Ram·a·dan (noun): The ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset.
When I was younger, my mother would often mention how Ramadan bought you closer to yourself. I never understood what she meant—how much closer could you become to yourself?
Ramadan is just a few days away. To me, it feels as though it just finished. I think that’s the scary part—the fact that time is passing by faster than I ever envisioned. It’s even scarier how a month I look forward to for an entire year will pass in the blink of an eye. At times, I get so caught up in the constant bustle of hosting and attending parties, and towards the end, preparing for Eid, that I forget to appreciate the month itself. When it’s gone, I feel guilty knowing that I could’ve done more. I always could have done more.
Before you reach puberty, fasting isn’t compulsory. However, even then, I would constantly beg my mom to let me fast, and eventually she would give in. It started with half-day fasts, in which I would wake up with everyone else long before sunrise and then break my fast around two in the afternoon. One day, I made up my mind to fast the entire day, and by the end of day, the happiness I felt was indescribable. I still don’t know what it was that made me feel so proud of myself, but I continued to complete my optional fasts until they became obligatory. It might have had to do with the fact that I felt more connected to not just my family, but the entire Muslim community.
When Ramadan draws near, I also feel a closeness with my family. Like many others, Ramadan is a pretty big deal in our household. It doesn’t matter if a family member has work or school during the day. When breaking our fast, we try our best to be together—to talk about our day, how our fast went, and to make plans for Taraweeh that evening. Taraweeh ties in with the connection I feel when I am amongst others from the Muslim community.
In addition to that, I feel as though the mosques around me are constantly brimming with people. During the day, people mill about, reading Quran, spending time with one another, and praying. Some masjids go the extra mile and organize Sehri early in the mornings for those who can’t close their fast at home. When it comes to breaking the fast during Iftar time, people are willing to serve,and help others before sitting down to eat themselves. Being selfless is a common trait during Ramadan, as people hope to do as much good as they possibly can in the short time they do have.
My excitement for the month of Ramadan stems from the tranquility and peace I feel. It’s as though a switch has been flipped. I am in no way a saint. Throughout the year, I have many bad habits that, no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to give up or stop doing. But, during Ramadan, although it may just be in my mind, it becomes easier to give up bad habits. I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle in trying to give them up, but at the end of the day, trying your complete, utter best counts for more than you can imagine.
Ramadan also gives me the opportunity to understand my privilege. It’s often easy to take for granted the luxury of going out for some food, or turning on the tap to drink cold water. During Ramadan, I’m reminded that this is how some people live every day of their lives. On top of that, when the time comes to break my fast, I have delicious food to look forward to. At the table, there are dishes ranging from fruits to a variety of fried spring rolls and samosas. In some countries, people are lucky if they have anything besides water or a date. Although it may easily cause confusion, Ramadan is never meant to make you feel guilty for what you do have. Rather, it is a chance for you to be grateful for all the blessings that you have been granted.
Eventually Ramadan begins to come to an end, and Eid preparations begin. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I always get excited to celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr, a holiday in which you give happiness and spend time with the ones you love.
Although it took 18 years, I finally understand what my mom used to say. The serenity I often feel in Ramadan allows me to step back and see how I live my life day to day. I realize that refraining from bad habits takes effort, but also allows me to become the best version of myself. I learn self-control and discipline, but most of all, I really do become closer to myself.
Taraweeh: An extra prayer that takes places at night only during the month of Ramadan.
Sehri/Suhur: A meal eaten before sunrise prior to fasting.
Iftari: A meal eaten at sunset after the entire day of fasting.
Eid–Ul–Fitr: A religious holiday that is celebrated at the conclusion of Ramadan. It is the only day in the year that Muslims are not allowed to fast.