01 Aug A First Ramadhan
I’d imagine that every child began his or her relationship with Ramadan the same way I did. With much excitement followed by intense bewilderment, then “nose to the grindstone” determination followed by ultimate euphoria.
Get ready kids! This is your first day of Ramadan!
I imagine many of us would remember as we approached our first fast. We had seen our parents and jamaat members fast and talk about the spiritual benefits of fasting.
We’d been excited to eventually be a part of it. We’d look forward to that day when we are no longer simply children but are practicing Muslims making real significant sacrifices for our faith.
The day comes when you’re finally of age and you’d hardly slept the night before due to the anticipation. You’d be excited to awake in the early morning hours. To shuffle around, quietly getting your pre fast meal together and talking in hushed tones with your family so not to wake the younger siblings.
There would be an excitement in the air because everyone would know the journey you are set to embark upon. Your parents watch you attentively to mentally record any moments of inspiration or profound sayings or expressions you may happen to utter during this special time.
The day is starting off just as you’d imagined it.
Your family would look at you approvingly and offering words of encouragement.
“Each Ramadan is a spiritual ladder, dear” They would say
“Each year you are given the opportunity to correct your character and to raise yourself another level through prayer and discipline”
At that moment you’d realize you are engaging in something with great potential and high importance.
You make a mental note of all the things you don’t like about yourself. Your impatience with your siblings, your disobedience to you parents any bad habits you’ve picked up and you promise to yourself.
“At least one of these will be gone at the end of this month”
You make your prayers, read Quran and with a full belly and even fuller spirit you go back to sleep looking forward to spiritual experiences and the great breaking of the fast.
Then you wake up and that is when the first signs of trouble begin.
The normal routine is a lazy wake up followed by a huge bowl of cereal, some fruit, water(or juice) and refrigerator raids until lunch time.
This time however there is just the lazy wake up and even with that nice meal a few hours earlier your body has a routine and not following it will definitely have its consequences.
This is the time of bewilderment which intensifies as the day moves on.
You may begin to question yourself “Wait a minute! Is even possible to live this long with no food??!”
Up until this point fasting has been an ideal, an account out of someone else’s storybook that was always read with a full stomach and knowledge that there will be a happy ending. This time, however, this story is played out by you and the first chapter doesn’t end for another 10 hours!
So, this is the time where the rubber meets the road as they say.
Your first thoughts are “How can I be this hungry already? Im not even half way through my day yet!” Therefore the next 8 to 12 hrs are spent wondering if it is even possible for a person to live with this level of starvation.
Its during this time that we first hear the statistics on how long a person can live without water or without food. “Don’t worry about it!” Your older brother may say “You can live days with out food and water”.
That all sounds good but at this moment, with 6hrs left to go, you are thinking drought ridden Somalia has nothing on what’s going on in my home right now!
It’s at that point the connections begin to be made about the Grace and Mercy of Allah and the many levels of wisdom found in the practice of fasting.
The stories of the days of famine during the times of the Holy Prophet Muhammad begin to take on new meaning.
How Muslims would tie rocks to their stomachs to ease the hunger pains or the despair of mothers who boil pots of stones so the kids would think food was cooking and keep them calm until they fell asleep.
Our little moments with hunger should make it so we would never sit idly by while we know someone else is hungry. We understand on a real level what hunger feels like but there are those who don’t have a meal at the end of the day to look forward to.
We begin to realize that what we have to feed ourselves and our families is truly a gift from our God. With a slight shift of circumstances this hunger could be our constant companion as it is with too many people around the world and throughout our country.
This recognition lets us see that what Allah has asked of us on this day is a sacrifice that we can perform and if this bit of discomfort builds a greater connection with him then we are willing to accept this today and for days to come.
For the remainder of our day, through our hunger we are stuck in constant remembrance of God and his Grace. And we supplicate over and over. First to thank Allah for our circumstances and then to ask that Allah help those who are hungry and to use us in some way to provide that help.
Then when we feel we can take no more Through the haze hunger and self deprivation we hear the melodious sound of the Maghrib adhan. The date that’s been clenched in our fist for the past half hour is finally released and quickly eaten. The sweet taste sends electric through our bodies our energy is returned and a great sense of accomplishment rushes over us.
Our parents beam with pride and older siblings and cousins smile and nod their approval.
The first day of Ramadan is complete and we will no longer see food the same way.
This experience has shown us that food, as well as all comforts that we enjoy, are temporary and fleeting. They can be here one moment and gone the next but with trust in Allah we will always be fulfilled. The Nourishment He provides can never be taken away.
So end your first day of fasting pleased with Allah and knowing the He is well pleased with you.
By Junayd Latif