Tarawih While Parenting - What I Learned after Having Kids
Posted on May 13, 2019
By Nargis Rahman
It has been years since I prayed tarawih, the night prayers during Ramadan, at the masjid. Most of the last decade has been spent tending to my young children and my family’s needs, Alhamdulillah, all praises to Allah.
As a child, I attended tarawih every night, since the age of seven. Ramadan was such a special time for my family, when we would drive to the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay (ISTABA) in Florida for iftar followed by tarawih. I would often fall asleep in the car during the 15 minute ride to the masjid.
As soon as we would enter the parking lot, I was filled with excitement to meet and eat with Muslims from around the world, primarily from Jordan, India and Pakistan. We were one of the few Bangladeshi families who attended that masjid at that time in the 1990s. Although families signed up to host iftar at the masjid throughout Ramadan, those who attended would also bring a little something to share with others.
In 2000, my family moved from Florida to Michigan. We started attending tarawih at Masjid Al-Falah, one of a handful of masjids with a large Bangladeshi population in Detroit that has prayer space for women. In Hamtramck (a town outside of Detroit) and in Detroit’s Bangladeshi community, not all women attend or pray at the masjid (except for taking part in special programs).
When we attended the masjid, most of the lectures were taught in Bangla and were generic, such as encouraging people to read Quran and hadith. Many youth-related issues were still taboo and not talked about.
At times I relied on my experiences at the masjid in Florida to cope with things I did not understand in the cultural practices around me. I had to learn to differentiate between culture and religion and find middle ground between the two. Although the experiences I had at this masjid were different from the ones I had growing up, the feeling of unity and the spiritual high was in full effect during Ramadan.
In those days, Ramadan did not seem complete without attending tarawih at the masjid. It went hand-and-hand with fasting during the day. My parents insisted we go to the masjid at night. We diligently attended regardless of how tired we were or how much homework we had.
At the masjid, I would often see people during Ramadan whom I had not seen in months. We would pray together, side by side, regardless of our similarities or differences, strengths or weaknesses, status or occupation. Throughout the month, I would attend iftars and qiyams, staying up late at the masjid to do extra worship. Sometimes the masjid girls would even host a henna party before Eid Al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.
During tarawih, two huffaz (scholars who memorized the Quran) took turns leading the prayers. They would recite the verses with dedication - invoking jumbled-up emotions of warmth, remorse, sadness and hope, making your heart tremble in fear at the weight of the verses recited. They would collectively recite a chapter of the Quran each night to complete it by the end of the month in the Khatam-ul-Quran.
It was such an amazing celebratory feeling to complete the Quran and make dua as a community, for the community. I miss those days when I could be there late at night to stay for the lengthy duas.
Tarawih After Having Children
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Day 8: Taraweeh. This one's for all the momma's out there who are praying at home and missing the sweetness of praying taraweeh in the masjid. There is SO much reward for praying at home, but nothing replaces the feeling of praying in congregation. People can tell me time and again that being a mother alone is a form of ibadah (worship), and I get it, but after years of worshipping a certain way, it's almost like I have to reprogram my soul to believe it. *taraweeh: the optional night prayers performed during the month of Ramadan #ramadrawn #ramadrawn2019
All that changed when I became pregnant with my first child, who is now nine years old. I felt uncomfortable praying in the crowded masjid, being heavily eight-months pregnant. I was hot and sweaty, and standing (or even sitting) in long prayers was at times difficult. The following year, my son was a baby who fell asleep much earlier than the tarawih start time of after 10 p.m., and prayers often ended after midnight.
Trying to tend to him, as well as pray in congregation was too much. I would get anxiety between nursing him, other kids playfully poking him or wanting to play with him, or worrying that he would wander off from my sight.
Then came child number two and child number three. Just like that, going to tarawih seemed impossible between taking care of multiple children and their needs at any given time. Many times the kids would all fall asleep right after iftar, leaving me no choice but to stay home with them. When I was a kid we’d already be at the masjid by the time it was iftar. I looked after my younger siblings while we were at the masjid. When we moved to Michigan, we tended to have iftar at home more often. We’d all take a power nap after eating, and prior to going to the masjid. We didn’t have the option to stay home.
So, why do I find it so difficult? The reasons are complicated and known and unknown to myself.
