By Shoomi Chowdhury
Last Ramadhan a dear friend invited me over to open our fast together, as we did every Ramadhan. We would take turns hosting each other in our respective homes, with our families and cook for each other. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the Ramadhan experience.
However, last year’s Ramadhan fell during the longest days of the year. The time to prepare food, host guests and tidy up and head to the Terawih prayer (Ramadhan night prayer) was so short. By the time two us hosted we realised it couldn’t be sustained. So when the next friend hosted it was decided, no cooking, we will have delicious food ordered in, we will enjoy each others company and we would lead each other in prayer. It was without a doubt the best day of my Ramadhan last year. At that point our wonderful host said; “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a sisters only iftaar for CICC, give us sisters a night off in Ramadhan, hire a hall, have food ordered in, and have our very own sisters led terawih led by our amazing Qur’an teachers”, in that moment the Sisters Iftaar event was born.
Skip forward to Ramadhan 2019, 11th May at Acorn Hall in Colchester, the room was decorated beautifully by our visionary volunteers, the placed oozed elegance and warmth. Over fifty sisters gathered with their twenty plus children for an evening of beautiful Qur’an recitations led by the smallest but mightiest members of our community, our children and young people. They were then followed by our beloved Qur’an teacher Sister Dhuha Jasim, who opened the programme with the most beautiful recitation of Surah Al Furqan verses 61 to 76.
Exalted is He who put constellations in the heavens, a radiant light, and an illuminating moon. It is He who made the night and day follow each other- so anyone who wishes may be mindful or show gratitude. The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on the earth, and who, when the foolish address them, reply, ‘Peace’; those who spend the night bowed down or standing, worshipping their Lord, who plead, ‘Our Lord, turn away from us the suffering of Hell, for it is a dreadful torment to suffer!
It is an evil home, a foul resting place!’
They are those who are neither wasteful nor niggardly when they spend, but keep to a just balance; those who never invoke any other deity beside God, nor take a life, which God has made sacred, except in the pursuit of justice, nor commit adultery. (Whoever does these things will face the penalties: their torment will be doubled on the Day of Resurrection, and they will remain in torment, disgraced, except those who repent, believe, and do good deeds: God will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. He is most forgiving, most merciful. People who repent and do good deeds truly return to God.)
[The servants of the Lord of Mercy are] those who do not give false testimony, and who, when they see some frivolity, pass by with dignity; who, when reminded of their Lord’s signs, do not turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to them; those who pray, ‘Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring. Make us good examples to those who are aware of You’. These servants will be rewarded with the highest place in Paradise for their steadfastness. There they will be met with greetings and peace. There they will stay- a happy home and resting place!
After a moving recitation, we then moved on to a group activity. Each guest was asked to share one dua (prayer) they would like answered this Ramadhan and share on a post it note. These dua then made up our Ramadhan Dua Wall, throughout the evening we read and looked through each of the dua, saying Ameen to each and hoping that Allah SWT answers every dua. From the children praying for their mothers return to excellent health, for exams to go well, for their families to be in paradise together, to mothers praying to recite the Qur’an beautifully, for their children to be steadfast, for the pains in their body to be cured to our wonderful revert sisters praying for the strength to tell their mothers they are Muslim or praying that their non Muslim family leave this world Muslim and worthy of our Lords greatest reward. To all the dua written and not written, we say Ameen, may Allah SWT accept them from us all. Ameen.
The evening then led into three inspiring talks by our distinguished speakers, Dr Sarah Maan, Dr Fatima Albaghdady and Maria Tonnessen. They all gave us healthy, spiritual and practical tips to make the most of our Ramadhan. These talks have been kindly turned into blog pieces so take a look at the beneficial knowledge shared via the links above and we hope you gain from it. Ameen.
For me, my biggest take aways were:
1. To have a healthy Ramadhan keep a food journal of suhoor and iftaar meals and note how your energy levels were that day. Was I more tired than usual or energetic or even hangry (anger caused by hunger, its a real thing, snickers have done commercials on it, so it’s a fact).
2. To have a spiritual Ramadhan make the most of the Qur’an. Ramadhan is the month of Qur’an, find your own way to connect. Work on getting that relationship to the level of Ihsan. What is Ihsan I hear you ask? Watch out for the blog.
3. To have a practical Ramadhan remember that you know yourself better than anyone, your body, your abilities when it comes to Qur’an and your capabilites when it comes additional prayer. Make a plan that works for you and your timings and allow yourself rest even schedule in a nap or two or three, because that rest will give you the energy to worship and serve Allah SWT to the best of your ability. Ameen.
After an inspiring panel of speakers our guests were asked to make their very own Ramadhan Plan using the tips shared by our speakers. We were then led in the evening adkhar by Dr Fatima and we welcomed in Maghrib and Iftaar time with a beautifully performed Adhan (call to prayer) by our young brother Saad ibn Dhuha. Sisters and children, for some of whom it was their first full day of fasting, opened their fast with dates and water (and some with Aunty Fatma’s scrumptious cupcakes).
The prayer mats were set up and time for congregational prayer began, the seventy plus women and children gathered on prayer mats from each of our households and Sister Dhuha began with a loud and beautiful Allahu Akbar, instantly the room fell quiet, only the sounds of small children shuffling as they stood in prayer with their mothers and the powerful recitation by our Imam could be heard. Utter peace consumed the room.
When the prayer was over, within moments, prayer mats were tidied away, sisters rolled up their sleeves and began in a quick and orderly fashion to serve the freshly delivered food, getting the pizzas to the kids first, and the rice and chicken to the sisters sitting patiently and happily at their tables. We all tucked in with a relieved Bismillah, grateful for the company and the delicious hot meal.
The evening wasn’t over just yet, with all hands on deck, the scurry to tidy up and set the place for the congregational Terawih prayer was well and truly under way. All the sisters swung into action, in their own Mission Impossible-esque mission to have the room fully tidied so that our distinguished Imams of the evening, Sister’s Dhuha, Abeer, Huda and Fatima could begin the prayer on time. As the sisters prayed, the children played, and the evening rolled to an end. The hall was emptied looking unused, not leaving a trace of the beautiful evening behind except for the beautiful memories we now all share of CICC’s 1st Sister’s Iftaar. InshaaAllah the first of many.
It may be too soon into Ramadhan to say this, but it truly was the best night, in the best company, with great food and most importantly an inspiring and spiritual experience. Alhamdulillah. We pray all the sisters enjoyed it us much as we did. Ameen. It just shows how an idea that started in a sister’s kitchen became my favourite night of Ramadhan…. So far. Ameen.