4 June, 2019
Thoughts on Ramadhan.
As Muslims around the world bid Ramadhan farewell, they also prepare for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month. Depending on the sighting of the moon, Eid celebrations will begin either on Tuesday (June 4) or Wednesday (June 5). To celebrate we asked one of our Programme Officers, Fatima Khatun to contribute to our third blog post.
When I was asked to do a blog post on Ramadhan, I thought how am I going to relate it to the young people I work with. But as I was asked quite early in Ramadhan as the months gone on I’ve had time to think and have found a little link!
As some people have never met a Muslim or heard of Ramadhan, a brief introduction might be helpful.
So a Muslim is somebody that follows the religion Islam – Islam roots from the word peace and a Muslim is somebody who submits to God, striving towards peace.
Islam has five basic parts called pillars: 1) to believe in only one perfect God – Allah, 2) To pray five times a day (to remember God and our purpose throughout the day), 3) to give in charity, 4) to fast in Ramadhan and 5) to visit the holy lands if you can.
So, Ramadhan is an important time for Muslims. It is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar (which is different as it’s dependant on a new moon). Ramadhan is where Muslims fast from the break of dawn to sunset. Fasting includes not eating, drinking or having sex during daylight (which are actually the easy parts), not backbiting, harming yourself or others or having bad thoughts (these are hard!). Of course if you’re unwell, elderly or young you are not expected to fast. Ramadhan is also the month the Quran (the Muslim holy book) was revealed, so Muslims read and reflect on the verses a lot more whilst fasting. The point of fasting for Muslims is God has asked us to use this time to glorify Him and reflect on His verses, this in turn supports purity of the mind, body and soul.
How is Ramadhan different to normal days for Muslims? Apart from the not eating and drinking, a lot of people don’t watch telly, listen to music or go out as much. It’s also crazy when you realise how much time (and money) we do spend on food and drink. The focus is on worship – there’s almost a sense of guilt if you are not using your time wisely. And that strip back of not wasting time, focusing on just you and your actions, can be hard. That feeling of guilt for using your phone or that not wanting to go out (possibly because your tired and hungry) initially leaves you thinking with ‘what shall I do with myself’ – really makes you wonder God do I spend that much time on my phone/on food! It really brings you back to just you. And that has left me personally to reflect on my actions, my purpose. Along with feeling the hunger and reading the Quran which speaks of the wonders of God’s creation - nature – you feel so appreciative of the life we have and the world we live in. You feel lucky to have the food on our plates, the roofs over our heads, the people around us, the senses to see, hear and feel the world around us – then you glorify the One who created it all. And I suppose that’s how fasting works. That strip back makes you appreciate. That appreciation is contentment, and that contentment, is why when people ask ‘how’s Ramadhan going?’ – and I say ‘it’s going too fast’ – is what you miss about Ramadhan.
So the little link I found? I used to work in a prison before with life sentence prisoners, and many of them would be coming up to their release day, appearing reformed and new characters, they’d have been waiting for this time for 20/30 years. As it approached, they’d ruin it. They’d run away or do something on purpose so they’re kept in prison. I suppose it’s because they were used to their surroundings, and although they didn’t have their luxuries they were used to it and okay with it – content, they didn’t know what they’ll get themselves into on the outside. And that’s what happens when Ramadhan finishes, why I miss it, because once we’re not reflecting on the verses, eating, drinking, using our phones without guilt – we start to not be thoughtful about what we say or do, we lose that purity, that contentment.
I hope this gives you an insight into Ramadhan – and you do not have to be Muslim to practice elements of fasting – you can yourself try to not backbite or harm others (it’s a lot harder than not eating and drinking!)