ramadan

What? She’s still here?

Oh, hello. Yes, I’m still around. It’s been an uneventful-yet-stressful year that’s nearly over with and I’m staring at the glorious light at the other end of the tunnel. Just a few days shy of an exam that I’ve waited five years to take. I can’t wait to get to the end of July where I’ll be thrown into the wonderful world of unemployment.

My last post was around six months ago, and I think that was a darker place for me. I’m happy to say that I’ve been feeling a lot better recently, in all areas of life and health. I don’t know, maybe it’s the ever-sunny weather that’s put me in a good mood for most days, or the idea that in a few short weeks I’ll be able to have free time to do what I want to do (sleep, eat, read, write, sleep, eat… and eat more).

I’m writing this in the middle of the night as it’s near the end of Ramadan and I’m trying to make an effort to stay up the entire night whilst off work (trying to catch that elusive Night of Power yeah…). Excuse any incoherence that will inevitably find its way in my words.

Not everything is plain sailing, unfortunately. If you’ve been following the recent events in the UK over the past month or so, your heart must be as heavy as mine. Your conscience must be exhausted, and yet we lift ourselves for another day, hoping and praying for better news. For a miracle, perhaps.

London, my city, has gone through so much in the past few months, especially the past few weeks. It’s enough to make us feel desperate for answers, furious to point the blame at anyone, either rightly or wrongly so. We are sad and angry, and we have every single right to be.

Londoners are hurting. In fact, we’d been hurting for a long while, but now our emotions are spilling over. We want to heal, but how can we when the people responsible seem to slink away in the shadows, away from the scrutiny and responsibility?

When you’ve been at the receiving end of injustice for so long, and everyone is turned against you, you just want a portion of fate or destiny to turn with you. When, for so long, you’ve been held in the limelight of interrogation, probed with questions you don’t know the answer for, expected to represent an entire population internationally when you barely even know how to represent yourself outwardly.

I know I’m being vague, but I would hope that if you’re clued up with recent events, you would know who I’m talking about. Certain communities that are constantly being shoved in the corner and told to keep quiet, not to make too much noise. The working class, the ethnic minorities, the Muslims. How many more international events do you want to put on our shoulders, how much more burden can you give us to bear before our backs break?

There are, however, things that make my heart lighter in these bleak times. When the ordinary people of London–you know, those that don’t have fancy titles or the highest pay grade–rush out to Grenfell Tower. Those unnamed heroes in the emergency services that go above and beyond what we’d ask for a human being to do. There is a greatness in us that is often trampled upon in tragedies, but its a spirit that will not be broken. The same spirit can be found in all places of disaster, if you know where to look.

I had long since realised that if there was greatness in Britain, then it lay in its everyday citizens, and not in its institutions. Britain was not great because of its papers and politicians who relentlessly denigrated us, it was great in spite of them. Britain was great because of the community spirit you saw as soon as a small town flooded, because of the volunteers who turned out in their tens of thousands to act as stewards for the Olympic Games. But that wasn’t a spirit that I felt my country was doing nearly enough to nurture. – Musa Okwonga, The Good Immigrant

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Celebrations of Faith

The sun is setting on another Ramadan. We prepare ourselves to welcome the day of Eid al-Fitr, but I can’t help but feel that Ramadan itself is a celebration. It’s a celebration of faith, and something that I feel blessed to be a part of.

A lot has happened this month that has made our hearts heavy with sadness, worry, and fear. But I can already feel the comfort that Ramadan has given me, one that I’m sad to leave behind. This solace we find as we swing from long days and blessed nights, from the breaking of the fast to the dawn prayer, and from the supplications we make and the prayers we recite.

Some may ask why we would even allow ourselves to go without food or drink for hours on end, for thirty consecutive days (dawn to sunset, that is!). It is a whole month that tests our self discipline, not just in the kitchen, but also within ourselves. But do we really need to go through the rituals of Ramadan just to prove we can become better people? Is it really necessary?

I ask you, is anything worth achieving in life easy to come by?

Finishing a degree. Getting a job. Buying a house. Becoming a mother or a father.

Anything that is worth something is never easy to attain. For us Muslims, Ramadan is about attaining the quality of being conscious of God. This precious trait is at the core of our faith, a crucial characteristic that helps us to govern the way we live. It’s a state of knowing that God is aware of our actions and that we should be accountable for the way we carry ourselves.

Should I have spoken to my mother in a more gentle tone? Should I have listened to my colleague, who seemed upset about something, instead of rushing to go home? Should I have offered to go to the shops instead of my father as I know he’s exhausted from work?

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These things are minute details in our lives, but no one ever said we had to save the day. It’s all about making sure we’re trying to do the little things right. The things that no one really notices, no one tweets about, the things that slip into the cracks of our fast paced days.

So how does fasting help with this? To me, keeping myself away from food and drink is almost like a gateway to help me discipline myself in other ways. Ramadan helps us to slow things down, take life in perspective, and provides a mechanism for us to improve ourselves.

This month holds a special place in our faith. It celebrates the Qur’an and its guidance in helping us become people who are conscious of God in the every day details of our seemingly busy lives.

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Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur. Pictures are my own.

One year ago

This is an old post from a blog I no longer keep, but I thought it’d be relevant to post seeing as we’re half way through Ramadan again 🙂

Thoughts from Ramadan 2015:

This year I was eagerly anticipating Ramadan much as you would wait for a gift that you knew you were going to receive. Ramadan brings with it many warm memories of night prayers, day-long fasts, and of course the irreplaceable sweet joy of breaking your fast by the dying sunlight. In this month your spiritual core is exposed for what it truly is and you see how your character really fares in the daily grind. You realise how much you’ve ignored this cultivation of the heart, letting the seeds of pride, envy and hatred being slowly deposited into this fragile vessel.

But that’s what this month is for. To use its blessed days and nights as a means to improve yourself, improve your relationship with others, and with your Creator. The first few days, even week or so I felt irritated at myself. I struggled through the fast initially, perhaps because before the month started you hype yourself up so much about how “amazing this Ramadan is going to be”, but then realise that the process of revealing your true inner self is not always pretty. I wondered at why I wasn’t feeling the spiritual high every night in taraweeh, the night prayer, and why I wasn’t being super productive whilst fasting a nearly 20-hour-long fast.

But then something struck with me. That in order to build yourself up into something good, in order to build anything into something good, you need to start off at the bottom. At the foundations. So in order to build my character into something more becoming of a Muslim, I needed to face the shaky core that for so many months I was put off from looking at deeply.

And with that I found a calming feeling within me that I hadn’t felt, perhaps, since this time last year.