Ramadan for many is synonymous with food, or the lack there of, but in truth food is the furthest thing from the true meaning of the holy month.
Also known as the month of mercy, Ramadan is a time of introspection and reflection for Muslims around the world. It’s a time of learning, a time of charity and a time of community. The month begins with a strange sense of anticipation, was the moon sighted? Muslims here and around the world hold a collective breath waiting for the official announcement.
It is believed that during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received a divine revelation whilst reflecting and meditating in a cave on the outskirts of Mecca. This revelation would ultimately become the Islamic holy book Qur’an and the first word of that message was “Iqra” or read. For this reason Ramadan is known as the month of the Qur’an and muslims make extra effort to read and understand it during this time. I love sharing this with my children, not only because I want them to read the Qur’an when they are older, but because of the importance reading and the subsequent learning and growth that comes from it.
During Ramadan we become more conscious of what we put into our bodies and its needs. Ramadan is not simply a spiritual experience for Muslims but it’s also believed to have many health benefits. In fact the ancient Greeks recommended fasting as a mean to heal the body and more recently intermittent fasting or the 5:2 diet is recommended by some as a means to improve wellbeing.
This year Ramadan feels strange for many reasons chief amongst them is Covid-19 and the lockdown we are all facing. It’s strange and sad to imagine the mosques that are traditionally bursting at the seams with worshippers, empty. During Ramadan Muslims pray a special prayer in addition to their usual five daily prayers. During the special “Taraweeh” prayers we hope to complete the whole Qur’an by the end of Ramadan. This year these won’t be taking place in mosques across the country, but in our homes instead. We won’t be spreading the greeting of salaam (peace) in our communities, only to those we live with and we won’t be sending and sharing food across our neighbourhood. There is a deep sadness to that, but also a lesson: how important community is, how we need each other and how we should be grateful for what we might have taken for granted over the past years.
Ramadan is a really special time of year, there’s a sense of unity, even in this time of isolation, there’s a buzz in the air. Like last year, my family had planned to host a Ramadan party. We set the date early on in January to ensure people were able to attend, but of course we had to cancel it due to the current lockdown. We still hosted our party, albeit with no guests, but it was important to us to celebrate the coming month with our children. We were able to realise a new tradition of having a lovely chill family weekend instead of running around shopping and decorating like we usually do. We were able to speak to our children about what is means to fast and how it is different from our usual routine and also asked their goals and what they might want to achieve during this special month.
Sometimes in the chaos of life we forget to stop and listen, we assume we know and understand each other without really trying to learn about each other. Now that most of us have had to make an emergency brake on our regular routines it seems like the perfect opportunity to take some time and reflect and absorb.
I want to wish everyone a hopeful month. May your days be filled with mercy and your stomachs with love and compassion. May your homes be places of prayers, dreams, wishes, and may we all spread a little kindness to strangers in the absence of friends and family!
Guest Author: Mina Rehman
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