Islamic Perspectives

Ramadan: Women and the Stress of Cooking

Unfortunately, our precious time, energy, effort and money are spent in preparing and cooking multi-course meals, all in the name of keeping up Ramadan traditions.

The holy month of Ramadan is mid-way. This is the month in which Allah, the Almighty, opens His doors of mercy, forgiveness and blessings upon Muslims. Every year, this month is eagerly awaited by Muslims across the world.

Even before the month of Ramadan starts, we see women stocking their kitchen with groceries, meats and dry fruits. Women appear much more worried about cooking and try to find new recipes. The Internet is a new source of methods for the special month of Ramadan. Vast tips and tricks are available to make more delicious and different recipes during this holy month. It seems as if ladies are preparing themselves to participate in a cookery competition.

Sadly, during this month when people are supposed to spend less time eating and sleeping, women spend much of their time in the kitchen cooking verities of dishes and planning for the next day. A typical Ramadan picture is that of mothers and sisters busy cooking till the time of sunset while the rest of the family awaits for the siren, tired and hungry. Perhaps people ignore the fact that women too fast all day.

The justification behind this is that cooking and taking care of the family and children is equally rewarding. Of course, any act done with the pure intent to please Allah, the Most High, is rewarding.

However, why should there be extra stress on cooking? If the month is about reduced consumption of food and to control our cravings, and if we truly care about the spiritual opportunities of the month, then we must expect less cooking and more worship but for women it is the other way round.

Women also need time for worship and contemplation during this special period which is supposed to be different from daily life in other months. Instead of reducing housework, duties of women are doubled in this month.

It’s very common to notice that while female members in the house toil in the kitchen along with other household chores, males are seen either sleeping or relaxing. This the norm, particularly in the Arab world.

And the most interesting part is that even after the whole day of sleeping and relaxing, they are given special attention on the ‘futoor’ table.

The most common scene in almost every house is that the ladies running here and there giving their last touch to the ‘futoor’ table as the maghrib adhaan is heard. Some even break there fast while still busy cooking or serving food while the rest of the family keeps sitting idly, waiting for the grand breaking-fast dishes.

The last moments of the fast of the day should be spent making much du’a and asking Allah for His mercy, blessings and forgiveness. Unfortunately, women are deprived of time to make du’a at this blessed moment.

Narrated by Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) that Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) said: “Whatever is prayed at the time of breaking the fast is granted and never refused.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

In fact, the month of Ramadan is the month to purify our minds and hearts, ask for Allah’s forgiveness, to submit ourselves to the Almighty. Instead, we see people treating Ramadan as a month of celebration or eating.

According to a study, 43 per cent increase has been observed in the number of dishes prepared at home during Ramadan. Around 17 per cent more time is spent on preparing each dish and more quantity is cooked than the normal days.

Actually, people eat durig this month like there is no tomorrow at futoor and suhoor which is not the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). On the contrary, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to prefer breaking the fast with simple foods such as dates and water. He is reported to occasionally enjoy dishes such as soups, vegetables and roasted meat, but he never demanded special dishes to be made during Ramadan.

Perhaps we forget that Ramadan is the month of fasting, not feasting. In fact, it is the month in which we are supposed to eat less and pray more, spend on ourselves less and give the needy more.

Ramadan is meant to be more spiritual and disciplined, to strengthen our bond with Allah, offer additional nawafils, increase charity and generosity, and do intense study of the Quran.

Unfortunately, our precious time, energy, effort and money are spent in preparing and cooking multi-course meals, all in the name of keeping up Ramadan ‘traditions’.

I do not not mean to say that preparing varities of food for the family is undesirable. Of course, not. It is just to say that time and energy spent laboring away in the kitchen could be utilized in a more productive manner if our time is spent reciting the Quran and praying to Allah. Apparently, balance is the key, and the male members of the family should cooperate in allowing women to value the spiritual moment of the holy month.

Let simple ‘futoor’ and ‘suhoor’ be the new norm and let us bring humbleness in our attitude toward food during the Ramadan. Let Allah (swt) make us set an example of sacrificing every type of ‘nafs’ including over greediness to eat more food than we actually need. Not to mention, such a principle is also the essence of this sacred month.