One of my favourite articles about Ramadan first appeared in The Jerusalem Post back in July 2011 and later in his blog, the Chronikler. It is written by a Belgian-Egyptian journalist named Khaled Diab. I love this article because he writes about the wonderful events that happen during Ramadan: the feasting; the celebrating; the entertainment. He also writes about the similarities of fasting in the Abrahamic faiths and accounts a story of the Jewish man that does Ramadan. What I love most about this article is that it makes me think about what Ramadan means to me.
I began fasting in my early teens. I am pretty good at observing the fast but to this day I am yet to fast the full month. I found some years easier than others, and usually this was when Ramadan fell in the winter months! Now Ramadan falls during the long, lazy days of summer, to my dismay. When I was younger, Ramadan was more was about the excitement of eating delicious food before sunrise (suhoor) and during break-fast at sun-down (iftar).
Each morning, my Dad would get my brother and I up. We would come down bleary-eyed and lethargic. But as soon as I saw the food on the table: the cakes, the rice and curry, I instantly became alert with excitement at the thought of devouring everything. I often left the table with a rotund belly, feeling like lead. Iftar was pretty much the same. No wonder I didn’t lose any weight!
In more recent years, I have used the abundance of free time (it is amazing how much time we spend eating or dreaming about what we are going to eat) reflecting on the significance of Ramadan. It is a time for giving up: not just the food, but the ill-thoughts; the material things; the small things. It is a time for thinking about those less fortunate than us, and a time for taking action: serving others; treating people well; spending time with one-another.
When it came to eating at suhoor and breaking fast, the food had lost some of its charm. I discovered that I could live very well on much less, and I don’t just mean food-wise, but materially too. I seemed to have more energy and I had this very strong feeling of well-being. It is a strange feeling: like a warm glow engulfs your body from the inside. I felt pure.
I find doing Ramadan hard on my own. One of the reasons why I enjoyed it with my brother and my Dad was that we were doing it together. At suhoor, we would talk about different things, and Dad would usually teach us something new about the Qur’an or the teachings of Prophet Muhammed. During the day, we would encourage one another to keep going. Iftar was always really special because Dad would have the dates out on the table, Mum the cups of tea, whilst I would be counting down the time. Taking the first sip of tea or the first bite of a date was absolutely glorious.
When Ramadan was over, I tried my best to maintain the good examples that had been set during it. Unfortunately, I could never sustain them to the same degree. Fortunately, doing Ramadan has taught me one last lesson: that these wonderful actions and moments of sharing and giving should not just be confined to one month, and not just confined to one faith; but to all, and every day.
I wish you all a “Ramadan kareem”.