Ramadan in Kingston, Ontario – Reflection of The Past | By Mona Rahman

Welcome to Ramadan Get Prepared

“For me, this Ramadan, was one of reflection of the past”

By Mona Rahman (@naeema_mnr) | Kingston, Ontario

The first night of Taraweeh prayers, I looked around the packed masjid and missed those whom I had spent Ramadan with growing up.  We have all scattered around the land, the continent, and even the world.

Being an academic town, housing Queen’s University, RMC and St. Lawrence College, we also had a partially transient community growing up, hosting students from all over the world, many of whom had gone back to their home countries.

This year, we also lost a few of our senior generation i.e. the Uncles and Aunties.

 

Growing up, we didn’t have a masjid per se; our activities were held at various places in Kingston, mainly at the Queen’s University campus.

We looked forward to potluck iftars on Saturdays on campus at the International Centre, as well as daily Taraweeh prayers, also held on campus.

Alhamdulillah, we always seemed to have been blessed with at least one person who was Hafiz-ul-Qur’an who could lead the prayers.

One year, there were three brothers who rotated through the month.

As the community grew and expanded into the suburbs, a second jama’a was held at someone’s house in addition to the one held on campus.  We were a close-knit community of several families, who truly felt like an extended family.

After Ramadan, ‘Eid Salah was held at a bigger room on campus and there was yet another potluck Eid dinner to look forward to or picnic, depending on the season.  Picnic season also meant dessert at the farm of one of our community members or dessert at pony rides!

Alhamdulillah.

Fast forward to 1434

 

The community has expanded considerably so that I no longer know the names of everyone there.  Activities are now centred around the Islamic Centre of Kingston (ICK), built in 1996.  We even have an Imam, Alhamdulillah!

Ramadan was literally bustling with activity with daily Taraweeh prayers both at the masjid as well as a jama’ah on campus.  As has become tradition, Taraweeh prayers were shared between our Imam as well as another young Hafiz “intern” from the “Cornwall school”.

At the masjid, two of our young youth Sisters provided babysitting for the very young children up to age 5 or 6.  There was also supposed to be childcare for those ages 6 and up BUT children who are at least 7 years old were encouraged to pray Taraweeh, at least in part.

Each night it was heartwarming to see entire families praying together in the masjid.  My 4-year old son chose to stay with us rather than go to babysitting most days if he was awake when it was time for ‘Isha, but more often than not he would lie down at the end of the line and fall asleep after ‘Isha.  He was not the only child for which Taraweeh meant sleepover at the masjid, Alhamdulillah!

One of the highlights of Taraweeh this year was the “Tafseer Snapshot”

Every evening, there was a 15 minute talk before Salat-ul-‘Isha by one of the brothers who had returned home from his studies in Madinah.  He would go through a brief synopsis of the verses to be recited that evening during Taraweeh.

 

But the highlight of the talk was the principle of the day

Each night he would give us a principle taken from the evening’s ayaat.  It was usually a small portion of an ayah so it was easy to memorize.  But wait….there’s more.

At the end of each week, there was a review day where the jama’ah would try to remember the principles we had covered to date.

Answer and get a chocolate.

Needless to say, my 7-year old strongly encouraged us to get to the masjid early, so he could sit right at the front.

He got the first chocolate, Alhamdulillah.



During Ramadan, most of us had our iftar at home with our families, prayed Maghrib, ate dinner and then made the mad dash to get to the masjid for ‘Isha and Taraweeh….actually in time for “Tafseer Shapshot”.

People were encouraged to come to the masjid for iftar, bringing food to share.

Being a university town, one of the traditions which has evolved is providing iftars to the student population.  Volunteers signed up to provide students on campus with food for iftar every day during Ramadan.

Saturdays, however, were the community iftars at the masjid

Almost each Saturday, a group of families would make and serve food for the community.  These iftar dinners usually brought 250-300 people to the masjid.

We would all go to the Musallah to break our fast with a bottle of water and a date which were given to us as we entered.  After Maghrib, we would head out to the community hall for dinner and dessert before heading back into the Musallah for ‘Isha and Taraweeh.

The first week was hosted by Pakistani families, the second by Bangladeshi and the next by Arab families.  All in all, we were blessed with great food from around the world, and the mandatory pizza for kids, Alhamdulillah.  May Allah (SWT) bless all those who fed the community during Ramadan.

The highlight of this Ramadan was the overnight programs which took place every weekend, starting after Taraweeh and ending with Suhoor and Salat-ul-Fajr.

A parent-child I’tikaaf was held the first Friday night 

Children listened to a story from the Qur’an (one of my favourites) about Prophet Musa and al-Khidr, followed by snacktime and a bit of play, and then went back into the Musallah for personal worship time with their parents.

