The conversation at 3:45 a.m. in your home today may have sounded like this: “Zzzzzz”. S i l e n c e .
Here’s what was happening at 3:45 a.m. in my home this morning: I was in the kitchen toasting bread and scrambling an omelet that was taking too long to make. I had gotten up at 3:20 and still wasn’t done! Then I ran upstairs to wake up my husband and daughter, ran back down to top the toast with almond butter, sliced bananas, and hemp seeds. They haven’t come down yet, dawn is at 4:16. Time is running out. I ran back up to get them a second time. We ate, then drank coconut water for the electrolytes and more water, brushed teeth, then washed up for the first prayer of the day.
What is Ramadan?
For the month of Ramadan, Muslims are to wake up before sunrise, eat a pre-dawn meal, then restrain from eating/drinking until sunset (around 8 p.m.).
Muslims are to be on guard of all their actions. Be kind to others, watch everything they say or do, be generous with their time and money. Dedicate a portion of the day in worship and a portion of the night in prayer as rewards are multiplied during the sacred month.
Upon learning this, I doubt that many people would jump for joy. But despite how difficult it may sound, Muslims patiently await this blessed month every year. Yes, many still dread giving up their morning coffee, the inevitable lack of sleep, and change in routine but once Ramadan starts everything changes.
For me personally, the past few months have been extremely busy. I had two to-do lists, one for “before” Ramadan and one for “after” Ramadan. This is because I wanted to free up my time and dedicate it to the blessed month. However, life happens and I never got my “before” to-do list done. I was not ready and was feeling down. Yet as soon as Ramadan started the mercy enveloped me. It put things in perspective, really helped me sort out the things that matter versus the things that can wait.
So how/why do Muslims find Joy in Ramadan?
- Love: Restraining oneself from what is normally allowed only for the sake of pleasing one’s God is a sure way to strengthen that bond one has with their Creator and a true sign of love. Think about it, who really knows if you’re truly fasting or not?
- Community: Ramadan brings people together. Whether attending the community iftar (breaking-of-fast meal) at the Masjid, inviting friends over, or accepting invitations. Usually, we have no time to socialize during the week but when we all have to eat at the same time we take it as a chance to eat together and see each other.
- Humbleness: Yes, many may spend some time everyday daydreaming about their evening meal. But in reality, feeling hunger and not being able to eat when we want to is an experience that humbles the soul.
- Forgiveness: Everyone hopes that their fasts will be accepted and their sins will be forgiven. But how could we be forgiven if we haven’t first forgiven each other? Ramadan is a time when people open a fresh page with each other, forgive past misunderstandings and move forward.
- Happiness: There’s an immense amount of happiness at that moment a person breaks their fast with everyone else around them doing the same thing.
- Mindfulness: Practicing self-restraint, stopping oneself from doing what is normally allowed (eating/drinking) brings about another level of consciousness. Suddenly a person is more aware of everything they do, it is more difficult to sin. It is a time to establish new/good habits and to reconnect with the self and get rid of bad habits.
- Cleansing: Fasting has been proven to benefit the body and cleanse it from toxins, many people now have heard about and may have tried “intermittent fasting” which is becoming popular for those benefits. It also cleanses the soul as one continues to use their time wisely, reflect inwardly and cultivate good habits.
At the end of the month, Muslims feel sad that Ramadan is departing. But we are obligated to celebrate with one of our two biggest holidays, Eid-al-Fitr. The festival of breaking the fast. The joy on that morning when good deeds have erased all the bad, the fruits of one’s labor are truly felt and bring an immense amount of happiness to the heart. Not to mention the happiness of being able to eat and drink during the day again! Families gather, gifts are exchanged, prayers are made, hearts and bodies are cleansed, and everyone hopes to make it to the next Ramadan to do it all over again.