5 Ramadan Traditions We Should Break
There are many traditions that form a part of our Ramadan nowadays. Some of them we might just be better off without. You be the judge.
Whenever we talk about Ramadan, it is beneficial to remember why we do it:
With that in mind, let’s look at some Ramadan traditions we might consider leaving aside this year.
1. Iftar Parties
This may shock some of you, but I’m going straight into the deep end here. For many of us, inviting friends and neighbours over for iftar is a part of Ramadan that borders on sacred. Ramadan is a time for sharing and strengthening bonds, of course. But you know what it is not a time for? Idle chatting into the night, food left uneaten on plates, high stress levels in the kitchen through the day preparing all kinds of intricate and lengthy courses, not to mention piles of washing up after (can you tell I’ve been there?).
So, what am I suggesting exactly?
- What if we leave the social aspect of Ramadan mainly to standing side by side with our fellow Muslims during tarawih prayers? We could walk home from the mosque with a neighbour and catch up or get know each other better.
- This doesn’t mean losing out on sharing. We can send food to our neighbours and friends. If we let them know in advance they can get the maximum benefit and have a day off cooking! If the food we send is kept simple, we’ll be able to send it more often, and we know that small consistent deeds are the best. To make it extra special, add a Ramadan card.
I’ve written a whole blog post with very easy ideas (most of them don’t even involve cooking) for food gifts you can give this Ramadan.
- A few times in Ramadan, though, we might want to spend some quality time with family or friends. If we do, there’s nothing
wrong with getting some help from outside too. If it’s hard for you to prepare enough food, order from a restaurant that serves healthy meals instead.
- For those days, it’s worth planning ahead in two ways. Firstly, make it clear that you intend to pray tarawih or spend time with the Qur’an (which you can do together) so that everyone knows where the evening is headed. This could turn the occasion into a beautiful opportunity to strengthen your bonds with love for Allah. Secondly, see the next point.
2. Groaning Tables and Bellies
This is a tradition it’s taken me a while to get past. Sometimes I still get a bit over-excited with the menu. I think most of us have grown up thinking that in Ramadan we need to make particularly ornate dishes, and lots of them! When did Ramadan become all about food? Let’s keep it simple!
- Plan meals ahead so that we don’t get carried away when we’re fasting and start making every dish that floats through our imaginations! We really don’t need more than a soup or some fruit and water followed by a simple main course (preferably low in carbs).
- This keeps the preparation and washing up to a minimum – the post-iftar washing up struggle is real!
- Eating light also allows us to focus on our prayers without falling into a food coma.
A routine that has worked for me is a light vegetable soup and dates after maghreb, then tarawih. Once back home, have a simple main course (prepared earlier, of course), like a roast chicken leg and some vegetables or a curry with a small piece of bread. For a treat, I like to have a cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate (or two) before tarawih. A perfect combination and a boost of focus going in to pray!
3. Ramadan in the Kitchen
I think you’ll join me when I say my best Ramadan memories do not consist of the three (or more) hours before maghreb rushing around the kitchen to make sure everything is ready for that second when the adhan is called. Is that the opposite of a month of reflection or what?
Now, I’d like to offer a disclaimer here: in no way am I deriding the act of preparing food or putting time and consideration into making something that everyone will enjoy. Cooking food for others can be a beautiful act of love and of worship, especially if you’re cooking the food they are going to break their fast with! We all know the hadith: It was narrated that Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever gives iftaar to one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without that detracting from the reward of the fasting person in the slightest.” [Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi]
What I am saying is that cooking should not dominate all the free time in our Ramadan days. With a bit of organisation, we can cut down the preparation time considerably and still make delicious and nutritious meals.
- Prepare soups, sauces or even whole meals in large quantities and freeze them in batches. This way, we just need to defrost them on the day of eating and heat them up!
- Make more baked meals for which most of the time is spent with the food in the oven and us doing other things.
- Cook two meals in one day. That way, only one in every two days will involve cooking. That’s 15 days spent outside the kitchen!
4. Samosa and Friends
I feel like the heading says it all. Do I need to say more? Ok, I’m going to spell it out. We’ve got to cut out the fried foods. The samosas, qatayef, chicken nuggets, bourek… no nation is innocent when it comes to little oily friends waving up from the iftar table. The worst part of this is, as well as being unhealthy, most of these tiny morsels require considerable amounts of time and energy to make and almost none to eat. They’re just not worth it!
- Try replacing them with baked snacks (bake pita squares with some olive oil and spices on top, for example) or bite-size fruit and raw vegetables.
- Sometimes, though, replacements don’t quite cut it. In this case, at least cut down. Put enough on the table for one per person and keep the rest far away (frozen is most effective. No one is going to eat a frozen samosa. I hope).
5. Shawwal Crash
Ramadan is an incredibly important time of the year. It is a time when every act of worship can be elevated to even more, when our sins are forgiven, and we get a chance to recharge our spiritual awareness and start new habits. What is the point of new habits, though, if they stop the moment Ramadan ends?
So, when we plan our goals for this month, let’s plan how we are going to achieve them, and how we are going to maintain them after the motivating atmosphere of Ramadan has faded and we are back to “normal”. Here are a few ideas:
- Instead of just aiming to read the whole Qur’an, we could aim to learn about the context behind each surah, so that we have a stronger connection to the words and meanings that will draw us back again and again.
- Try healthier eating and find foods that allow us to be more energetic in the day, so that fasting doesn’t seem like such a daunting idea the rest of the year.
- Create a charity routine – a small amount given at a specific time each week, for example – that we can keep up. It doesn’t just have to be money. Sharing food with neighbours, as we mentioned earlier, is another habit of generosity that we can develop easily.
- Start a short, informative and regular meeting with some friends, family or neighbours to discuss the Qur’an or anything else that is useful. This can help us build lasting, beneficial relationships. It doesn’t even have to be face-to-face – how about a 15 minute Skype call every other day, twice a week, once a week?
As Ramadan edges closer, I know I am a little nervous about whether I’ll be able to take my own advice. Of course, none of these traditions are bad in themselves. As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. So, this Ramadan, let’s try to do the best we can with the time we have. Let’s try to bring only good into the lives of those around us by sharing our food and our love and not wasting our or their time. Let’s share the blessings we have received with those who have less. Let’s treat our bodies kindly. Let’s create habits that will bring the light of Ramadan into our lives all year round.
Let’s try, each in our own way, to do justice to this month that Allah has blessed us with and know that Allah sees all and knows how hard we try.
May Allah allow us to reach the blessed month and accept our good intentions and good deeds.