The Imam gave them a quick explanation of what they could do including dhikr, reading Qur’an or praying nawafil.  He also gave them easy tricks to count to 100 or 33 to keep track of their adhkar.

 

“What’s nawafil?” was the first thing my son asked when he came to sit with me?

“Extra prayers,” was the easiest answer I could think of.

I figured it was better than the usual “superogatory” translation we got growing up.

Sidenote:  Certain English words are commonly used ONLY by the Muslim community in North America e.g. superogatory, obligatory, ablution…

youth praying - Photo by Mona Rahman for 30Masjids“Can I pray nawafil now?” he asked, after going through all the adhkar the Imam had given them and reading a bit of Qur’an.

“Sure,”  Who’s going to say no to that?

Masha Allah, he came back excited to tell me how many rakaat he had prayed.

Masha Allah, I was amazed at the endurance of these young children and very grateful to the environment which was provided that gave our young generation that motivation.

After Suhoor there was some time before Salat-ul-Fajr, so the Imam took everyone out to look at the stars and reflect.


 


SubhanAllah, it’s amazing how clear the sky is at that time.

Children were very excited to see the big dipper, a potential shooting star which ended up being a plane and just being up so late.

The next children’s I’tikaaf was the last Sunday of Ramadan and did not require parental supervision, although some of us were requested to be present by our children.

Night of Power - Photo by Mona Rahman for 30Masjids

That evening, the children broke up into groups to do a project on the theme of What Ramadan Means to Me.

Two groups did a play, two made a booklet and two made posters.

Masha Allah, it was a very creative evening!

The next two Friday evenings were reserved for the youth, one for the Sisters, and the next for the Brothers.

The masjid holds a youth program called STRIVE for youth ages 13 and up

So, these Friday evenings were aptly named STRIVE+.

I was fortunate to be asked to attend the Sisters’ program which they decided to start with a potluck iftar.

Although I couldn’t attend until after Taraweeh when my kids were asleep, I was very impressed by the “spread” of food that welcomed me when I did finally come at 1:30 a.m. laden with orders of iced caps from Tim Horton’s (the official post-Taraweeh snack stop of the ISK).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as coordinated as I thought and 3 of the 6 drinks met their demise in the parking lot and warranted a second trip to Timmie’s.

The attendees were just finishing up an art project involving the names of Allah (SWT).

I was invited to give a talk so we talked about role models we may have in the present day, how we react when role models may not live up to our expectations and how our ultimate role models are the Prophet (SAW) and his Companions.

Obviously, I was not present at the STRIVE+ for brothers but apparently there were some outdoor discussions which may have involved stories of jinn.

 


 


 

The adults weren’t left out in the overnight programs; their turn came every Saturday evening, and featured talks and time for personal ‘ibadat.

The 27th night was also the annual Sisters’ I’tikaaf, starting with potluck iftar.

The last ten days of Ramadan also meant more people in the masjid for I’tikaaf as well as Qiyam.

Apparently the numbers for both Qiyam, Suhoor and Fajr in these last days, but also for the whole month, were amazing, Masha Allah.

During the last ten days, several families also stayed with their children during the night until Salat-ul-Fajr

What a wonderful experience for these young people and what a blessing it has been to have Ramadan during summer vacation so that they can benefit from these blessings.  May Allah (SWT) continue to strengthen their Iman and make this Deen an integral part of their life.

The last night of Taraweeh prayers was obviously a special one as we were completing the Qur’an.

Alhamdulillah, the Imam had coordinated the recitation such that the final night covered the last 20 surahs of the Qur’an starting from Surat ad-Duha.

 

As a mother of two young children, I think this was a brilliant strategy that encouraged the young children to stay for the entire 20 raka’at and catch the  “finale” as it wasn’t as long as the other nights.  I’m sure many also liked the fact that they knew the surahs and could follow along.

The only complaint my 7 year old had was that the du’a was SOOO long.  Masha Allah it was just the du’a the Ummah needed to hear at the end of such a blessed month.

Alhamdulillah, Ramadan in the summertime is truly a blessing

While the days are long and the nights are short, it allowed our younger generation to participate in many acts of worship with others at the masjid.

Moreover, the plethora of activities allowed the community to meet with each other often.  Just seeing each other on a daily basis serves to strengthen the bonds of Sisterhood/Brotherhood.

But most importantly, Ramadan in Kingston gave our children the desire to be at the masjid and, Insha Allah, develop a love for it that will hopefully extend beyond just this blessed month.

It is this yearning and love for the masjid which we hope will allow them to be amongst those who are shaded by the Shade of Allah (SWT) on that Day when there shall be no shade save His.

 


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