Bidding farewell

It came, and within a blink of an eye its gone again.

 

Every year we anticipate its arrival. We prepare the house, the kitchen, our work schedules, or alarm clocks, our lists. Each year we eagerly await its knock on our door to whole- heartedly welcome it back into our lives. But just as we greeted this beautiful friend at the beginning of the month, today Ramadan bids us farewell for another whole year. As we reluctantly watch it leave like that beloved friend you don’t want to say good bye to, we try and cherish each moment it spent with us. Holding on to its memories before they fade. Saddened that this special friend cannot stay with us longer. Heartbroken that we must bid it farewell.

During our beloved friend’s stay, Satan is locked away somewhere in the deepest pits of hell. For thirty days we deprive our bodies, so that we can nourish our souls. Amidst the tranquility that Ramadan brings, it coaches us to busy ourselves with acts pleasing to our Creator. An air of peace, love and joy surrounds us each day as Ramadan re-trains us what we had forgotten throughout the year. And just when we start to get to the hang of things again, it bids us farewell.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. Glad to have experience it once again, sad to see it leave soon. Unsure if I’ll ever meet it again. Wish I could have done more while it was here. Grateful for what it taught me.

“Ramadan is not temporary increase of religious practice, its is a glimpse of what you are capable of doing everyday”

A few of the many things I learned from our blessed friend, Ramadan:

  • I learned that fasting is not as hard as I thought it was going to be. A month or so prior to the arrival of Ramadan, I get a little apprehensive. How will I manage my day while being so tired and hungry? How will I study or work while fasting? How will I go about my daily errands and schedule? How will I accomplish things while being so drained this month? How will I handle the sleepiness? But I realized that fasting is actually NOT that hard. Yes it takes a day or two or three for our bodies to adjust to this new change. But its not as difficult as we fear it will be. In fact I actually feel like I got more accomplished while fasting. My mind was sharper and I wasn’t as sleepy as I thought I would be. Not having to worry about meals gave me ample time to get my work done along with plenty of time for acts of worship. I realized that fasting through out the year should also not be seen as daunting either. And therefore fasting on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the year can actually be done quite easily.
  • It taught me gratefulness while softening my heart. Although I state that fasting overall was not as hard as I thought it would be, there are moments throughout the day, especially those last 3 hours, that can be quite challenging. This when stomachs are really growling, headaches start to kick in, all you can think about is food. What we feel in those last 3 hours of the fast, is probably what homeless  people living out on the streets, feel throughout the day, each day, every day. The difference is that I’ll get to end my fast with a nice fulfilling meal, while those poverty-striken will go on feeling this way for the rest of the night. Those last 3 hours of each day, not only made me so much more grateful for all that I have and can eat, but softened my heart even more towards those who have none of what I have. That I should remember this feeling throughout the year and avail any chance I have to help those who are less fortunate.
  • It disciplined me to finish Iftar/dinner, pray Maghrib and make it to the mosque in time for Isha prayer in congregation. Laziness and satan take over throughout the year. But in Ramadan, الحمدُلله, finishing up dinner, praying Maghrib and heading out to the mosque for Isha and Taraweeh prayers became routine. It wasn’t even a second thought and in fact we looked forward to it. Even on days that were extra tiring, we were still able to gather up the energy to make it to mosque and stand in prayer before our Lord.  It trained me to stand for the full line-up of Isha, Sunnah prayers, Taraweeh and Witr prayers, all in congregation, all before going to bed.
  • It taught me that taking out time each day to do some reading, understanding and pondering over a few verses of the Quran is not as impossible. Memorizing a new small surah can easily be done each month.
  • It trained me to wake up for Fajr every single day. During Ramadan, amazingly we wake up for Suhoor which is before Fajr, every single day without fail. But then throughout the year waking up for Fajr on time becomes a real struggle. If I can do it in Ramadan, I can do it throughout the year.
  • I learned that I don’t need as much food as I thought I need. Food, snacks, coffee, tea. I realized that our body is capable of running with less food, more efficiently. The junk that we think we need to fill our bodies with throughout the year is actually just a side effect of our greed and gluttony. But in Ramadan I learned that all this extra poundage I pack on throughout the year, my body can do without.
  • I learned that less is usually more. That there is always enough to feed another person. At times throughout Ramadan, when the hunger really started kicking in, I would think hmmm, maybe I should quickly cook something else in addition to our leftovers from yesterday. Because what if its not enough? What if we are still hungry after breaking fast? Alhamdulilah this was never the case. Why? In moments of increased hunger you are thinking: “I want to eat everything and anything.” You think that when I break fast I will eat this and that and little more of this. You assume that leftovers from yesterday won’t be enough to feed us today. But as soon as your break fast, few bites in you are already quite full. So don’t underestimate the amount that you have. Alhamdulilah it was always enough.
  • I learned that Dates are a beautiful fruit. Despite the numerous health benefits of this delicious little treat, I don’t reach for them that often throughout the year. Why? Usually because I’m busy stuffing myself with other processed and junk food. In Ramadan I love them and can’t wait to sink my teeth into one or two at Iftar. Sometimes with some fruits, dates would be just about enough for me. Sometimes. 🙂 Its no wonder Prophet Muhammad (saw) loved this little gems.
  • I learned that I am able to pray all my Fard prayers on time along with Sunnah prayers as well. Having to worry less about meals and food and eating, I was able to focus my attention on more important things. Such as my relationship with Allah (swt). Being able to pray on time, with khushu and focus can become a challenge during the year, especially going the extra mile and adding Sunnah prayers as well. But in Ramadan this was almost a no-brainer.
  • I was reminded that can make dua just about anything and everything. Ramadan reminded me that I should make extra dua, more so at the specially prescribed times, and that I should not hold back. I realized that not making dua to Allah is almost like a sign of arrogance, because in a way you are saying that you don’t need anything from Him. The truth that I was reminded of this month was that, we need Him all the time for every little thing and that we should not hold back in asking Him for anything.
  • I learned to be more patient and forgiving. To those near me and to those not so near me as well. Things that would perhaps normally irritate me throughout the year, didn’t have much effect on me during Ramadan. They seemed quite insignificant and I was easily able to shrug off as no big deal.
  • I learned that there is so much good we are capable of doing. Notice how in Ramadan specifically we automatically become overly generous. Regardless of how tired we might feel this month, we go out of our way to accomplish righteous deeds. Donating to the less fortunate becomes a daily habit in Ramadan. Breaking fast and feeding friends and family becomes the norm. Being friendly to random strangers doesn’t seem strange. Picking up trash in the mosque to keep it clean, feels good. Ramadan brings out our creative side, encouraging us to come up with various ways to help Allah’s creation to please Him.

