Somewhere: “Ramadan Mubarak!” I hear the cheerful voice of my daughter. I look at the green lights of the digital clock. It is 3.45am. The kids are always excited about Ramadan. The idea of getting up early and having delicious foods before going back to bed and sleeping again. I have to say I also look forward to this month. The schedules are so much easier. Going in late, leaving early. The Sehri and the Iftar more than make up for not having anything to eat or drink all day.
Somewhere: “OK, starting tomorrow, I am on it. Next 30 days will be so good.” I say to myself. “I will get up at 4am every morning. No excuse not to. I will eat 600 calories for Sehri. Go through my regular workday. Get an hour workout around 6pm. Shower, freshen up, and have another 1000 calories for Iftar. In bed by 9pm.” I get excited at the thought. “In a month, I will be lean and ripped.” I open the refrigerator door. It is stocked for the week. Mostly chicken and fish. Oat Milk. Eggs. Whole wheat bread. “This will be good.”.
Somewhere: My body aches as I wake up. I run my hand over my face and my beard. I sigh. The sun is not up and will not be for another hour. Maybe more. The light frame of the ‘charpai’(1) creaks as the jute strings holding it together adjust when I sit up at the edge. I look over at my wife on her charpai next to mine. I am so lucky. I smile. Today will be a hot one. Even at this early hour, I can feel it. It’s the first day of Ramadan. I need to leave before the sun comes up. I feel tired by the thought of carrying bricks in a basket at the construction site in the midday heat. But I know God is watching and will reward me for the sacrifice. I smile and thank him.
Ramadan, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is eagerly anticipated by the over two billion Muslims across the world. It is the holiest of months, and for most of the world, commonly associated with Fasting.
Fasting is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam, which include, in order, Shahada, Prayers, Zakat, Fasting, and Hajj. There are numerous blessings and benefits associated with the month of Ramadan, from the spiritual to the corporeal.
Performed with the right intent, each day of fasting in this holy month is meant to bring one closer to God, by experiencing self-control through abstinence, and charity by helping the needy and poor.
“O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for people before you so that you attain Taqwa.” (2:183).
‘Taqwa’ means piety, or fear of God. Being cognizant or conscious of the presence of God, so one’s thoughts and actions are always well-intended.
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So, whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (2:185)
The corporeal benefits of fasting are undeniable – one does not need to look after the plethora of fasting ‘diets’, from the 16-8 to the 5-2 to the fast 800 and many more.
‘Lailatul Qadr’ or the ‘Night of Power’ is of special significance in Ramadan. It is the night that God first revealed the Quran to the Prophet (PBUH) through his angel Jibril and is generally accepted to be the night of the 27th. That is why Muslim try and finish the Quran and perform ‘Itikaf’ in the last ten nights of Ramadan.
“The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months” (3:97)
Everywhere: Thank God! It is the last day of Ramadan! Tonight is ‘Chaand Raat’. The moon has waned to where is it a silver sliver, barely visible to the naked eye. Those who can glimpse it, excitedly point towards it, asking the person next to them ‘can you see it?’ Tonight, we celebrate with our friends and families. There is singing and festivities. And lots of food. And tomorrow? Tomorrow is Eid-ul-Fitr!
The day of Eid. We are going to the Eid prayers, men wearing the clean and fresh clothes that were laid out last night; women wearing modest clothing, heads covered with colorful hijabs. We put the Zakat money (which we put on the table next to the door lest we forget) in the collection box as we enter the mosque. We remember to take off our shoes and carry them with us. Inside, we stand shoulder to shoulder, as a global Ummah. Led by the Imam, we thank God for his bounties, reciting his name and short prayers in unison. After the prayers, we embrace each other, rejoicing in our unity. Throngs of people congregate outside the mosque, conversing and drinking tea, while children play and enjoy sweets treats.
There are so many more events to attend today and the next few days. Family and friend to visit, and to invite over. We are blessed.
(1) Charpai – a simple bed with a wooden frame, with the ‘mattress’ consisting of crisscrossed jute ropes. Very simple, but so comfortable, especially in the warm days and nights of East Asia.Blog by Zulfiqar Rashid