The other day I was walking with a friend and we were discussing Ramadan. She, a non Muslim, asked me why Allah would want us to fast. She made a good point as well. She said why would Allah, who loves us, want to put us through starvation. When I get asked these questions, I notice I get nervous. Not because i don’t know the answer or because I don’t agree with the answer. But because I live in a post 9/11 world where I am trying to defend a religion that has been smeared on in such an ugly manner, by the media, by various cultures, by politics, and also, by some Muslims ourselves. Every time someone asks me anything about Islam, I feel as though my answer is not heard because all they remember are planes crashing into a building, bearded men, news about honor killings, etc.
I alone cannot change how anyone feels about Islam. But what I can do, is share the stories of what it’s like to be the average Muslim in this world. There are millions of us. And I hope you get to see that, honestly, we are just like you.
With that said, I shall begin my post on Ramadan:)
When people hear the word “Ramadan” they immediately think of not eating. And yes, not eating is a huge part of Ramadan. But it’s only in recent generations that the word Ramadan has been solely interconnected with food. And I think that’s mainly due to the fact that we simply eat a lot more than previous generations did.
In fact, Ramadan is a withholding of any and all desires of a human being. The good and the bad. To reach the most pious level of a fast, you can’t eat, drink, lie, show any form of anger or hostility, backbite, be intimate, etc. Not everyone can reach that level of fasting, but it is what we strive for. Does Allah want us to suffer is like asking if a parent wants you to suffer by teaching you a lesson. By telling you to do your homework, or by telling you to choose the right type of friends. Or by not putting junk food in the house even though you want it. They know what you don’t know. They know, through experience what is best for you. Allah needs nothing from us. He doesn’t ask us to do things for His benefit. I know it’s difficult to understand what I am saying, but it won’t be if you believe in the Creator. What He does for us is only to benefit us. And that is what I truly believe. Ramadan, to me, is a wake up call.
What I notice most during Ramadan, and no one really ever discusses, is the amount of charity I see that is awe inspiring. Some of my friends head to downtown eastside to help make food to feed the hungry, all while fasting. Others have made amends with their enemies. Some have offered a generous enough donation to the mosque to feed a mosque full of people when it is time to break fast, and then there are the ones who make sure that Muslims in other countries have enough to eat as well. I notice when people break their fast they are always waiting to make sure everyone else around them is eating first. Everyone is offering everyone else food even though they haven’t eaten all day. It’s these small moments that give us our learning lessons that last throughout the year. And maybe we learn from them, maybe we don’t. But the signs are their for us to grab.
As far as us suffering during Ramadan, I don’t consider it suffering. They say the rich will only learn to help the poor when they learn to identify with them. Now, I’m not rich, but I can say for sure that I live in a place where I will never be deprived of much. During this month I would gladly strip myself of any luxury to be able to identify with the majority of the world who lives with much less than I do. It helps me remember that there are people who live with very little or no opportunity and to help them, and it helps me remember to be thankful for what I have. The most memorable part of every fast is the first sip of water, and the first bite of fruit. I personally think everyone should fast every now and then. Perhaps it would help them appreciate the little things that we so easily take for granted.
To all who are taking part in Ramadan, I wish you all a Ramadan Kareem. May this month bring you a time to reflect, forgive, and accept the things you cannot change. May this month bring you many joyous iftaars with family and friends. And may you keep those who are struggling in this world in your thoughts and prayers and be given opportunities to help them.