written by Theresa Corbin
It is that time of year again. Ramadan!
When the moon begins its new phase and the snow fa … err … the trees are in bloo … errr … the crisp smell of autu … errrr … Wait a minute. None of the seasonal sights or smells can be applied to Ramadan. What’s up with that?
Well, if you don’t already know, it is because the Islamic calendar does not follow the same fixed calendar that we are used to in The West, where all the seasons occur in the same ‘ole months. Kinda boring, Greg of the Gregorians didn’t know how to keep it fresh, but whatever.
Every year the month of Ramadan starts when the new moon is sighted for the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Each month is 29-30 days long depending on the lunar cycle followed by Muslims. This means that each year the month of Ramadan moves up 10 days in relation to the Gregorian calendar. Time to break out the calculator and do some math.
Just joking, I don’t do math.
This tracking of the moon and measuring the calendar by it is how some non-Muslims spread the lie that Muslims worship a moon god. FALSE in a major way.
Muslims worship the creator of all things known as God or Allah in Arabic. In fact, if a “Muslim” were to worship the moon, this would take him out of Islam, i.e. he would no longer be a Muslim because the first article of faith is to worship God alone. You know, the first commandment.
Anyway, I can get side tracked from time to time. Eh hem, Ramadan. The ninth month in the Lunar Islamic calendar. I am sure you have come across someone, somewhere that is excited or at least talking about the coming of Ramadan. So you do a quick search on the Google, and find out that it is the month in which the Quran was first revealed, and it is a month of fasting for all healthy, adult Muslims.
And Google’s right. Ramadan is a time when healthy adult Muslims refrain from food and drink from Fajr (just before dawn) to Maghrib (sunset). We also can’t smoke, lie, cheat, or commit any other sin, but we shouldn’t be doing any of that year round.
So why are people so excited about this, you may wonder. And it was a question I wondered about until my first few Ramadans, when I experienced how fasting and the month of Ramadan can change you in a profound way. If you let it, Ramadan can make you grateful, charitable, patient, disciplined, and so much more.
For someone who had never fasted a day in her life, prior to Islam, fasting as a Muslim was a challenge. I had never in my life faced hunger. In the version of Catholicism that I came from, fasting in Lent only requires you to give something up (meaning something you enjoy like chocolate, video games, etc).
And for the hard core Catholics, in addition to giving something up, Lenten fast means not snacking between meals, or eating light meals and no meat on Friday, which was something I observed in my mother do.
All this is to say that I was ill prepared for Ramadan. But once I understood that, all too often, we feed our bodies and starve our souls, creating an empty feeling that haunts us; once I realized that fasting is not for Allah (SWT) but for us to become closer to Him by our faith; once I appreciated the fulfillment that comes out of having control and discipline over my own desires, my iman (faith) grew.
Strengthening your iman is like falling in love, you can feel it and you know it is there, but it is hard to describe especially to those who haven’t felt it. In fact, iman is falling in love.
Strengthening or growing your iman is the process of falling in love with Allah (SWT), and this is the best kind of love because Allah is without flaw, The Owner of love, The Most Merciful, The Oft Forgiving, The Provider, The Creator.
Ramadan is meant for this purpose; to fall in love all over again with your deen (Islamic way of life), to grow your iman again after a year of worries and stresses that accumulate from focusing on the fleeting life of this world, to fall in love again with Allah again and again, to correct behaviors that only destroy us, to learn about the most perfect example in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), to return to a simpler and purer state, to taste the sweetness of faith, and so much more.
And a bonus of completing the fast of Ramadan is that when all is said and done and you’ve done your best, your sins are forgiven. The Prophet said,, “[…] whoever fasts during Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Narrated in Bukhari).
And all this is why Muslims are so excited to get started with fasting in Ramadan. Sorry I had to talk about mushy feelings, but hey, Ramadan has that effect on people.
Oh, and did I mention the Iftars (meal to break your fast)? Every night is a chance to enjoy wonderful meals from all cultures on the earth, and spend time with your Muslims community. Iftar is the only time when I have really felt like I have earned my meal.
Have a great Ramadan!
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