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#RamadanReflection: Tasting a New Ramadan

#RamadanReflection: Tasting a New Ramadan

| On 11, Jul 2013

At this point, Muslims all over the world have officially began Ramadan—yes, even the ones in Pakistan and India who figured waiting a few more days sounded fun. That’s over 1.5 billion men, women, and children participating in a global fast, going without food and water from the crack of dawn to the setting of the sun for a period of roughly 30 days.

The daytime routine is pretty well documented. No food. No drink. No small-snacks-while-no-one-is-looking. Those things are pretty much the regular — that’s what you’ll find on any Ramadan pamphlet or what you’ll get during your awkward coworker’s 45 second explanation of why she isn’t eating lunch today. But what about the other stuff? What about the stuff we don’t tell anyone about? What about the hours we spend praying at community mosques every night of Ramadan? What about the Qurans we carry in our pockets so that we can read a few more verses about charity and patience during the day? What about the the challenges of reflecting more deeply and giving more generously during this month?

We don’t like to talk about those things. And you know why? Because it’s not easy. I can tell you that Ramadan is about not eating or drinking, because I’m not eating or drinking. But to tell you that Ramadan is about building myself in my morals, my characters, and my spirituality — that’s hard. That requires me to admit that those things are more important than what does or doesn’t go into my mouth. That requires me to look inward and ask some difficult questions of myself. And, for many of us, we’re not sure if we want to.

Our Ramadan will be built on the tough questions we ask of ourselves.

In the Islamic tradition, we have a rich history of scholarship and writing. Much of the life of Muhammad ﷺ has been documented in short, anecdotal narratives as passed on by his companions. Over generations these anecdotes and stories have been studied, authenticated, and recorded in what are called books of hadith. Although many scholars have organized these stories and sayings into various small, easily accessible books, there is one saying that seems to appear in an overwhelming majority of texts. Looking back to the 13th century, we find a collection of 40 hadith as cataloged by a scholar by the name of al-Nawawi. This popular collection begins with one of the most well known and most often cited sayings of the Prophet Muhammad:

“Actions are judged by their intentions.”

And as we begin Ramadan, that is a message that truly rings home. What we do, what we don’t do, whatever it is that we achieve during these coming weeks — it will all be based on the intentions with which we begin this month. It will be based on why we choose to fast. It will be based on the tough questions we choose to ask of ourselves as we begin this month of introspection and reflection. Most definitely, it will be based on what we want to change about ourselves and how willing we are to do it.

As we work towards developing generosity, kindness, and appreciation in our selves, we recognize the potential for beauty that each and every day holds.

Am I honest? Am I respectable? Am I someone that those around me could look up to? These weeks of Ramadan provide us with an opportunity to not only define ourselves in our religiosity but also an opportunity to define ourselves as people, as individuals who need to work on our personalities and our characters. Every year, we are afforded an opportunity to reflect on not only who we are but who we are becoming. As we deny ourselves the foods and the waters that our bodies crave, we recognize the beauty in the everyday nourishment we take for granted. And as we work towards developing generosity, kindness, and appreciation in ourselves, we recognize the potential for beauty that each and every day holds.

Ramadan is supposed to be about tasting new things. It’s about tasting what it feels like to donate to someone living in poverty. It’s about tasting what it feels like to speak out for the rights of someone being oppressed. It’s about tasting what it feels like to do not only do well but to do good — to make an intention to better ourselves by disciplining ourselves, denying ourselves, and demanding a new flavor of betterness from ourselves.

As we begin this month, we have in our hands an opportunity to taste a new tomorrow, to experience what it would be like to be the person we always wanted to be — to be the person we always wished we could be. And as these days turn into weeks, this month will too soon pass. But the effect it can have on our lives, that can last a lifetime.


  1. james

    This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great! james

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