As you probably already heard what Ramadan is all about, it is the month when all Muslims of the world refrain from eating, drinking (not even water), sexual intercourse and any sort of aggressiveness and negativity from dusk till dawn for a month. While Ramadan might seem like a physical experience, the real essence actually lies in Ramadan’s spiritual and mental aspect as well as a time for the remembrance of those in constant state of hunger and food deprivation.
To understand the essence of Ramadan one needs to refer to the verse (Qur’an 2:183) “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain taqwa.”
But what is Taqwa? I found Islamic city’s definiton of Taqwa to be the best, ” Taqwa is a recurring theme in the Qur’an and a paramount Qur’anic value. Taqwa is both an attitude and a process. It is the proper attitude of the human toward the divine that denotes love, devotion, and fear. The attitude of taqwa cannot and does not stay in the confines of the human spirit, but is ultimately revealed in expression and action.The attitude of taqwa is ultimately revealed in, and in turn reveals, the true character it nurtures: the commitment to the sublime values stressed by divine revelations of courage, generosity, compassion, honesty, steadfastness, and cooperation in pursuing what is right and true.Taqwa is equally the process by which the believers internalize the sublime values of revelation and develop their character ”
This year i fasted Ramadan for the first time in the United States. Prior coming here I was really worried about fasting here, primarily because the fasting hours are more than that of Sudan, Malaysia and Brunei, where I’ve always fasted, and also of how the experience will be fasting in a non-Muslim country. My family back home shared a lot of sympathetic feelings over the fact that I am fasting alone, away from family and friends back home and an environment where everyone else is fasting.
But despite all that, this had been the easiest Ramadan I’ve ever experienced in my whole life. Not only that the weather was much cooler than what we have back home, everyone around me, my colleagues at DC SCORES and the fellow fellows fasting or non-fasting all made the experience smooth. The different Iftars happening throughout the month in Washington DC really gave me a different exposure to Muslims in the US, both Diaspora Muslims and American Muslims. I’ve gone to Iftars happening at the American Islamic Heritage Museum, Malcolm X park, Impact Hub DC and the Grassroots Iftar. The mutual experience i lived at all these different iftars was the sense of community belonging and togetherness regarding of all differences. Despite all the sadness that poured us all from the brutal attacks at Orlando, Baghdad, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Turkey and other areas during the holy month of Ramadan, there were also moments of joy this Ramadan for me. Below are the different things I’ve experienced this Ramadan for the first time in my life, thanks to the US.
1- Some churches in the DC Metro Area opened their doors to Muslims in areas where there are no nearby mosques for Taraweeh prayer, now if that is not peaceful co-existence and harmony I don’t know what it is!
2- I had my first prayer led by a Shia imam, who recited so beautifully, one who witnessed the unfortunate and divisive sect struggles within Muslim communities between Sunni’s, Shias, Wahabbis, Ahmadis…etc would understand that it takes a lot of togetherness and acceptance within a community to ask a Shia member of the society to lead prayer for majorities who call themselves Sunnis and vice versa, at least where I come one may never experience this and I am glad i was fortunate to experience this other example of harmony and co-existence.
3- One Iftar meal combined Ethiopian, Somali, Indian and Pakistani, Middle-Eastern and Indonesian delicacies. Diversity at its best.
4- An Iftar including members of the Muslim LGBT Community coming together to share their experience of dealing with shameful hate attacks from both Islamophobes and Homophobes, this community went through a lot after the Orlando attacks, but they stayed strong and continued the fight for love and inclusiveness.
I am sure there is a lot more than this, but overall, this Ramadan with all its moments was a bittersweet month! A ride filled with a mix of joy, anger, humor and tears all in one month! May Allah grant all the lost lives during these attacks mercy and peace and Jannah, may their families stay strong in this time of immense despair and trial and may we all be humans.