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Fasting Is Reverence, Not Ritualism

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

In the name of God, Compassionate, Merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

Original Muslims In England article: Your Complete Guide, Day 3

Ramadan Kareem
I was sat on the floor 'fakir' style after fajr prayer predicting the crashes and failures I'd plummet towards in today's fast. That felt immature. As if I could predict or prepare for what Allah Almighty rolled into my daily path! I believe in all powerful Super Divine being that knows what will happen. He is the 'Creator' of everything, He is the sole authority, but He doesn't predetermine events. He does not make me fall, forget or fluster, He allows me to. To learn from it so as to not fall again. Take it like a wo-man, I spurred myself up. Glue yourself to that Qur'an and Ramadan guide and act upon nobleness, intelligence and benefitting knowledge.
This is why today's journal is on the concept of Ramadan, and not I as much. Do not fret, I am close by...

On the eve of Ramadan I searched for the new moon in vain. I did however find a sweet prayer in the al-hakim collection of Ahadith (prophetic sayings):
"Allah! Let the crescent moon appear over us with security and faith; with peace and Islam; and with the ability for us to practice such actions which you love. (Looking at the moon) He is your creator and my creator." (Al-Hakim & At-Tirimidhi).
Fasting for what?
Muslims follow an Islamic pillar of fasting from food and water and most luxury activities from sunrise to sunset, for a whole month of thirty days. In saying that, it is not an obligation. Yes it is 'fardh', it is mandatory, it must be done as a Muslim; it is a part of faith. As a human being though, every Muslim still has that choice to not fast at all, at their own consequence of course. My meaning here refers to Chapter 2 in the Qur'an:
"Muslim believers, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may gain and develop conciousness/piety (taqwah)". (2:183)
This clearly explains that if we fast, we attain a trait that brings us greater peace. We understand what is necessary and luxury in our life, and how to maintain a strong relationship with Allah. We could easily not fast. Nothing immediate would happen to us. Forget that, I've seen thousands of 'muslim' men and women flunk out of fasting every year. And they're still alive.

To not fast though would remove our compassion, our appreciation of the simpler, natural things; it would inhibit our awareness of greed, laziness and openness towards others. Muslims fast to follow Allah's command. I just want to throw out there that Muslims should really fast to learn about Allah's command. Fasting an act of reverence, not ritualism.

Suhur - Su'hoor.
The suhoor is a quick breakfast eaten before dawn to keep the body going throughout the day. I think I'd turn to mush if I didn't eat my ritual Coco Pops or banana in Weetabix. I wanted to 'suhoor-crash' this morning at some random Muslim's house but they are all so far away! Today's suhoor delight came in the form of honey on hot toast. Oh boy... Ahem.

Did you know Muslims get reward for eating at suhoor? No seriously, you receive mega points for taking a bite out of a biscuit, biryani or broccoli.
"Allah and his angels definitely send down blessings/benedictions on those who eat at suhoor". (Ibn Hibban & Ahmad). 
Awesome, masha'allah. Bask in the delicious reward.

I learnt this nifty short du`a (supplication) when I was cleverer to make my intention for fasting. Intentions are important. They're like the headed letters you get in in fancy documents. Without the header-banner, the rest is complete empty gibberish. Anyway, the intention can be made in a similar form to "Oh Lord, Allah, I intend to keep my fast for you, so forgive my future and past sins". An Arabic prayer would obviously sound lovelier.

And then...
My day was bland. Really bland. Like a slow slug sliding in slush-bland. But oh - did I mention the brother I met online? No? Read this very c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y as I'm only typing it once. I am now online buddies with former Guantanamo Bay prison guard Terry Holdbrooks! You heard me! I know, it's like stalking a Muslim celebrity. I said talking, not stalking - typo. He goes by the name of Brother Mustafa now - Mustafa Abdullah. Always underestimates himself. Anyway, we were yammering about what nots and I suggested he make a ramadan diary too, in video style! Of course he will deny the idea came to me first but that's no matter. People like him always astound me. There you are, Iconic Muslims, in positions of influence and motivation, the spinning world around is oblivious to you, and with such integrity that's symbolic of Prophethood, of nobility and beautiful understanding. Muslim men in general lack that.

I don't mean to pick at you brothers but c'mon, you could be impressing every sister you met out there instead of striking a pose with your camera phone and grinning like a pubescent boy. Especially now that it's ramadan, where are you?

Of course Muslims in England brothers Azeem and Saad and Mohsin don't do that, nope. Nor do the Muslim brothers I work with or talk to or share ideas with. They're cool as ice. And brothers online don't do that either, or over the phone or in social gatherings, or in the masjid during tarawih salat or after when they're queueing for the exit and just happen to 'collide' into the sister who's looking down...

If my Mother's reading this I want you to know you can stop signing me up for online matrimonials. If my Father's reading this... What potential brothers?!

Muslims break (i.e. begin eating again) at sunset, just before the maghrib prayer. I find I've lost my appetite by then since the hunger during the day subsides to sheer appreciation of water, milk and dates, which are traditional edibles used to open the fast. My family heritage is pretty diverse so at get-togethers we'll have a continental pick'n'mix of Asian/African/European foods. Fantastic on the tastebuds. Not so fantastic in the fasting belly. I read this du`a for breaking the fast:
"Oh Allah, for you I fasted, and I end my fast with your provisions". (Abu Dawud)
I was talking to someone about how different cultures celebrate ramadan and she said within her Indian community, people gained weight over the 30 day period! Gain weight?! I choked, what are you doing all day, licking butter cubes? Discipline is the key to ramadan I suggest. With discipline, hunger is manageable, it's simply a bodily reaction to lack of physical food. Discipline motivates us to rush for that spiritual food. Scrummalicious. Discipline keeps us at our best, we are controlled, sophisticated, thinking and approachable.

Discipline at iftar time, during salat and throughout the fasting day keeps Muslims' heads filled with remembrance of Allah by bringing that selfless concept forward: By giving up things we love we can give it to those we love. I have everything poured from a tap and a stone's throw away at superstores, fresh, heavenly and healthy. Abroad my families will open their fast with dry bread and mucky water from a river.

We are here for a short time, we cannot plan every day but must try to be prepared for it. That was the lesson learnt today. I like to plan. I make checklists of checklists. It's not in vain, it is necessary for success, and organisation is a skill I picked up late in life. It's why I'm typing this at 3:00am and not 3:00pm as planned.

Isha salah came along with tarawih that was read at home. Fast three went extremely fast. Alhamdulillah, I lived through it though. And so did you.

On that note, my sincerest, most gracious salam unto you, du`a insha'Allah that your fast was much more rewarding and peaceful than mine. May Allah reward you for your abstinence, teach you the humble aspects of living and encourage you to plan and change the things you have control over.

I'm going to gorge on leftover cake now. Or attach a drip to my veins.

Zaufishan, impulsively diving headfirst into chocolate pools ★

Image: flickr