Below are some personal reflections submitted on Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset in order to gain consciousness of God in all their actions. We hope this article can show that, whilst Ramadan is a prescribed month, we all experience it in our own personal ways!
Ramadhan is often well known as the Islamic holy month when Muslims around the world give up food and drink. For me, Ramadhan is more than just having a growling stomach and parched mouth, it’s a time of reflection on the year just gone and planning for the year ahead. The way in which we control our hunger and thirst is similar to the way in which we are advised to control our thoughts, what we say and how we act.
For me, Ramadhan is like training for a marathon; it is the month of improvement in your character, in how you treat people, the amount of charity that you give and your own relationship with God. As Ramadhan comes to an end, just as your training for a marathon comes to an end, we try to maintain what we practised in Ramadhan for the rest of the year. The aim being that each Ramadhan is better than the last as we strive to work on ourselves as Muslims and as students at university.
Most importantly, Ramadhan is a month to reflect on my relationship with Allah (God). Religion is ever fluctuating; there will be times when you feel invincible in your religion and others when it can waver. This month is often a time of spiritual high for many, as communities come together for late night prayers and iftaar (breaking the fast at sunset). This spiritual high encourages me to increase in the number of good deeds I do, whether it be helping the homeless or giving charity. The aim is for these good deeds to be continued throughout the rest of the year to help me improve my character, not just to deprive myself of food and drink for a month.
Hind M Arekat
Mercy is attributed God in many ways. This acts as a reminder for Muslims: no matter how much we mess up, neglect our religion or get caught up in our daily life, God is always waiting to forgive us and bestow His mercy upon us. Ramadan is a special time of year for us. It’s the time of year when one is encouraged to start over and turn a new page. It’s an opportunity to engage in the worship of God, not only to follow the rules of the religion, but to understand its very essence.
It’s the time of year to re-charge one’s body, mind, heart and soul. The body is re-charged by teaching it self-control. When fasting from food and water, they are no longer priorities, and so our bodies become more disciplined. The mind is re-charged when we read the Qur’an, attempt to learn it and apply its wisdom to our daily life. As Muslim students, we are taught to value knowledge. During this holy month, studying and keeping up with the workload can prove challenging, but nevertheless striving to gain that knowledge at this valuable time would make the difficulties worth it. The heart is re-charged by becoming more compassionate; we are taught to be grateful for the blessings we have, consequently motivating us to do and spread good through the simplest acts of charity. At this blessed time our community of brothers and sisters come together, flourishing with love and hope. The soul is re-charged when we engage in prayers with the most genuine of intentions, knowing that The All-Hearer, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, is waiting to grant us peace, patience and guidance.
Ramadan is the perfect time to strive to be the best person you could be, build up good habits and keep them up after the holy month has passed.
It’s the perfect time for soul searching, doing good and seeking spiritual fulfilment.
It’s the perfect time to find purpose in everything you do.
To me, Ramadan is a month of giving back.
For eleven months of the year we live in Allah’s blessing; our health, our family, our success and even our failures, whereby we are given the ability to move past them and, in doing so, only strengthen our resolve. For another month we’re given so many chances to give back as we seek to purify our bodies and souls and acquire piety. Ramadan. The month where rewards are multiplied; a perfect time to give back, not just through serving Allah as we spend nights standing in prayer but in serving His creation and, in doing so, Him. Those nights where His doors of mercy are wide open, calling to His believers to approach with their good deeds. Those nights serve as an opportunity to thank Him for what we have. As He says in the Quran: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you in favour.” For me, this is an incredibly special verse as it reminds me of His generosity. If we just spend some time thanking Him for what He has blessed us with, then He is so pleased with our efforts that He not only maintains but increases our blessings.
However, our chance to give back doesn’t just stop there. As the Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter.” Relieving the distress of others isn’t just limited to paying for a family’s iftaar in a developing country, giving back can start much closer to home. We can be rewarded in every part of our day; the simple acts of kindness that can make other people’s day. Even a smile, which the Prophet teaches us is itself a charity.
Thus, by serving Allah’s creation, we are not only serving and pleasing Him but also serving ourselves as Allah promises us reward. I guess my point here is that giving back is really a chance to help yourself too in showing gratitude. This Ramadan, I find myself eager to go that extra step to help those around me, knowing that, with every good deed, Allah will only increase what I am already blessed with in this holy month and the eleven others.
Ramadan completely changes my life for one month every year, but I love it! It’s a chance to increase my faith, fix my bad habits and remind myself of my duty to help the poor and needy whose everyday reality consists of feeling hungry and thirsty.
As part of my dissertation this year, I explored intermittent fasting and its beneficial effects on ageing and disease. I was amazed by what I read. Although I was aware that fasting was good for my soul, I was not so knowledgeable about how good it was for my body!
I’ve been fasting since I was 11 and always knew it was a good thing to do spiritually. However, after discovering the many health benefits, I felt like I could now completely appreciate why it is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Fasting has been practised for both religious and medical purposes for thousands of years and I think it’s amazing that researchers are discovering the effects of fasting on ageing and ageing-associated disorders.
Your mum coming in and waking you up before dawn, sleepily walking to the dining table to gobble down whatever food is put in front of you, while your mother is walking around making sure that everyone is eating and drinking enough.
For many young people this is how mornings in Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, and the month of fasting, look.
Ramadan is a spiritual time for Muslims. It is a time for prayers and self-reflection. But it is also a time for family. A time of togetherness.
In most families, whether you eat together the rest of the year or not, during Ramadan you are sure to eat every meal together. Even when that meal is eaten at 3.00 am. Praying and going to the mosque together, visiting relatives, having a lot of guests over, are just some of the examples how families spend their Ramadan together.
This experience looks different for the many students who live away from home during Ramadan.
Besides missing out on delicious home-made Iftaar cooked by mum, eating alone in your room and not seeing any relatives or your family can easily make you feel isolated and lonely. Especially when the only thing you seem to be doing beside eating and praying is studying for your exams.
Not living with your family does not mean that you have to miss out on the whole family experience. You can still do things that remind you of home.
For example, since I am lucky enough for my mother to live relatively close to come around for a week, she flew over in April to prepare some samosas and other snacks for me so I would not miss out. And whenever I am eating alone I try to video call home.
If you are missing the hectic and joy filled Iftaars with your whole family: Iftaar at Imperial is an amazing alternative. For the past three years, Imperial College’s Islamic Society has organised Iftaar for every day of Ramadan. It might not be your “real” family, but with all the hugs and laughs, eating and praying together, you are sure to find a second family.
Then there is Eid, the celebration at the end of Ramadan. For many Muslims it is the highlight of the year. That is probably the day on which the reality of being away from family strikes the most. The best remedies for the loneliness on Eid is organising to go to the Eid prayer together with some friends and then treating yourself to some amazing food!
Whether away from family or at home, I wish everyone a blessed Ramadan!