Ramadaan is upon us. Alhumdilullah… The best most revered month in the muslim calendar. Roughly, two billion people collectively embark on a commitment to fast (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset for a month. This is an extremely beloved month for muslims around the world.
Ramadaan is a beautiful time of year. People are calmer and kinder and more mindful of what they say and how they say it. We constantly strive for Sabr (patience), humility, graciousness, and an attempt to be able to have a peek into the life of the poor. This is the month that most Muslims use to reconnect with God and ask God for guidance, forgiveness and express our gratitude through prayer. Most people commonly associate fasting with the body, depriving the body of food, however the month is more attuned to the soul, replenishing the soul with mindfulness, practicing good deeds and fulling our spiritual needs.
In the Northern Hemisphere it is Summer meaning really really long days without food and drink up to 21 hours a day in some parts! Here in South Africa it is winter, meaning much shorter days an average of 11 or 12 hours of fasting.
The run up to Ramadan is quite funny and frantic, most conversations centre around “Are you ready (for ramadan)?” The idea is to have as many things prepared so that the majority of time can be spent more purposefully doing good, being charitable and ofcourse praying and spiritual reflection. However, muslim moms around the world tend to get carried away and despite all the preps before, still spend hours in the kitchen to make lovely delicious food every night for 30 nights for their families. It’s always important to remind ourselves to slow down and circle back to the point of the month. To practice self restraint during the sunlit hours does not then mean to overindulge when the sun sets. For millions of people, especially the poverty stricken children around the world in refugee camps, war torn cities, villages and informal settlements who don’t have access to food like we do, for them,there is no sunset. May Allah protect them.
My boys always sense the anticipation leading up to the month. They have been extremely excited about this Ramadaan. The start of the month is marked by the sighting of the new moon. Its traditional to gather the kids on the eve of when the moon is to be sighted and look for it together. Usually, we don’t see it until the next day and at the sight of the moon this year, the boys where elated at how ‘cool’ it looked and what a beautiful sight it was.
This time of year is also a time for families to bond, often we eat together, which makes for lovely albeit noisy affair… The kids always have a gigantic burst of energy after iftaar (the time for breaking the fast), to the polar opposite of the adults, who are drained, the energy seems to seep out of us despite the food. It’s more as a result of the erratic sleeping habits than the lack of food. Perhaps, some of it can be attributed to the type of food we’re eating. Because I assure you it’s not a light salad to start and then grilled fish – it’s savouries, which are platters of cultural and traditional finger foods, including samoosas, cocktail pies, spring rolls, cocktail kebabs, to start. There will be a soup or haleem (spicy lentil soup) of some sort. We then break away from the table to pray maghrib (after sunset prayer). Then return to the table for a rice dish, pasta, curry or something equally yummy. After a little bit of all of that, one needs a nap 🙂 but no nap time yet, because we are clearing up and doing dishes quickly so that we can go pray again, this time a longer evening prayer. Then up early the next morning an hour or two before sunrise to eat and pray before the next fast begins.
I often use the title of the book, and later, movie “Eat,Pray,Love” in reverse to describe this time of year. For as much as we are a little hungry for most of the day … Our bruised souls , our lonely hearts , our drained spirits, are in the process of recharging, healing and cleansing, which ultimately will radiate from the inside out. Let us embrace this month for all that it is, enjoy the days filled with love and joy, prayer and peace, family and food, tranquility and spirituality… Ramadaan Mubarak… May the month bring you the warmth your soul desires and may your prayers be heard.
Fasting is our sacrifice, It is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all of our body, since the soul has arrived as our guest – Rumi