The month of Ramadhan is here! And on social media as well as in real life, Muslims are excited, energetic and full of enthusiasm about its coming. There is an anticipatory atmosphere about the beginning of Ramadhan that makes it almost impossible *not* to look forward to it and I often wonder about this ‘feeling’ that pervades the days leading up and just at the start of the month.
I sometimes think that the reason we all feel this, regardless of the level of our piety or faith is because the Spirituality of this month is notched up so high that it can no longer be contained by the veils that hide the unseen world from us. The ‘vibe’ spills over and seeps through every little opening and surrounds us with its warmth.
As Muslims, we understand that becoming aware of the Presence of God is at the core of piety and that it is our sins and the distractions of this world that prevent us from gaining piety. The daily struggle to achieve this awareness becomes a little easier with the coming of Ramadhan. In this month, God not only protects us from the whisperings of Shaytan, but also opens the doors of His Mercy so wide that not being forgiven is considered to be a wretched surprise.
Perhaps, it is the removal of distractions and temptations coupled with the forgiveness of sins that allows us to finally, once in a year, get a hint of what it feels like to begin to be aware of God and His Love in our lives. The Mercy, the Compassion and Grace of God become more apparent to our hearts and souls and it is this inching forward in the nearness to Him that makes us feel that there’s something ‘different’ in the air with the start of Ramadhan.
What’s sad is that many of us never even realise this. We think that the ambience of this month comes with all the tradition and culture and attribute it to the fact that we tend to be more communal and connected to each other in these 30 days. It’s all about preparing enough culinary delights for iftar and making sure there’s ‘one sweet, two fried, one meat’ or whatever the formula is for our ‘family way’. Schedules get skewed and time vanishes too fast in the mad rush of cooking, serving, feeding, clearing up in between our normal daily routine and often we start to feel the strain and get tired before half the month is over.
Spirituality becomes part of the rites we perform so that we make it to the mosque to finish the one-part-a-day recitation of the Qur’an (perhaps the only time in the year we read this Holy Book cover to cover.) We recite the recommended supplications and then start the routine for the next day, almost as if we’re fitting in this time with God between the other important stuff – like making sure everyone is fed well. Very well fed.
I find we have a mentality that if the people in our homes feel hungry during their fasts, that we have failed them in some way by not feeding them enough. But isn’t the point of Ramadhan to feel the hunger of the needy? Isn’t the point to learn how to sympathise with the poor? How are we to ever do that if we don’t allow ourselves to actually get hungry while fasting? Or to eat a simple meal to break our fast and feel gratitude even for that because there are others who don’t know what their next meal is or even when it’s coming…
If we don’t ever sacrifice anything during this month, if we don’t build up on that ‘feeling’ that we start off with, if we don’t try to grab at the tears in the veils between us and God and bring them down, then what are we doing with this ‘once a year chance’ that we speak of? 30 days filled with open doors and opportunities for the taking …and all we can do is repeat the rituals that we have practiced since childhood without change?
So many of us leave Ramadhan every year in much the same way as we entered it. We speak of how much we’ll miss it and we feel the lack of that ‘light’ feeling inside of us but we don’t miss it enough to want to go after it for the rest of the year. Which means we keep missing the point, year after year.
Ramadhan to me is like a sneak preview of what is possible, what could be and in many ways, what should be as well. Consider yourself at the start of this month, as standing in a large crowd outside the closed doors of a huge mall store with big GREATEST ANNUAL SALE! signs all over it, just waiting for them to open. The excitement is tangible as everyone draws a collective breath and finally, with the sighting of the moon, the doors swing open…and you just stand there. People rush in and grab all they can, but you just stand there. Stand there, admiring everything inside the shop, but never making any effort to actually go inside and get something. If you keep standing there, all day long, forgetting even that the doors are open or that you want anything, if you stand there until everyone leaves and the doors are shut, and then you walk home, either happily because you think you’ve walked away with some great bargains or sadly because you realise you didn’t get any….what does that make you?
The world waits for no one. And neither does Time. We are here at this moment – me writing this, you reading this – and luckily, it’s Ramadhan. But neither of us know if we will see the end of this month alive. This might be the last Ramadhan we have. Isn’t it time to wake up and revive our souls? Time to make the changes we have been so afraid to make (God forbid that we don’t serve a fried food for iftar!)
Why not try with simple things? Recite a du’a but read the translation and mean every word you say. Don’t aim to finish the Qur’an this month, reading only the Arabic by rote at a staccato pace, but do aim to start learning how to read it with the correct pronunciation and with the translation…and continue the project until you reach the end of the Qu’ran, rather than the end of Ramadhan. If you’re going to make your speciality for iftar, make it and then pack it and go give it to someone else who needs it and go without for that day…because going without is as important in the process of understanding and discipline as giving away is.
Why not make this the year when we start to break free of the rites and rituals that bind us and actually try to go through the doors of Mercy and Nearness that God has opened for us?
Have a Blessed Ramadhan, insha’Allah.
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