Ramadan: a personal reflection
As a Muslim, Ramadan is one of the most, if not the most significant months of the year for Muslims around the world. Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Hijri calendar and the holy month of fasting. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
I am the eldest of three and was born in Sri Lanka but my early years were in the Middle East, with my first few years in Saudi Arabia and later the United Arab Emirates. I grew up surrounded by people fasting during the month of Ramadan and chose to fast with my parents early in my childhood, even though children aren’t required to fast. Fasting and Ramadan is a core act of the Islamic faith and is beautifully navigated by different cultures, each with their own unique traditions.
I grew up with decadent meals in the early hours of the morning to begin the fasting day. We always came together as a family, waiting for the call to prayer to signify the time when it was time to break our fast and ended our fast with a date and water (like most Muslims around the world). This was followed by finger food and Conjee (a wheat based savoury porridge) prepared by my mother. After the meal I would walk with my father for prayer at the local mosque.
When I was seventeen, I left home to study Engineering in Blacksburg, Virginia. Initially I was not prepared for the culture-shock of being a minority; where practicing my faith suddenly felt foreign. I soon discovered others who were in a similar position and Ramadan took on a new experience, with lots of students coming together to break their fast on campus; but home is where the heart lay when it came to Ramadan.
A lot has changed since then, I got married and eventually moved to Australia with my wife and kids. We now have our own Ramadan traditions and have built a relationship with the Muslim community in Melbourne. With so many Australian Muslims to share the experience with, working and fasting in Melbourne does not feel as foreign as it did when I was in Virginia.
Last year Ramadan was an especially unique time with the pandemic and remaining under lockdown; the modern world had never experienced a Ramadan like this. There were no prayers in the mosques or community gatherings to break the fast. Instead, there was more time for self-reflection and quiet prayers at home. This year has been a welcome change, with the community coming together stronger. As a family we go all out and decorate the house for Ramadan, the kids absolutely love this. We also discuss our goals for worship and self-improvement during the month. My elder two children, Zaid and Sumayya, love to discuss how many days they want to attempt to fast this year. My eldest, Zaid, has challenged himself to try and complete all fasts this year; as I write this he’s still on track.
I currently have the luxury and the flexibility of working from home, this has allowed me to spend more time with my family during this special time, especially because Victoria enjoys shorter fasting days. With each passing year, Victoria will soon be fasting longer days, but for now we bask in the ease of eleven hour fasting days.
As difficult as an entire day without regular coffee, food and water may seem, there is so much that is wonderful about Ramadan. Giving up eating and drinking makes us more aware of our blessings and often leads us to increase in charity and acts of kindness. In fact, most Muslims enjoy Ramadan so much that we actually grieve when the month comes to an end.
As we farewell the blessed month we will gather on the day of Eid (first day after Ramadan) and celebrate in the grandest manner with the anticipation of next year’s Ramadan.