 “One should starve his soul everyday like its Ramadan. Starve it of desires, temptations, bad deeds, backbiting, fighting. Just like we look out all day to breaking our fast, the same way we should look out to meeting Allah- The Greatest. For life is but a fasting day, starve your soul and prepare yourself all day for that moment you meet God. That moment your fasting is over.” – Mawwada.

I think the most important thing I took away from Ramadan is that everything we do in these thirty days, we are more than capable of doing throughout the year. Yes, everyone has a different situation, different circumstances. Some might “achieve” more this month than others, some less than they had hoped. This will vary for each and every one differently. But clearly Ramadan teaches us our potentials. They say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit, Allah (swt) blesses us with thirty.  More importantly Ramadan should not come as a shock to our daily lives. What we can achieve in Ramadan is easily achievable throughout the year and beyond. The best that we are in Ramadan can and should continue throughout our lives. If we are willing to work hard in Ramadan why not sustain this as best as we can for the rest of our lifetime. If we carry on this way, maybe our ending to life will be just as sweet as Eid is at the end of Ramadan.

So let us not disrespect this dear friend. Let us not waste what it blessed us to become, by returning to our old ways and habits as soon we break the last fast of Ramadan. Let us consistently practice what we have learned, throughout the year, so that when it returns again next year, انشاالله , we are better than where we started.

Until then, good-bye dear friend.

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