The sun was slowly sinking in the western sky and the colors of its farewell were spreading across the horizon and the few clouds. Abu Saif looked up from his reading and smiled. He was so hungry and the smells from the kitchen, which drifted into his study, made his mouth water in anticipation. At sunset he would break fast with his family. He rose from his desk and strolled into the dining room to enjoy the sight of the table, already set and decorated with numerous tasty dishes, waiting for the family to assemble. Um Saif was bringing out another dish as he entered. Umm – spiced roast chicken decorated a platter of hot rice. Abu Saif was rich and could afford to have variety on his evening table. There were the stuffed zucchinis and eggplants. And great! Grape leaves tonight! There were the kofta burgers. There was his favorite – the foul (broad bean) salad he loved…
What! That’s not foul! Where was the foul? Abu Saif’s eyes went over the table again with increasing worry. Platter of dates set here. Green salad set over there. Relish plate there. The humus was over there and a big bowl was set in the center of the table, steaming with the delicious soup.
“Um Saif, where is the foul salad?” he asked nervously.
“We had that every night this week. Tonight I made stuffed grape leaves,” said his wife.
Abu Saif’s face quickly turned red with anger. “What! I’ve been waiting all day for my foul! How could you forget it!”
“You didn’t mention that, Dear. I didn’t know.”
Abu Saif felt furious. Remembering, just in time, that he was fasting and couldn’t argue, he marched past his gathering children and slammed the front door as he left the house. Outside the air was cooler. The sound of the adhan started clearly calling the prayer from the mosque down the street. Abu Saif paced off away from his house, away from the mosque, not really knowing where he was going.
Shortly he found himself down by the river. A poor dock worker sat on the bank reciting Quran as he prepared something he had taken out of a bag. Abu Saif approached to where he could see what the poor man was doing. He was preparing to break fast with a piece of dry bread and a small bowl of vinegar. He had nothing else, but Abu Saif could hear him reciting a small prayer, thanking Allah (SWT) for His Bounty.
Suddenly, Abu Saif felt a pain twitch his chest. Here he was, upset that his well-filled table lacked one dish out of many and feeling abused by the world for that, while this poor man was praising Allah when he had so little! Quickly Abu Saif stumbled forward and emptied all the money in his wallet beside the astonished dock worker. Murmuring to him, “Thank you dear Brother,” Abu Saif turned and trotted home with a fixed idea in his mind.
At home in the dining room, his family had just finished eating and had left all of the table prepared for him. Abu Saif stomped in and looked around at it unhappily.
“Please clear off the table, Um Saif! This abundance is not good for me!”
“Safiya,” he called to his daughter, who was peeking around the corner of the kitchen door. “Take this bread and dry it on the stove, and prepare me a bowl of vinegar.”
A worried Um Saif hurriedly started to remove the platters of food. Her two sons helped clear the table. Safiya scurried around the kitchen, preparing her father’s order. What had happened? Had Papa gone mad?
“All praise be to Allah, and thanks be to Allah. Allah is the Greatest!” declared Abu Saif as he broke fast with his hard bread dipped in vinegar, just like the poor man. “May Allah Subhannah was Ta’la forgive me for not appreciating how much He has blessed me.” Then he recited, “But if you count the favors of Allah, never will you be able to number them. Truly man is given up to injustice and ingratitude.” (Quran 14:34)
This is a true story someone told me about his uncle. It impacted the whole family in a positive way as each person felt more grateful for the bounty the family had, and re-evaluated the importance of their wants and desires. It offers several themes for discussion with your child, depending on the child's age.
We can discuss controlling our anger. How do we do it? Abu Saif didn't yell bad words or throw things. He stopped himself and walked away. He was an adult so he didn't have to tell someone where he was going and he went some distance from home to calm down. Is this a good way? What did the prophet say about controlling anger? An older child could research this if necessary. Daddy, Mommy, what do they do when they get mad? How should the child control anger? (You might need to work on this for yourself before you discuss it with your child, if you aren't good at controlling your anger. Then you can discuss your improvement and how you try to please Allah.)
Talk about why we get angry more often when we are hungry. An older child could research what foods affect blood sugar and what do Muslim doctors and nutrition experts advise for a good Ramadan diet.
Was Abu Saif right to get mad over the missing salad? Doesn't it sound silly? Can you and your child think of times when someone in the family got mad over something silly? Someone might feel angry because he spilled something or made a mistake. He might also feel anger if someone shoved him at school. You can discuss reasons for anger and when it is important to respond to that anger, to do something to fix a problem, and when is it better to forgive or forget about instead.
Why did Abu Saif eat the same meal as the poor man? He gave him money. See how your child understands this act. You might suggest trying a meal of vinegar and bread. What does it taste like? Years ago, when Bangladesh had severe flooding like Pakistan is now suffering from, a youth group at a church near my home had a dinner fundraiser for the victims. They charged a large fee for tickets to the dinner. They only served plain rice at the dinner, saying that was the meal of a poor Bengali refugee from the flood. It surprised the attendees who were not expecting such an inexpensive meal. It earned a nice sum of money for the charitable cause. And it made those involved a lot more aware of how needed the aid was to these people so far away and how wealthy they were, so they should donate. We empathize more with people when we have similar experiences to theirs. How does Ramadan help us to do this also?