many times I have cooked for a very large number of guests; but I understand my
husband's position in the community and I support him in doing what he has to do. What is more important for me is that I look for Allah's reward by providing Iftaar for fasting people and having Muslims as guests in my house. This is my biggest motivation in doing this. There are more rewards in it than many can imagine.
 
The only thing I ask from my husband is that we plan these "events" ahead of time. In Ramadan, I also always help my sons invite some of their friends over to have Iftaar with us. When we have no guests, I cook
anything I want, and whether it is just one type of food or no food at all (that is we go out to eat at a restaurant). They are all happy and supportive of the decision. As for having enough time and energy to read Quran and perform more prayers, I think it all comes down to management of time and setting of priorities. And yes, I do as much of them as I want in
Ramadan."
 
  • Um Muhammad, married and the mother of two children. [Jersey City, New Jersey]
 
"I rarely cook Iftaar in Ramadan. We take the opportunity of the month to be in the masaajid (mosques) as much as we can. There are more than
fifteen mosques around us which provide daily or weekend Iftaar, so we go to them to meet the Muslims and eat with them. Sometimes the food is free but most of the time we pay for it, and in others it is a potluck dinner. I may have to cook once or twice for guests at our home. This way we get to spend more time in the masjid (mosque) and around the Muslims, and I get all the time to do more worship."
 
  • Zahirah, lives with three young daughters, her husband and his old parents. [New York, New York]
 
"When it comes to cooking, I have to work very hard every Ramadan
because I have to prepare different types of meals for my in-laws and at specific times - day and night. I get very tired and I do not, may Allah
forgive me, look forward to it. However, I enjoy cooking for the masjid
because some of those who eat there do not have the opportunity to eat "Ramadan food" and for the few occasions when we invite some single Muslims to have Iftaar with us. I usually have very little time to do
anything other than cooking in Ramadan."
 
  • Khadijah, a mother of two children, one of whom is third-grade homeschooler. [Atlanta, Georgia]
 
"I love to cook in Ramadan even though I am not a good cook, but I try my best especially when we go to the masjid or when we are inviting others over. Many like my sweet dishes so I tend to do more of that and I
sometimes send them as gifts to our neighbors and friends. I do make time for Quran and prayer and helping with the Ramadan programs in our masjid. It is a tough schedule and I get tired especially towards the end of the month, but I like it very much and my husband and the Muslims around me appreciate what I do. I have no complaints."
 
  • Layla, married and the mother of three young children.
[Minneapolis, MN]
 
"I feel that my husband expects us to have a full, heavy meal every night during Ramadan (i.e., salad, meat, starch, vegetable and desert), whereas during the rest of the year we may have a meal like that two or three times a week (the rest of the week it's O.K. to have lighter meals like soup and salad, sandwiches, or omelets). I don't find it difficult to cook during Ramadan from a temptation standpoint but I find that planning for these big meals is a burden. I think that these large meals are customary during Ramadan because we tend to entertain more during this month. But, I don't think these large meals should be expected when not entertaining and it is actually an unhealthy way to eat (to gorge ourselves after sunset before we go to sleep). Also, the clean up from these meals is more extensive and will take away time from prayer, reading Quran, and being with family members. Feeling tired from fasting and taking care of small children can add to the challenge during this month."
 
We would like to thank all of the sisters for their comments and insight.

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