I have been blessed to observe Ramadan for many years of my life. Staying up with family through the night, spending the hours before sunrise eating and laughing in a delirious state of sleep deprivation, trying to pray in prostration with a full stomach, fasting through the workday and eagerly awaiting sunset for a glass of water and our family favourite dishes. But this year was different; due to medical reasons I was unable to fast.
Although born into a Muslim family, I had not truly understood the value of the month and why Muslims are required to complete it every Islamic year. This year, I wanted to engage with Ramadan in a new way.
A few weeks prior, I spent some time compiling a list of nutritious and filling recipes, saved a list of lectures and even noted all the prayers I would like to make. No matter the preparations, I struggled to meet my deadlines at work whilst dedicating enough time to religion. My mother was fasting alone this year and so I would leave my work incomplete to cook her Iftar every evening. Once she had opened her fast and we had prayed together, I would need to complete my work and end my day with religious study. This would take me into the early hours of the morning and after a few hours of sleep I would wake up and start again. For me, this month has been hard and equally rewarding. Through my experience, here is what I learnt.
Fasting is a way to remove desires and deepen focus on spirituality. For those who cannot partake in the physical challenge, they are required to compensate in contributing more to all other aspects: study, charity, and prayer.
This month is the one in which the Qur’an was first revealed and therefore the primary purpose is to re-engage with the Holy Book in a deep study. The Quran is much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It is equally as scientific as it is metaphorical, and having been written in Arabic, it is necessary to deep dive into the linguistics; each word can often have up to seven English translations. It is a deeply profound text that can take an entire lifetime to dissect!
Muslims are required to cleanse their wealth by donating a specific percentage to charity each year. Non-fasting Muslims must also fund and provide food for the less fortunate. Additional to the 5 daily obligatory prayers, supplementary prayers and communal prayers are encouraged this month.
Ramadan can be considered a month of detox, but not only in the physical sense, in the sense of personal character also. Muslims are not to engage in arguments, anger or other negative emotions and actions.
From this Ramadan, I have fallen in love with my religion even more. Through each act of worship, we are working on community, self-betterment and in turn a positive impact on society. The Qu’ran provides us guidance on how to manoeuvre each aspect of our life, each relationship and even manage our emotions in a healthy way. Regular donation to charity ensures we remain aware of the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society and therefore instils empathy within us to continue making a small difference year after year. Communal prayers cultivate positive thinking and mean isolated members of our community feel less alone. Gratitude is built into the structure of our prayers; we start by listing all we are grateful to have before asking for our wishes. It is to strive to be a better person for ourselves and others and it is why this time comes around every year – like a refreshers course to omit bad habits we may have developed and build new healthier ones!
I’m already looking forward to Eid, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. We get to congratulate each other for our efforts, spend time enjoying food with family and friends and look forward to the year ahead.
Eid Mubarak all!