true Eid

Growing up in a sleepy English countryside village, we had to drive at least an hour to the nearest mosque (a converted semi-detached house). We would visit it twice a year on the occasions of Eid and my parents tried their best to make these days as special as they could for us. With none of our extended family nearby and only a few Muslim friends – Eid was a subdued but certainly happy affair. We would receive eid money and in addition one gift each. It was exciting to make that trip into town where our parents would let my sisters and I pick out anything we wanted from the hallowed pages of the Argos shopping catalogue!
This was the innocent late 90s, and we loved the Eid that we had. I would go back to school with henna-painted hands as the only sign of festivities happening at home. Without the world of Amazon Prime – where a henna cone can be summoned at the click of one’s fingers – I would spend  the night before Eid mixing the henna and applying  it myself using a toothpick to dab out the designs.
Sumaya-Teli-IMG_16023The next day someone would inevitably ask why I had ‘orange marker’ on my hands, (soon Madonna made henna painted hands the next cool thing of the nineties and the same people would then ask me to decorate their hands with it) . I would feel proud to say that we celebrated two Eids in a year, rather than the one Christmas my friends did.
Even so, like many of us who were brought up in the Western world, I have fond memories of the Christmas holidays. Even if our families did not celebrate the actual holidays, it was a time when everybody had time off from work, families and friends gathered together, ate good food and (before the days of Netflix and cable) watched Christmas movies on TV. Our children are born into this culture and are also likely to associate positively with the idea of Christmas.

“You don’t even have a Christmas tree?”

I must admit, when I was around eight years old, although I knew there was no Santa Claus, the idea of someone whose job it was to leave presents for small kids was quite compelling. So, just to be sure, I decided to set up an experiment. That year on  Christmas Eve, I hung the closest thing I had to stockings (a pair of striped socks!) on our mantlepiece. When they were still there, empty and limp the next morning, I happily put Christmas and all its associated myths behind me. Nevertheless I couldn’t shrug off the feeling of inadequacy when a girl at school looked at me in pity and said, “You don’t even have a Christmas tree?”

Competing for their attention

The reality of the matter is that we are competing for the attention of our children, and our religious festivals are competing with the attention of other more glittery offerings. Many of us start to decorate our homes and plan Ramadan Advent calendars. We borrow from the culture we are in and start to replicate the festivities, but just on Eid and Ramadan, instead of during Christmas. We spend money on gifts and want to make these festivals a real part of our children’s lives. We want to create memories, make that clever homemade eid craft, take that perfect holiday family photo.

Eid was super duper cool – akin to going the moon

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. The imam of our local masjid, himself brought up here in the USA, led a halaqa (learning circle) recently on parenting. He reminisced about eid, talked about how exciting his parents made sure eid was for him and his siblings. He described his childhood eid as being  ‘…super duper cool – akin to going to the moon’.
I  love all of this and I am one of those mothers scouring Pinterest for ideas, and wondering if I too can be that cool parent and pull of something spectacular for my children. However, I do worry that we might fall into the trap of the dreaded c-word: commercialization.
Indeed, in our own house, there is our five year old, who has been adding toys and coveted items to his Eid list all year! He loves to draw, so his lists are actually illustrations of the things he would like, being sure to include his two year old sister, he will ‘draw’ eid lists on her behalf too!
“Oh mama HOW MANY days till Eid?” he will ask or “How many more days? Is Eid after tomorrow’s tomorrow?”

 “How many more days?

On one such occasion last year I found myself telling him Eid was only 100 days away…and with that came an idea so exciting that I set to work straight away. We would have a tree – it would be a learning tree, a growing tree and with each leaf that opened we would count one less day till Eid but one more inch closer to Allah. I proposed to my then-four-year-old that we would have a “99 Names of Allah Tree.”
And here dear reader, I invite you to join us! This year on the 29th of March, it will be approximately99 days till eid.

“There are ninety-nine names of Allah; he who commits them to memory would get into Paradise. Verily, Allah is Odd (He is one, and it is an odd number) and He loves odd numbers,” the Prophet said, as narrated by Abu Hurairah (Sahih Muslim 6475).

This could be your small way of off-setting the superficial rigmarole that has started creeping in on us, and focus your whole family back to our Creator. It would be a way to practice reading out the names of Allah on each day of Ramadan – a spiritual link – an opening for discussion of the beautiful attributes of our Lord. A way for our young children to know and start to appreciate the spiritual essence of our deen, to make insight a habit, and a realization that remembrance of Allah is at the crux and heart of not only our worship, but also our celebration.

