Ever since I can remember, especially in my younger days in the UK, Ramadhan for my household had always been a solemn affair - especially to a young boy of pre-teen years, who would rather be outside the house playing with his friends, or simply idling and wasting time - what young boys like to do.
But of course, this month was different from other months, and I would notice a big change in my parents. They would seem quieter and more inward-focussed than usual, busying themselves with prayer and other religious duties. I used to remember my father telling us that during the month we shouldn't be too frivolous in our actions, and that we should not watch too much TV, or get lost in too much entertainment. Instead we should devote ourselves to Allah, thinking about Him and how to please Him in every way we can. This we did by increasing our readings of the Quran.
In fact this was what was expected of us, and this my father ingrained into us every day.
When it was nearing Maghrib, he would make it a point to sit down in the living room and start reciting the Quran in full view of all his children, which would be a cue for us to sit down and read the Quran too.
In fact, during Ramadhan, rarely did I see my father without the Quran. He even brought a small Quran every where he went, and would read it whenever he had time.
If Dad led by example and discipline, Mum taught by teaching and explaining.
I remember as a child Mum reading books to me. However, it wasn't the normal assortment of storybooks that she would read (Oh, we had an ample supply of those too, courtesy of Mum and Dad). We had books ranging from Enid Blyton to stories of the prophets, and during one Ramadhan (when I was around 9 I think) Mum introduced me to books on Allah.. of good deeds and Heaven... of sin and Hell.
I was fascinated by these books... I read with absolute wonder the descriptions of Allah and Paradise, and I cringed in fear at the descriptions of the Jahannam...The Hellfire. It was here that I spent countless hours discussing with my mother how to go to Heaven, and it was here she explained that it was simple - Please Allah. Do good deeds.
So started my journey in the appreciation of the true meaning of Ramadhan, at 9 years of age.
My parents trained me well, alhamdulillah.