About a 5 minute read.
As I wake up in the wee hours of the morning, I’m visited by memories of when I would fast in school and the many people who asked me if I was okay and said they felt sorry for me. My reply would be, ‘I’m okay’ and ‘no, please don’t feel sorry for me’. And then they would continue on saying they wouldn’t be able to last and get even more shocked knowing we aren’t even allowed to drink water.
So I’ve decided to take this time and write about the importance of Ramadan, about how it is one of the five pillars of Islam, and why Muslims practice it. Just take note, I might leave something out for I am still a learning Muslim. Please approach this with an open mind.
I started fasting when I was seven, though lucky for me, we were living in Sweden at the time and because it was winter, fasting only took six to seven hours long. I fasted because I was told I needed to fast, though being a cheeky little kid, I’d sneak into the bathroom and drink the water from the sink or pinch a grape or two from the dinner table. I thought I was being stealthy, but always, mums know. At that age, it was okay to break the rules “a little” since it was the first year. Though year after year, as I grew older, obviously I began to fast the correct way, and with the after school Islamic program, I was taught as to why we fast. Finally, as an adult, I’m understanding it even more.
Some dieticians would probably freak out to learn that we don’t eat nor drink for hours, and what it seems, to no end. I beg to differ. Fasting isn’t something we do because it’s written in the Quran. No…It’s something deeper than just being told what to do. Fasting enables the heightening of not only our spiritual selves, but in mental and physical health too. Have you ever really heard of someone dying from fasting? No, right?
In terms of physical health, the time we fast gives our bodies a little break from doing so much work. In this day and age, eating isn’t only a necessary component in our lives, it has become a hobby. Like a clock, it doesn’t work when it’s rusty and unclean on the inside. So we need to give our bodies the time and chance to oil up the gears and cogs, to unclog whatever impurities we have in our bodies, so that when Ramadan ends, our bodies feel anew (until we stuff it with junk again. -_- )
A few times a day during our fast, we get the pangs of hunger. It makes us feel uncomfortable but we soldier on. A thing during Ramadan, even if we’re fasting, the activities of daily life must continue, and trust me, time goes faster that way! I’ve already fasted for three hours and I don’t feel it; eleven more hours to go. No biggie!
It’s really important to keep a positive outlook during our fast. Mentality is everything. Tied to the spiritual reasons to fast, keeping a sane and calm mind is something we must attempt to succeed each day. No swearing, if not less, and not any impure thoughts (yes, sexually nor evil). The mind works a little harder to be passive and be calm in any situation during Ramadan, if faced with an obstacle, such as terrible bosses at work, or your kids bugging the crap out of you. Gotta take a deep breath. Though perhaps, one of the biggest mental patience is, if you’re living in a country where it’s not Muslim majority or a multi-cultural one, food. Especially when you’re out for errands. The smell floating in the air as you inhale it and you imagine what it is. The next thing you know you’ve taken out your phone or look down at your watch to see what time it is and how many hours left you’ve got to fast! You tell yourself, ‘Okay, just a few more hours. I can do it!’
We believe the fire of hell has been frozen during this month of Ramadan (only this month) and that the souls of our passed relatives come down with a tray to receive prayers. Ramadan is known as the people’s month, because we dedicate more time to Allah. We do our very best to become better Muslims. It’s not the only time we exclusively devote our passion to Allah, but we believe Allah rewards us the most during this time. Whatever deed we do counts even more than when we’d do it in any other time of the year. For example, the deed of giving one poor man a meal can count as if you’ve given a hundred people something to eat. This brings me to the next and final reason.
We fast to share empathy. To realize we should be more grateful for the lives we live and lead, for not everyone is as lucky as we are. There are millions of people going to bed hungry which is why when we fast and we feel hungry, we have no right to complain. We have no right to complain at all. Right before Ramadan ends, we pay Zakah, a charity for the poor, the needy, the disabled, and the hungry. Those who are in need basically. It is mandatory that every working man AND woman (that’s right, women have to pay too), must pay a very, very small percentage according to their wage, and give it to the poor. There are companies who collect the money, however money isn’t the only thing accepted; food, especially, can be donated to mosques.
During the time of Ramadan, we’re closer to our family members, closer to Allah, and even closer with ourselves, for we learn the meaning of humanity again if it had been lost. That’s why it saddens me of the innocent Muslims suffering under the scrutiny of war. Imagine how much they must endure each day. It’s Ramadan, and when they should be sitting around the table happily breaking their fast at sunset with their families, half, or even more, of their families are gone. There are people who have smeared the name and beauty of what is Islam to those who are not, who now fear almost any Muslim. But despite the hardships of politics and war going on in the world and the ever rising discrimination of Muslims, we keep strong and hope our society realizes that we are like everyone else; trying to make a decent living and hoping we grow old to see our children marry and perhaps even see our grandchildren.
I’m sorry if feelings were hurt or if I had said something wrong. I just wanted to share what Ramadan means to me and to describe to those who are curious of what Ramadan is. And with that, I wish all my Muslim brothers and sisters a happy Ramadan. Ramadan Kareem.
You might be wondering why I put an image of some kind of Chinese architectural building, and yes, it is Chinese because it was built by a Chinese Muslim. It’s a mosque. This mosque is in one of Malaysia’s state, Kelantan, and it’s called Masjid Beijing (Beijing Mosque).
That’s one of the beauties of Islam. Not only does it unite different kinds of ethnicity, each ethnicity is allowed to showcase and keep their traditional and cultural values, because although it is important to stay true to Islam, it is also important to be true to our origins that are a part of who we are.