As a young sibling pair, my sister and I have been lucky to have been blessed with a grounded upbringing, of which an integral part has been undoubtedly faith. From a young age, we were taught about the values and character one should uphold, to firstly live in a way that God may be pleased with, but also to achieve inner happiness.
These qualities help us in our current temporal lives as well as our after-lives. For being a good person in this world is rewarding in this life and the next. Ramadan can mean different things to different people, and here I hope to show why we are looking forward to Ramadan 2016.
We have extremely fond memories of Ramadan dating back to primary school years (aged 6-11) when my mother and father would take a leading role in the school’s Ramadan and Eid festivities. We were so fortunate to have such a welcomingly diverse school, with a great headmaster who loved to promote events of different faiths. I remember in year 5 (which to this day has held the biggest Eid festival at Hamilton School), my mother built a 3D mosque made out of hardboard decorated beautifully with mosaic patterns (it was amazing Mum!), which held presents for all the children who performed on the night. I don’t remember much from memory, other than the feeling of supreme joy. It was a night of continuous performing and story-telling and I could tell we did our families proud!
What we loved about Ramadan as children and even now was how my family treated it with such love. Ramadan was the best month of the year, the best food was prepared, the best of people were invited round to share that food with. Our house always seemed to possess a certain welcoming ambience during Ramadan. The ambience was created to a level beyond the rest of the year, something which credit has to go to both my parents. We had more time for each-other, time to create memories and time spent showing our love for God and our faith.
Being brought up with such a positive feel about Ramadan and Eid as young siblings, it has resulted in us looking forward to Ramadan each year, to revisit those moments of happiness and unity. Undoubtedly as one gets older and finds their way in the world, we sometimes look for a reason to step back from the hustle of everyday life and to take time out for ourselves.
This indeed is how we see Ramadan, for the whole atmosphere at home is one permeated with peace. We are a tightly knit family who all have extremely busy lives with high ambitious goals that we hope to achieve in our lifetimes. But Ramadan is a time where all those worldly ambitions are replaced with the striving of excellence in our faith. It is so refreshing to have Ramadan come once a year. A welcome time out to reflect, self liberate and recalibrate.
For me personally, Ramadan offers me the chance to have a look back at the year gone and to see how I have progressed and how as a person I have developed. It provides me with the opportunity to learn about myself more, and to recalibrate my focus. This year I have more to be thankful for, as always there are forever going to be things which I will endeavour to be better at.
A most welcome pleasure and a personal highlight to our Ramadan has to be the family get-togethers. Everyone has very busy lives and the nature of Ramadan has always brought the wider family closer together, for when we break our fasts, it is always been a tradition in my family to hold the Iftar (the Arabic word for the breaking of the fast) with the extended family on most nights. Having the family together, sharing comical stories and good food is something we do not do enough of in our day to day lives, but being together in this special month is certainly something we look forward to.
Further, the very real connection we personally feel with God is something which we cherish and seek very much. For we are true believers in God and his glorious creations. We have felt a sense of calm and peace throughout Ramadan our whole lives, a most welcome feeling in the busy lives we live. But, we always find it so amazing, sometimes even embarrassing that even after all the things we do, God is still there waiting to be called upon. This year we hope to become closer to God and hope that in doing so, learn about ourselves as a creation and look to become a better people. This gives us huge motivation and courage to strive for excellence and undoubtedly with God by our side, there is nothing that cannot be achieved. We plead that we may continue to be blessed and hope that all of your wishes and prayers come true!
All in all, I love the atmosphere Ramadan brings, it’s filled with the very basic components to happiness, and that is the sharing of moments and memories with those closest to us, this has become a feeling which I look forward to each year and I hope it continues for many years and hopefully something which I can install into my future family. Because I truly believe that the religious aspects that Ramadan brings can only really be introduced once the young child understands the nature of blessings that is associated to this holy month. Only after recognising and appreciating the specialness and enlightened lifestyle that the whole family embraces, can they understand the uniqueness of it but further be able to understand the deeper more spiritual glories that this holy month can bring us.
There are of course some challenges we face…
A common challenge: the challenge of losing or maintaining weight. For starving ourselves for 18 hours a day is extremely difficult, having no water or food is tough! But then at the end of the day when Iftar approaches we tend to fill our stomachs with typically unhealthy Asian delights, and unfortunately this leads to inevitable gaining of weight. No one wants to be fat. Period. So this year, we have decided to avoid fried food altogether, and hopefully eat filling but nutritious meals that will help us last the day whilst sticking to the same jean size.
Another challenge for us is to continue with our everyday working lives, that with the commutes to work and the much needed brain power to last the day. It isn’t easy and it is not meant to be. The whole purpose of fasting is for those who have the necessities in this world to understand and importantly empathise with those who do not, providing us with humility and care for those around us as well as the world we live in. It is a most effective mechanism to engage with the simple way of life, which in turns helps to re-focus where our objectives should lay.
A potential challenge that could arise may be the struggle in maintaining the more focused/recalibrated lifestyle that we would have embarked on during Ramadan. We can see it becoming very difficult to maintain the enlightened lifestyle, as it is so easy to fall back in the routine we have set for ourselves. We read something of interest the other day: that doing something everyday 20 times in a row becomes a habit for us. So we are going to set ourselves a few targets during Ramadan and will let you know how we faired.
It is a shame that Ramadan as a concept stays so relevant in the 21st century, for Ramadan was initiated over 1400 years ago, and for there to still be poverty and people without the simple necessities in today’s day and age says volumes about the world we live in. It is sometimes incomprehensible to read statistics which say that obesity has become one of the Western worlds most significant problem and yet we still have those in the Third World struggling for basic food. One day this will hopefully change and Ramadan can be taught to show the youth how people used to struggle, rather than how people still do struggle.
I hope everyone has a very blessed summer and enjoys their travels and explorations, and of course Happy Ramadan!
The root of all evil is not money, it is the simple and corrupted belief that one person’s life is worth more than another. When we are able to understand equality, there will be no such thing as poverty – TSW Proverb.