The blessed month of Ramadan is expected to begin on or around August 1 and will finish on or around August 29. Muslims are excited! I even know many non-Muslims planning to fast along with us in the spirit of unity. Some will be fasting for the first time and also reading the beautiful Holy Qur'an which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
To someone who is observing Ramadan for the first time, it’s easy to get caught up on not eating and drinking. Your stomach seems to be growling every second and your mouth is as dry as the Arabian Desert. With the extreme heat hitting the country right now, it may seem even more difficult to fast but it can be done.
Believe me, I know the feeling!
My first Ramadan was in ’97 when I was a freshman at Prairie View A&M University. I was so focused on not being able to eat or drink that I would sleep in between classes to “pass the time” and got behind on my Qur’anic readings on the second day because Surah 2 seemed so long. I told myself I would catch up. I did not.
I even started nibbling on peppermints because I figured that wasn’t actually food. As you can see, I was all messed up. I was thankful to my older brother, who is a Muslim also, for guiding me and encouraging me to finish it stronger than when I started. By the Grace of Allah (God) I did.
Since then I have come to realize that Ramadan is so much bigger than just the absence of food, drink and sexual relations with your spouse throughout the day. It is about moral discipline. It’s about deep reflection and channeling that same sense of joy, unity, love, high spirituality, compassion and self-discipline towards the rest of the year to battle against bad habits that we commit to breaking during Ramadan. Bad habits can become like grips taught in martial arts but we know all grips can be broken with the proper technique. What bad habit has a grip on you right now that you would like to break?
In the Holy Qur'an, in Chapter 2 Verse 183, it reads "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil."
That's beautiful! Fasting is likened unto medicine because it's a physical, moral and spiritual healing to the human being. Fasting is practiced in all religions.
When I converted to Islam, I was taught that it is not a religion but it is actually a way of life. Therefore, like all religions, we have rituals but those rituals are seeded with meanings that guide us towards a higher reflection of that which we say we believe in. Islam means to enter into a state of peace through submission to Allah (God).
During Ramadan we put a halt to many things such as cursing, arguing, lying, gossiping, complaining and even step away from personal addictions such as TV, the Internet, sugar or video games. Even the grumpiest of us become all of a sudden pleasant. Many clear the dust off of their Qur’ans that was placed at the highest point in their homes to start reading it. We take the time to pray more than ever. The list goes on.
I love taking this time to reflect on how I need to be more dutiful to Allah (God) and His Cause. I love reading the beautiful words of the Qur’an and hearing the recitation. I love waking up to join Muslims every morning on the Tsunami Prayer Line. I love breaking fast with family, fellow Believers and friends at my home and theirs. I smile brightly every time I get a text message from my Christian friends and family who had just completed one of the days of fasting with us. We’re all in a spirit of love!
I reflect on how much better I can serve my family and community. My fervent prayer is that I can “bottle up” this Ramadan and develop into a better Muslim.
If I can’t be this same “Brother Jesse” beyond this holy month and become a stronger Muslim because of it, then what is my motive? Self-improvement is the key, so as the late musical legend Michael Jackson said, “I’m looking at the man in mirror.” I am in love with the possibilities of being a better me. I know you are too.
Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan) to all of the Muslims and non-Muslims striving to successfully complete the 30 days of fasting and reading of the Holy Qur'an. And may we all be blessed to break any bad habits we have to enjoy the blessings of overcoming them.
PS: I haven’t had a “peppermint fast” since ’97. (smile)
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