Ramzan, the month of fasting for all Muslims is arriving in the dead of summer months this time. The sixteen long hours of fasting isn’t fun – it’s a challenge. Here are a dozen ways for you to find it easier to stay focused on the main purpose of Ramzan, getting to know one’s self better. To see where we are going, and where we should be actually going. A sort of re-alignment and tuning of one’s self in every way: spiritually, physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally and financially.
All this, for love of Allah, and the hope of losing some weight too. Losing the weight of sins would be a special bonus. The month is an amalgamation of lots of interesting things:
- Firstly, one is flooded with all sorts of religious refreshment courses online and offline. You keep getting invitations for ‘Daura-e-Quran’ which helps you read the entire holy book within the month along with meanings, which is really good. I’ve always admired the teachers who in spite of their own fast read out for a two to three hours non-stop. The Molvi sahib at the mosque completes the entire holy Quran within twenty seven days, which is amazing. Mostly, this is done by those who have memorized the Holy Quran and is considered as a great feat, which it is.
- The fun part of the whole month are the ‘iftaris’ and ‘sehris’ . It’s a family event. Everyone is very particular about exactly what they’d like to start the fast with at Sehri, and how they will break the fast with their ‘iftari’
- It is a true exercise in patience, tolerance, physical exertion. The taravia prayers – which is an addition within the Isha prayers every night. Since one wakes up anyways and the whole sleep pattern is disturbed anyway, so many of us also say the sixth prayer of Tahajjad in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning before Fajar.
- All the time in between one is busy watching the food shows on television. Because you are not supposed to eat food, the whole concentration is on the food.
5. The giving of Zakat which is considered best during Ramzan. So, everyone calculates how much amounts to two-and-half percent of all the extras that we own, and give that amount to the poor. There are a lot of donations given to the different organizations and food being distributed to the poor and orphans alike. No wonder, Pakistan is one of the most charitable countries of the world after the US of A.
6. For me, the best part is the time of Iftari every day, when trays of goodies appear from nowhere, (usually, some nearby friend or stranger, sharing their iftari with you.) The tradition is not to return the plates empty, so you share what you had made with them. It’s usually very delicious and full of happy surprises. A wonderful feeling of happiness just spreads, when the doorbell rings and you are full of anticipation as to who sent it, and what’s in it? J Usually, it has dates, samosas, pakoras, fruit chat and dahi baras. Of course , you too, happily return the sweet gesture. It’s a whole month of happiness, kindness, and spiritual contentment.
7. Not surprisingly, one finds a lot of time on one’s hands, to pray and have proper ‘man-to-God-talks’. There are many anchors on television who help you with the prayers. They are good to listen to, yet, I feel it’s best to have your own talk and chat with your Maker. I’m sure He too would prefer original prayers from you rather than copied and pasted ones! The biggest opportunity is to do some interior designing and cleaning up of one’s soul. Only we ourselves know the ‘bad habits’ we have accumulated during the life He gave us. It’s a good time to figure out how and when to get rid of at least some of them. Also to make amends with one’s Maker and to find ways to please Him, and ask forgiveness.
8. Fasting is proven to be the best thing from a medical point of view. It is a good thing for almost all ailments. Yet, if you have doubts please do consult your doctor first. Each person has his or her own way of fasting. I find it is best to go for a walk just before the iftari if you are lucky enough to have someone to prepare it for you. It’s a good way to spend those difficult last few moments before completion of one’s fast. On the other hand, getting the iftari ready is a good exercise and nice way to divert yourself too. When it gets too hot or you feel too thirsty, rinsing one’s face with water does help.
9. Reading the Quran with meanings is the best part, and a better idea is to read it again and again throughout the year on a daily basis. This would ensure that you complete the book at least two, three or four times in the year. Reading one siparah daily ensures that you read it twelve times a year. Actually, while reading, you often fall upon solutions to things that are going on in your mind. Many times you can’t help tears falling down when you read passages which just hit you. Sometimes goose bumps appear due to the accuracy of a statement which goes so closely with your current problem or issue. The biggest thing you realize is the strength that comes due to the fact that all the prophets who came to this earth, faced so many harrowing experiences. So, naturally, we will too. There is the hope that just as they rose above their problems, you will too. The biggest thing that comes through is the importance of having faith, being patient and tolerant.
10. The concept of ‘aitekaf when one is silent and just focusing on total prayer and introspection is a really good one. The idea is to spend last ten days in a mosque or a room in your home, where you are free from all distractions and can really connect. Naturally, this is for men. However, ladies too can do so just for a few hours in their home, or a few days in a part of the home. What bliss! (I believe they have a silence session in ashrams in India for which you pay through the nose, to sweep their floors too. Remember ‘Eat, Pray, Love’?) So, this you can do in your home with a supportive and cooperative family.
11. So, please, try not to waste time in having huge iftar parties at home. I believe it is very cruel to the domestic help that we have. So, you have the whole year to entertain your friends, please avoid doing it now. However, if you can do so on your own without putting extra pressure on your domestic help, then do go ahead. However, it is best to feed the poor and pay for iftaris and food for the poor to organizations that are already doing this for orphans and in hospitals. It is vital for us to spare our staff from giving them extra chores; in fact we must make a point to make work easier for them. To do all we can to spare extra trips to market and extra exertion. Remember, it is vital for us to be kind to all those working for us. Buying new clothes for Eid, during Ramzan and getting gifts for the poor and those in hospitals is another way to spend the month.
12. The Eid day comes with its usual celebrations and gatherings. A family time when one goes to visit relatives. Those living abroad need to share the day with non-Muslims also, as Eid and Islam is all about caring for humanity.
Most importantly, those relatives who have lost a family member during the last few months and this would be their first Eid without that person. So, one makes a point of visiting them to help ease the pain of missing the person even more. Visiting the grave yard of loved ones is another tradition of this day.
So, wishing each one of you a wonderful Ramzan, it is not a bad idea to go through it as if it is one’s last one, so that we use this time in the best way.
Happy Ramzan and I’m sure you shall be blessed!