Hey Everyone! Ramadan Kareem! Before I start talking about my Ramadan thoughts, I should give a mini-introduction for my readers around the world (and yes, there are many) who may not know what Ramadan is. First of all, most of you know that Muslims follow a lunar calendar. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual conduct, smoking, and indulging in anything that is ill-natured from dawn until sunset everyday for a month. Muslims all over the world love the month of Ramadan and look forward to it with mounting excitement. In the weeks preceding Ramadan lives are scrutinised, and plans are made for a month of serious worship and supplication. The countdown begins and conversations start with how many weeks it is until the blessed month arrives. Perhaps non-Muslims wonder why we look forward to fasting days and sleepless nights. Ramadan offers the chance of redemption and great rewards. It is a month like no other. A month of spiritual reflection and prayer. Hearts are directed away from worldly activities and towards God.
Fasting is meant to teach us patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
I follow several blogs written by young Muslims living in Western counries, namely Muslim Kid, Organica, Living in Layla Land, Jasmine's Yard, etc. Living in countries like the USA and the UK is not always easy for Muslims, so just IMAGINE for a moment what it's like to fast a full month in a country where everyone around you is eating, partying, and focused only on fun, materialism, money, drinking, etc. How do they manage? What difficulties do they face?
I feel so blessed to be living in a Muslim society where everyone fasts and the whole Arab/Muslim world goes into Ramadan mode (shorter work hours, no open restaurants, tarawih prayers for everyone, Qur'an in hand, making the extra effort to pray together 'Salat Jama'aa', etc). It really is wonderful. Yesterday everyone was glued to their television set in the evening waiting to hear if the moon had been seen! Then, it was announced 'Hilal Ramadan had been spotted. Tomorrow we start fasting!'. Immediately family and friends started texting one another to make sure everyone heard. Mothers headed into the kitchen to prepare the dawn meal. Men and women alike headed immediately to the mosque to pray the first set of Tarawih prayers. Many people put away their music, cigarettes, sheesha pipes, and anything else they'd decided to give up in Ramadan. Children who would be fasting for the first time hopped up and down in excitement. Festive!
This morning alarm clocks all around the world went off at 4 a.m; mothers got out of bed and woke their children and husbands up. Everyone ate in silence, still half asleep. Slowly, one by one, they made their way to the washroom to wash for prayers. The father lined up Sijjadas (prayer mats) on the floor in two rows. Males in the front row, females in the back. The family lines up to pray together and start the fast. After praying, usually the older ones stay up and read Qur'an. The younger ones head back to bed. Peaceful Dawn. The mother may stand at the window and watch the sun come up.
Morning comes, everyone heads to work/school. Everyone greets one another with 'Ramadan Kareem!'. Work ends early. Families head home. Some rest. Some read Qur'an or pray. It's quiet-time. A couple of hours before sunset, the mother and girls head into the kitchen to start preparing Iftar, the breaking of the fast meal. Everyone has a pile of new recipes ready. Men hang around the kitchen door hoping to see what's being cooked. Finally, the call to prayer is heard 'Allahu Akbar!' and everyone grabs a glass of milk or juice and three dates (or five or seven, etc - uneven numbers is the Sunnah). They sigh. Bliss. Oh, how we take food for granted when so many people around the world starve every day of the year. Family gets up to pray together then they dive into the yummy dishes. After Iftar, the older family members get ready to head to the mosque to pray Tarawih with the rest of the community. Everywhere you go, people are heading to the mosque. It's such a beautiful and inspirational time.
Everyone is thinking about opening a new page; spiritual renewal. Ramadan is the perfect time to review your life, renew yourself, get rid of bad habits, and build up your strength for the coming year. The first few days are hard, as always. You're thirsty and hungry, and would much prefer to do something mindless like watching TV, but instead you choose tp pick up the Quran and do some serious reading. After a week or so, you suddenly feel it. I'm not sure how to explain it. A sense of clarity. Like you've reached another level of Consciousness. You feel light (spiritually) and suddenly you are able to think very clearly, in a way you haven't for months.
That is the beauty of Ramadan. There's so much more I can write about but I don't have much time. My next post is going to be about the 'Dhofari Ramadan Menu'. Brace yourselves.
Note: That photo is of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Salalah - I took this photo while I was driving! The sunset was too beautiful to miss.