x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Married Life: Parental duties weigh heavier in Ramadan

With Baby A crawling on the kitchen floor as we prepare our daily iftar both Mr T and I are feeling the weight of Ramadan more than usual.

Mr T and I learnt in our youth that Ramadan is a time to think of the poor and find ways to clothe and feed them; a chance to increase prayer and read more of the Holy Quran. It demands purity of thoughts and kindness to one's fellow human beings. We are held so much more responsible for our every action, thought and intention than the rest of the year, perhaps because this is a time to take a moment from the daily grind and convey our gratefulness for every piece of good fortune. Which is why, when most of the day is instead spent lamenting our empty bellies and parched throats, the guilt is so much more than usual.

With Baby A crawling around the kitchen floor as we prepare our daily iftar and climbing on and off our backs as we kneel in prayer, we are feeling the weight of that Ramadan Responsibility, as we have come to call it, a whole lot more than usual.

It's our job now to impart to her the beauty of this Holy Month and help her appreciate the responsibilities that come with it, as our parents once did for us.

I spent the first few days of Ramadan in Jordan with my family. My mother still glides silently into our rooms in the few minutes before sunrise, urging us to take a few sips of water in those final moments before the fast. My father still comes home every day with fresh bottles of those thirst-quenching drinks that only ever make an appearance during Ramadan: a thick apricot drink known as Qamar el Deen; sweet Tamer Hindi made from tamarind and sometimes garnished with pine nuts and pistachios; and my least favourite, Erq Sous, made from liquorice root. My brothers still eat all of the leftovers during every suhoor, cleaning out the fridge with surprising dedication before every sunrise.

I remember my parents decorating our home for Ramadan. My father would fill festive plates with dates, roasted almonds and walnuts. My mother would unwrap her Ramadan plates and tell my father to stop eating so many of the dates. Both would try hard to get us to show patience before iftar; in that hour before sunset, the soothing verses of the Quran provided a quiet soundtrack in our home. As children, we were told to quietly pray in our hearts and impeach God to answer our prayers instead of lifting lids off the pots on the stove and breathing in the aromas of the coming meal.

As an adult, every good intention to spend Ramadan immersed in the beauty of my religion flies out the door with the first pangs of hunger, and the responsibility to control that is so much weightier now that I'm meant to provide a good example for my own daughter. Sure, I stocked up on my own Ramadan decorations that I'll bring out every year, and I wrote down the recipes for those comforting dishes that must make an appearance in Ramadan, but that's the conundrum: Ramadan is about so much more than food and whether or not we're able to consume it. It won't be long before Baby A has to learn that, and Mr T and I only have a little bit of time to learn it ourselves.


Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts&Life editor at The National