Our 99-Names Tree

So we started making a tree template, and stuck it up on the wall. Then we planned to add a leaf with one of Allah’s 99 names everyday until Eid. And because I am not the most organised person – we didn’t finish doing it all last year but we did start and we aim to continue this year inshallah. May Allah accept it from us as worship (ibadah).
While I was writing this article, shut away in the spare bedroom with strict instructions to the kids that mama was working, there was a knock on my door. In came my five-year-old.
“Mama what are you writing about?”
“I am writing an article” I replied.
“What is it about?”
I believe in answering all questions truthfully but in the capacity of the child to understand. So I replied, “I am writing about how when I was a little girl I really liked Christmas trees, and how when I grew up I loved making a Ramadan 99 Names of Allah tree with my children.”
A sweet smile of realization spreads across his face…
“That’s you and me!”
“Yes it is…”

How to make your own Ramadan Tree

If you are a methods and materials person then here are the details ;
Materials:

  • a tree template/cut out/ cardboard
  • coloured paper to use for cutting out leaf / blossom / apple shapes
  • (depending on the season you can make leaves or flowers or apples for the tree.)
  • scissors
  • glue/ blue tack

Method:

Step 1: Cut out the tree shape

Step 1: Cut out the tree shape

 

Step 2: Glue on to cardboard

Step 2: Glue on to cardboard

 

Step 3: Paint/colour it in

Step 3: Paint/colour it in

 

Step 4: Make a leaf or fruit-shaped template

Step 4: Make a leaf-shaped template

 

Step 5: Use coloured paper to make your leaves/fruit

Step 5: Use coloured paper to make your leaves

 

Step 6: Write out or print the names

Step 6: Write out or print the names

 

Stick name onto leaf

Step 7: Stick name onto leaf

 

Step 8: Stick leaves onto tree

Step 8: Stick leaves onto tree

 

Our growing tree

Take it further

If this piques your interest, here’s how to expand the tree into something bigger:

  • Practice writing in Arabic,  forming letters and sounding them out
  • Provide a simple translation of the meaning of name and attribute it alludes to
  • Try to instill a sense of awe inspired by the names in your children.

I always find it useful when real examples are given of how to talk with your child (because we all have moments where we are stuck). So, here’s an example of how you might initiate a conversation.
‘AL BASIR’ ‘All Seeing’
“Look around you – at this room,” I start by addressing my son. “Allah has given us two eyes with which we can see everything in this room. Isn’t it amazing? All we have to do with our eyes to make them work is …. What?”
“Erm I don’t know?”
“…open them!”
“Oh yeah!”
“… and we can enjoy all the beautiful things around us.. so what about Allah? Allah is the one who Created us and our eyes that work so perfectly. Allah is the all seeing. Do you know what that means?”
“That he can see everything?”
“Yes but not just everything here right now – but everything everywhere all the time! That means not just in this room but in the whole wide world and universe.”
“And in the galaxies and Milky Way?”
“Yes!”
“Even under the sea?”
“Yes!”
“And all at the same time?”
“And guess what? He can even see inside…your…heart! And inside the heart of every single creature. He is the All Hearing and All Knowing. He never sleeps or feels tired like we do. He can hear your prayer and the prayer of all living things in all the universe – look outside at the trees – see the leaves falling? Can you imagine all the leaves that fall in all the trees and forests of the world – did you know that not even a single leaf falls without first asking Allah for permission?! How many leaves do you think there are in the world?”
“Wow! Infinity! Even more than infinity!”

The tangible beauty of the Quran

And there you are – full circle back to the leaf on which you are about to write down this beautiful name.

“And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record.” (Chapter 6 Verse 59)

Take out the Quran and show your child this verse. Read it together and show your child the tangible beauty of the Quran.

Other fun activities

Leading on from this, there are an overwhelming amount of crafts and activities for children associated with Ramadan and the two Eids. I have singled out three I find particularly beneficial, because they actually link the child to the Quran and Hadith. This is especially important during the month of Ramadan ‘the month of the quran’ and during the last 10 days of Dul Hijjah.

  1. Gilded Dunya has a lovely informative post about introducing the Quran to a very young child. She talks you through ‘baby steps towards the Quran’ complete with an adorable ‘quran pointer’ craft that you can make with your child.
  2. Sumaya-Teli-22Parenthoodmuslimstyle has some wonderfully versatile flashcards that invite children to ‘(Let’s) find a word in the Quran’  – which they  generously offer as a free download. These can be printed and laminated to be used in numerous ways – from very simple word association for very young children to more complex discussions with older children. They even provide an excellent PDF of some direction in which one can take the discussion for each word inspired by the Quran.  this really is a brilliant resource and I can’t commend the sister duo behind this, enough on their work!
  3. 10 day Hadith compilation encouraging good deeds on the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, as a free download.

It is during special times in early childhood that if associations are formed, then they may carry on into the future, inshaAllah.

Sumaya Teli is the founder and co-author of Mamanushka.com
All photographs by Sumaya Teli.

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