Every year before
Ramadan starts, I am filled with anticipation, hope and usually some
apprehension. I wonder if I will be able to meet the demands of the fast.
Abstinence from all food and drink, even water, is required every day during
daylight hours. Even in a state of hunger and fatigue, a fasting person must do
his or her best to be patient, avoid harshness with anyone, show compassion and
mercy to others, give of time and wealth in charity, and avoid any falsehood or
Every year, I
quickly realize that the greatest challenges of this month lie not in the
physical abstinence but in the struggle to improve my character. Muslims believe
God provides tremendous support, love, mercy and forgiveness for those
struggling to attain piety and nearness to him. Islam teaches that, during
Ramadan, God binds the forces of evil so their negative influences on people are
restrained. The gates of God’s mercy being wide open, even the smallest acts of
goodness are rewarded exponentially by him.
What I cherish most
about Ramadan are the opportunities for quiet moments in solitude with God. The
stillness of the morning before dawn provides a perfect setting for
communication with God. In a silence far removed from the frenzied pace of the
day, with intimacy, I pour out my soul’s thoughts to God. In those moments of
devotion, I deeply sense God’s love and compassion.
Another part I love
about this sacred month are the taraweeh prayers held at the mosque every
evening. During these prayers, held only in Ramadan, the Quran is usually
recited in its entirety over the course of the month.
I remember the
nights when I would attend taraweeh prayers regularly. Now that my children are
at an age when sitting quietly is an impossibility for them, family
responsibilities often keep me from spending the evening hours at the mosque.
When I long for those nights of worship in prayer, I remind myself of our
faith’s teaching that the work of everyday living, when done with sincerity and
good intentions, is also worship of God.
Ramadan is a month
of gratitude. Muslims observe Ramadan out of gratitude for God’s guidance as he
began to reveal the Quran to humanity during this month. In addition, nothing
can quite describe the gratitude one feels for God’s blessings as we take the
first sips of water and break our fast in the evening. Whatever we eat tastes
delicious. The ability to satisfy our hunger is so precious, and we are reminded
that we usually take God’s bounties for granted. Our empathy for those whose
hunger is not by choice is also heightened at this time, and this understanding
helps us to be more generous.
Ramadan offers so
much to those who observe it. During this time, the soul’s yearning for the
divine and its need for intimacy with God take precedence. The hope is that
one’s relationship with God will be better the day after Ramadan than it was
before the month began.
A common reminder
given from the pulpits in the final days of this blessed month is that the Lord
we worship during Ramadan is the same one that presides over the month
afterward. The spiritual advancement attained during the hardship of the fast
should not be forgotten as the new month begins. The intimacy, hope,
forgiveness, renewal and purification experienced during Ramadan should be the
starting place of our spiritual journey for the rest of the year.