For many Muslims, Ramadan means different things. It comes around once a year, and each year we find ourselves in a different place than we did the year before. We may be in different surroundings – it may be somebody’s first year as part of a married couple; someone else’s first year as a divorcee. Perhaps it is someone’s nervous first fast in a strange town where they are away from their family, and maybe someone else across the road is feeling reluctant to deprive themselves of food for 30 days.
Somehow though, we always find ourselves hoping that this year will be better than the last. We always promise ourselves in the days leading up to Ramadan that this year we will take the opportunity to be much more pious, we will sit and read Qur’an, we won’t engage in gossip or slander, we really will keep ourselves from getting angry and we will be sitting on that musallah each time the Azaan sounds, five times a day.
By the last week of Ramadan, reality has bitten hard and I think most of us feel quite ashamed to look at ourselves in the mirror because we are all dying for the last ten days to go by already. What amazes me is that there are those who lie through their teeth and say that they are enjoying the last blessed ten days just because that’s what everybody says. Fasting is not the Oxford definition of fun - it’s supposed to be a test that gets harder as your body gets older and more decrepit each year.
Every year we tell ourselves that this is the year we are going to make that positive change for good, that when the month is over, that the Qur’an won’t ever be gathering dust again up on the top shelf, that those skinny jeans will not win over more modest clothing, that we really will indeed this year stop smoking for good.
Then Eid day comes around, and by the time the Zuhr Azaan sounds, we have already forgotten that we promised ourselves we would become permanent five-time namazis.
Round and round we go, each year, making the dizzying transition from gangsta rap to Qari Ziyaad Patel and back again in a matter of weeks. Where does it all end? Will we just stop making the effort one of these years?
There are a number of things that I personally don’t do during Ramadan. I don’t rush through the Arabic Qur’an, with no idea of what I’m reading, just so I can khatam it x amount of times in the month. I don’t spend my day slaving over a stove so that I can lay on a fantastic spread for my family that will go to waste because our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. I don’t spend the month pretending to be more pious than I usually am on any other month in the year. I think those kinds of things defeat the object of what it’s supposed to be about.
To me, Ramadan means a lot of things. Indeed, for me, Ramadan takes on a different meaning every time it comes around. Every year it has taught me a singular, clear lesson, and I believe it does so for everyone who allows themselves a little genuine introspection instead of mindlessly going through the motions and rituals just because everyone else is doing it. If you use Ramadan as a true litmus test for your faith, Allah will surprise and reward you every time.
The fasting month is the holiest of all months in the Muslim calendar. The first surahs of the Holy Qur’an were revealed in this month to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and it continues to be a month where problems are resolved, truths are revealed and beliefs strengthened.
Even if you didn’t accomplish all those things you said you would do during this month and after it, if you came out of it with your imaan strengthened, even if only slightly, wouldn’t you consider your spiritual self to have won a victory against your physical self, even if it is only a small victory? It means you live to fight another day; that you continue to strive towards the Creator despite the difficulties you face.
The philosophical essence of Islam is “surrender” – complete and utter acknowledgement that Allah is the disposer of all our worldly affairs and that He will not forsake us if we ask Him for help, nor give us a burden greater than we can bear. There can never be peace without trust.
I hope that all of you have a blessed Ramadan this year wherever you are. Asalaamu alaikum!