When we think of Ramadan or any other aspect of Islam, the frequent mistake that people do is to judge it solely in that moment. Very few think about going back in time to see how Islam came into being and why certain practices are so important.In the Islamic (lunar) calendar, there are 12 months and the ninth month is called ‘Ramadan’. The Islamic year is called ‘Hijra’ and as many would think, it is not calculated from the time Islam spread, but ‘hijra’ (also written as: Hegra, Hegrae) refers to the year the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) migrated from Mecca to Medina. Currently, we are in year 1432. Muslims fast during this month, dawn to dusk, in solidarity with the poor. But it’s not simply about refraining from food, it is a spiritual fast of sorts. Personally, I believe that this is a month of personal Jihad which is to strive and control our bad habits, thoughts, actions and our desires. ‘Jihad’ as a term has been abused so much by the media that it has been given a negative connotation. Jihad means ‘struggle’ and Ramadan is about the struggle to keep ourselves pure from materialistic needs and the excesses we have gotten used to in our lives. We wake up before sunrise and eat, after which we start fasting. We break our fast at sunset, after hearing the Maghrib prayer. We do not drink or eat anything–not even water. Unfortunately, this beautiful and simple spiritual journey has been tainted with man’s conveniences. If you look for faith in people or look at people to understand faith, you will fail miserably. These days you will associate Ramadan with massive food shopping spree, vulgar social dramas in Arabic, reckless driving leading to horrible car crashes, grumpy behaviour and such. It is such a shame because these are precisely what Ramadan asks you to refrain from. The idea is to realise how the poor live and to feel one with them. To realise that your fast is voluntary, but there are people who are hungry for days. At least you know that on the sound of the Azaan (prayer), you will find a table laden with rich food, but there are people who have no such hope. Yes, Ramadan truly is a special time. It is a feeling that is very difficult to describe: as Muslims, we feel something special ‘in the air’ when the month starts. You will find girls who are usually smothered in make-up will now completely erase make-up for a month. You will find people suddenly adopting rosary beads for this month. You will also find many girls wear the ‘abaya’ or the body cloak for this month. But this isn’t the point. We are so lost in the external symbolism of this month, that we have forgotten why are we doing this? Fasting does not miraculously turn you into a better person. You are supposed to carry on the lessons and habits of this month into your ‘regular’ life. We don’t need shorter work hours, plump chicken on our table and incestuous drama on our telly to make us feel that Ramadan is here. At a time of such a deep crises in the Muslim world, it is a time for all of us to take time off, think within ourselves and to make a serious change to save ourselves. We are much weaker people now; many of us struggle to keep their fasts. If, for a few hours, you cannot stay away from food, then it is a much bigger battle to fight your vice. No wonder some so-called Muslims ‘dread’ Ramadan. It reminds them of how lost they are. But it also gives you an opportunity to come together and to make a change in your life. Fasting is a cleansing ritual in other religions too. Islam’s version of fasting is Ramadan. If your Muslim colleagues are fasting, you can wish them ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (‘Mubarak’ = blessed). So yes, we haven’t been eating or drinking all day, so our breaths won’t be very pleasant, I hope you understand. We need to return to our basics. Understand the meaning of what we do and why we do. Let’s pray this month that we continue being a better person that we try so hard to be in Ramadan!
Ramadan Mubarak everyone!