Even in solitude, find wisdom in Ramadan
In my life, each year’s Ramadan has returned as an older and wiser teacher, who has shown me a way to search for and find inner peace and reflect on my relationship with my creator. Ramadan has taught me to appreciate all I have been given and recognize all I take for granted. Observing every year since I was 12 years old, I have even taken Ramadan for granted. Except for the Ramadans during which I was pregnant, I fasted each year, secure in the knowledge I will fast again the next year. A few years ago, just before Ramadan, I developed a chronic headache and high fever, ultimately spending three weeks of Ramadan stuck in bed. I learned two lessons during those weeks that I could not fast. The first was that if I am alive for the next Ramadan, the blessings of fasting and prayer are not guaranteed. It is an honor that I yearn for and should always be grateful for. The second is appreciating the mercy of God that is afforded every Muslim. Although fasting in Ramadan is required for all healthy adult Muslims, it is God’s compassion and mercy that we do not fast if we are unwell.
COVID-19 is promising a Ramadan we will not forget. For some, this situation will take away a treasured month that renews spiritual feeling and boosts their sense of community, by depriving them of shared traditions and time with family, friends and neighbors. For others, Ramadan has always been a time to stay home and worship in solitude and in remembrance of their creator. For them, this pandemic will not take worship from them, but will leave them with solitude even after the holy month has ended. For a third group, Ramadan will be very lonely, isolated and socially distanced from the larger Muslim community. These are people who have chosen Islam, following a different faith from their family members. For many of them, Ramadan would have been a time to connect with a broader Muslim community, to worship in congregation and find people to learn from, share with, and teach.
The end of Ramadan is always bittersweet, ending with a sense of sadness and loss, as if the time together with a cherished elder was too short.
After Ramadan, there is a holiday and grand festival, Eid al-Fitr (Festival of the Breaking of the Fast). Eid, just like Easter and Passover in 2020, will be celebrated in our own homes with the help of numerous online platforms we are using to stay in touch with family and friends. Muslims will look forward, with hope and longing, to welcome Ramadan again in 11 months.
Azra Hussain is the co-founder and president of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona.
Azra Hussain Guest columnist