Over the past couple of years, we have all felt the big void of not having a ‘normal’ Ramadan in our lives. The pandemic had made it impossible for us to partake in any Ramadan activities outside of our homes and hence it was only natural for us to yearn for those beautiful days of worship and self-reflection, in a community setting. Alhumdulilah, with the immense blessings and mercy of Allah (SWT), Ramadan 2022 came along and had us racing against time to make full use of it, just like in the pre-pandemic days. Even at Al Manarat Islamic Schools, we have had to keep ourselves on our toes to take advantage of this blessed month and instill its love and importance in our students.
Throughout the years, we have always had in-school activities in Ramadan that would focus on the different aspects of Ramadan and promoting its importance in our lives as Muslims, and its importance in bringing the community together. Similarly, this year we focused exclusively on three themes throughout the month: The Holy Quran, Fasting, and Charity. All our in-school activities were geared around these important themes and how they are at the core of this month of Ramadan.
Our Ramadan activities were kicked off by the Daurah-e-Quran program which focused on reciting the entire Quran in the month doing one juz a day, along with a brief translation of every ayah recited as well as a brief explanation or lesson that can be derived from that surah or chapter. This programming was presented in both English and Urdu and was open to the entire Muslim community. It was held daily in-person at our school as well as online via zoom sessions. The focus of this program was to touch base upon the importance of understanding the Quran in your own language, to build a foundation for seeking further knowledge of the deen. Several copies of the English translation of the Quran called “The Clear Quran” were given away to the attendees of this program so that they could easily follow along and spend time to reflect on it while at home.
In the academic classrooms, students presented a daily hadith to their classmates, that was mostly geared toward the themes of Ramadan. This activity was found helpful in driving the message of Ramadan home and to mark the sanctity of the month. It also allowed the students to engage with their peers through public-speaking in their classrooms, which is a skill we aspire all our students to excel at. The other activity that pushed the focus to Ramadan and its themes was our weekly Friday khutbahs. The khutbahs are always a moment of enlightenment for our students and these four khutbahs in Ramadan were no different. They revolved around the themes of fasting and the importance of getting in as many good deeds as one can during this blessed month where good deeds are multiplied 700-fold.
The next event held during this month of Ramadan was the Annual Quran Challenge for all the students in grades 1 through 8. All the students were organized into 3 groups based on their grades: grades 1 and 2 in one group, grades 3 to 5 in the second group, and grades 6 to 8 in the third group. Each group was then assigned a specific challenge that they had to succeed in, to place in the top three in their group. Group 1, which was also the group with the youngest students, was assigned specific surahs that they just had to recite with proper tajweed and a pleasant qiraat. Two judges marked them on their recitation using a preordained grading rubric. For the students in the two other groups, they had to pick surahs or ayaats from whatever they had learnt over the year in school. They would have to recite them with the proper tajweed and pleasant qiraat and deliver a tafseer (brief explanation) of the ayaats presented. Each group had different time limits to complete their entire challenge starting from 3 minutes to 15 minutes and mashaAllah we had a great job done by several students. In addition to this, the students also competed against each other in Arabic handwriting skills by writing out preassigned ayaats from the Quran, from memory without seeing the Quran. To make it beneficial for them, students were allotted practice days to learn writing their assigned ayaats before the actual competition. This was also a crucial item on the competition and students had to ace all three aspects of recitation, explanation, and writing, to be considered successful. The top three students were all presented with cash prizes to acknowledge their success in the Annual Quran Challenge.
In the backdrop of it these events and activities, we also had two major programs going on that focused on our third focus area, charity. The first one of these programs was the Generosity Challenge in which all the students participated. Each set of siblings got to bring home a charity box which they kept with them for the duration of the entire month. The purpose of this challenge was to try and collect as much charitable donations as possible in their individual boxes within the timeframe allotted, as a sibling group. At the end of the month, all the boxes were sent for counting and the siblings with the most amount of charity funds collected were acknowledged and appreciated for their worthy efforts to fundraise in the month of Ramadan. The key lessons that we wanted our students to take from this challenge were to learn how important it is to keep doing charity throughout our lives as Muslims, and to participate in organizing charitable causes, which can be quite challenging and yet highly rewarding in the sight of Allah (SWT). All the funds collected through these initiatives were then donated to worthy Islamic causes around the world and at home.
The second and final program to conclude our Ramadan activities and programming was our Food Drive. We were delighted to see how the entire school came together and participated in the food drive in which we collected packaged food items, grains, rice, canned goods etc. that could be easily shipped across to needy communities around the world. Throughout the month, students could be seeing dropping off food items in the designated food drive areas in the school and eventually all these items were collected by an agency that works with Palestinians who are living in terrible conditions in Palestine. May Allah reward the efforts of all our staff and students in undertaking all these activities and learning or teaching a thing or two about the Islamic way of life.
Just before heading into the Eid holidays, all the students got together and collected Eid goodie bags to commemorate the upcoming Eid along with their classmates and teachers. They also practiced the takbeerat of Eid as a group, while understanding the importance of Eid and the correct way of celebrating it. It was important to learn this as all of us ought to know what the rights of the Eid are upon us are and how we should celebrate Eid in accordance with the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). We hope you all had a blessed and bountiful Ramadan and an even blessed Eid with your families and friends and we pray that Allah (SWT) forgives us all and bestows upon us from His limitless mercy, Ameen.