Over the years, I felt guilty anytime people asked me why I wasn’t going to the masjid for tarawih. Unfortunately, sometimes people do not realize how mothers feel before guilt-tripping them. Mothers have so many responsibilities during Ramadan in addition to fasting and their prayers. It is an uphill battle and a struggle to stay awake for the two-hour stretch of prayers in congregation at the masjid as well as planning how to get to the masjid and back home with the kids.
I would often air out my frustrations on social media about how hard it is for women to pray with children at the masjid, from getting shamed for not coming to being shamed for showing up with kids who “won’t sit still.”
Recently, my friend Reem Abou-Samra wrote in an Instagram post about how she is also tired of that (sometimes unsaid) feeling that kids are “destroying people’s focus” when they pray if they are brought to the masjid. She wrote, “If we don’t take them to the mosque while they are young, they won’t go as teens or adults. Nor do they learn how to behave in a mosque.”
Reem suggests taking kids at an alternative time altogether, like after Asr, the afternoon prayer, instead of tarawih, to expose her kids to the masjid as well as accommodate their eating and sleeping schedule. I think her idea presents a unique practical alternative that helps bridge the concept of instilling an Islamic identity in children - getting them comfortable with going to the masjid while keeping in mind the children’s needs and community’s concerns until the children are better equipped to handle the long nights of prayer.
Each year in the beginning of Ramadan I make an intention to go to tarawih, but have to tell myself not to feel bad when I’m not able to go. At most, I may make it to two days in Ramadan. I do, however, make a 90 percent effort to go to Eid prayers without any excuses.
I have found contentment in knowing that every act of care we take for our homes and children as mothers counts as worship, so long as we make that intention prior to doing seemingly mundane acts of cleaning the house, or feeding, bathing and playing with the kids.
Tarawih While Parenting - Intentions and Tips
This Ramadan I’m trying to go to iftar and maybe tarawih on the weekends when we can all sleep in the next day. So far, I’ve been to the masjid for the first night. My husband took the boys with him. I drove alone, as my daughter fell asleep in the hallway when I was ready to go. My sister, who was over my house, offered to stay back with her. By the time I got to the masjid, I was the last car to park behind the parking lot (it was completely full). I was electrified with happiness and overjoyed to attend.
Reality check: I went inside and did not have a spot to pray until a few rakats were over and people left the prayer area.
So, I will take it one night at a time, and one Ramadan at a time, to find the best fit for my changing family needs. I hope to instill a similar love for going to the masjid as I once had when I was a child while accommodating my growing kids. May Allah give us patience and barakah in our efforts.
Meanwhile here are some tips about attending tarawih while parenting:
- There may be a time when work or family responsibilities will not allow for a flexible ability to attend the nightly prayers in the masjid. Therefore, make an intention to go and try for a few rakats each night or a few nights a week. Several working adults and students leave after eight rakat.
- If you’re a young parent and find it difficult to attend tarawih, don’t fret. Insha’Allah you will get reward for your intention and efforts.
- When you do make it to the masjid, your kids still come first. Make sure they are aware of the basic adabs (manners) while in the masjid (based on how old they are). They should not be running and screaming wild. Of course they are still children, and it is everyone’s responsibility to lend a hand to the mothers in the masjid as well as be light-hearted and understanding.
- If your child is being very fussy, consider leaving early and trying on another night or coming to the masjid at an alternative time.
- Bring a blanket, toys and snacks for the kids to keep them busy. If they are older kids, encourage them to pray next to you. Have them bring a book, activities or something to draw on when they feel tired.
- Don’t lose hope. Praying tarawih at the masjid wasn’t made fard (obligatory). Do your best to instill a sense of community into your children from a young age. You know what works best for your family. Consider praying tarawih as a family at home if you’re not able to make it to the masjid. Recently, I have seen a trend of kids or parents making cardboard masjids and dedicating a section of their home for worship.
- Don't know how to pray tarawih at home? This will help!
How is your tarawih experience? What tips do you have for parents?
Nargis Hakim Rahman is a Bangladeshi American Muslim writer and a mother of three kids. Nargis graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a psychology minor. Nargis is passionate about community journalism in the Greater Detroit area. She hopes to give American Muslims and minorities a voice in the press. Nargis is a fellow for the Feet in 2 Worlds Fellowship/WDET 101.9 FM. She writes for The Muslim Observer, Brown Girl Magazine and Metro Detroit Mommy. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.