There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes. When the sound box is filled, no music can come forth. When the brain and the belly burn from fasting, every moment a new song rises out of the fire. The mists clear, and a new vitality makes you spring up the steps before you… Rumi
This weekend was the official start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Amongst other things Ramadan is a time of self-restraint and deep reflection. Ramadan is also a time of reconnection. Reconnection with our Creator, meaning we increase our prayers and our remembrance of Him, but also reconnection with our families, communities and friends, and through all this, we hope to reconnect with ourselves.
The blogosphere is currently filled with posts on the various ways Muslims observe this blessed month- check out #Ramadan on twitter for more anecdotes and links.
I have decided to mark the arrival of Ramadan by reflecting on my earliest Ramadan related memory.
I was five and it was the middle of a scorching Sydney summer when I first realized Ramadan was a thing. My cousins and I had returned from our weekly Arabic class and as we spoke enthusiastically of the things we’d learned that day, we were being stuffed with post-school snacks including jelly cups and ice-blocks.
Our family, including my older cousin who was about 7 or 8 at the time, were observing the obligatory fast and said cousin was trying to convince her younger brother and I to begin ‘practicing’ for a few hours each day, so when we were older, we too could fast the whole day.
Nothing about her proposition sounded especially appealing, and so we continued to devour our raspberry flavoured ice-blocks.
I imagine that soon enough she grew tired and probably a little bit hungry at the sight of two children indulging in dripping, sweet, icy goodness, and she tried once more to convince us that after polishing off an entire packet of ‘Mint Slice’ and multiple glasses of cold milk we should fast until Iftar (the breaking of fast- which is observed at sunset). Somehow and to be honest I’m not really sure how, we agreed. My guess is we were pretty full anyway.
By my calculation we probably fasted a whole three hours. The time of which we spent reenacting scenes from Ninja Turtles (more on this another time).
At the time of iftar my cousin asked us if we’d fasted post our mini-mint slice coma, when we said yes- mostly because in our quest to save April from Shredder we’d forgotten to eat- the family was pretty darn pleased, responding with variations of ‘MashaAllah (Praise Allah) you fasted all afternoon.’
We were then rewarded with hot chips, a small sum of money and plenty of smiles. Satisfied with our earnings for the day we repeated our exploit again the following Saturday. And so our ‘practice’ had begun.
Till this day Ramadan embodies a great deal of what that initial experience marked. It reminds me of family and contentment, it reminds me of my initial resistance and subsequent joy.
I still struggle with the thought of not eating from sunrise to sunset each day for a month- mostly because I’m a grazer who eats small meals with perfect regularity- yet, each year when Ramadan comes I feel an amazing sense of relief at the realization that through refraining from basic acts of eating and drinking one can become more aware of every moment of their day, every act they perform and every word they utter. To take away those things we engage in without much thought fills us with a spiritual vibrancy that turns the often mundane reality of living into an appreciation for being.
So whoever you are, may this be a month of reconnecting with something or someone, especially if that someone is you.