As the warm spring days give way to hot summer ones, about a quarter of the world is in the midst of the month of Ramadan. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is a time of increased devotion, spirituality, and sacrifices.
The name Ramadan comes from the Arabic word ramad which means 'to burn away', a name which perfectly reflects the belief that one's sins are burned away by their increased good deeds during this month.
It's all this increased worship that characterizes Ramadan for many people. Ramadan usually conjures up an image of the physical acts of worship. Fasting by not eating or drinking from dawn to dusk. Reading a chapter of the Quran every day. Standing at night side by side with the community for night prayers. Cooking delicious feasts and for the mosque's iftar (fast-breaking meal).
But joining the ranks of motherhood changes this image. When your one-year old is scared of crowds or your 3 month old kept you up all night, night prayers and hours of reading the Quran are no longer options. Your perspective changes and Ramadan then takes on a whole new meaning.
Motherhood shows you all the 'little ways' that you can be a better person.
We hear the words of the Prophet everyday...a smile is charity, uphold family ties, kiss your children, respect your parents, accept invitations and so on. But these 'little things' often get lost under the bigger, more obvious acts of worship. Unfortunately, there is a split between worship and morals...a dichotomy that should not exist.
The ritual of standing in prayer for one hour is sometimes mentally easier than visiting an annoying aunt. The rush to get to the mosque in time for iftar often results in yelling and hurt feelings. And then there's the question of whether we do these acts just because it's a 'Ramadan ritual' or because we sincerely want to become closer to Allah.
For the first time, I've been forced to pay attention to all these 'little things'. Being a mom has given me a new perspective on Ramadan and now I have to actually scrutinize and embrace what it truly means to become closer to Allah by bettering myself. It's made me see that it's not about big acts of worship alone. It's about every single action, big or small, anything at all that makes you a better person.
There is this famous story about two women from the time of the Prophet, one who prayed, fasted, and gave charity in abundance and the other who did the bare minimum. But yet, the first was said to be in Hell while the second would enjoy a place in Paradise. The difference? The first used a harsh tongue with her neighbours while the second gave cheese to the poor.
All of the obvious physical acts of worship...but it was a simple 'little thing' that made all the difference. Praying all night means nothing if the intention is wrong or if it's off-balanced by a lack of manners.
For me, that is the lesson I have learnt this Ramadan. The world of motherhood often leaves very little time for taraweeh and reading the Quran. But the 'little things,' those simple everyday actions, carry some of the greatest rewards.
This Ramadan, kiss your child with the intention to follow the Prophet's example. Smile at random people because it is charity. Accept an invitation by that sister you're not fond of because it's the nice thing to do.
Focus on the small things, and they will weigh heavy on your scales, God-Willing.
Maryam Baksh is a former student at University of British Columbia. She is a member of the Muslim community in Vancouver and she writes a blog at http://www.thelifetraveller.org
You can read more articles from our multifaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, June 2, 2018