We are midway through the holy month of Ramzan, how can we best observe the rest of it so that it prepares us for the uncertain times ahead….
Endless aisle of white sheets; rows of believers – strangers brought together in a shared act – sitting cross-legged with parched lips; gallons of red sharbat in jugs; piles of silky brown khajoor; platters of samosas and pakoras; finally, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar – a vibrant, wholesome grand finale to a long, dry stomach-growling day.
The Ideal Ramzan
All these vignettes conjure up a hazy picture of what Ramzan is like for most of us. They aren’t misleading. After all, if the countless Ramzan TVCs are any indication of what this nation’s idea of Ramzan is, then it is a no brainer to assume that we can only think of this holy month as a family affair; or rather a communal affair.
Everything, from cooking, to worshipping to eating has to be done together to get those #Ramzanvibes right.
And so we see immaculate mothers emerging with pakora laden trays from a steamy kitchen; prodigious children outbidding one another to help the elderly (seriously, whatever happened to kids being kids in ads?); men prostrating in well-lit masjids with a digitally placed crescent moon studding the night sky. It’s all soothing. It is an idea of a faith coming alive – with people, community, ummah….
Re-Thinking The Holy Month
We all know COVID has changed the way we do many things in life. We spent last year’s Ramzan in a frenzied confusion. Many found new ways to observe it, thinking the lone iftars and solo Taraweeh prayers would be a one time thing. But what about now? With yet another lockdown on the horizon, where does a believer seek solace when his perception of a Ramzan spirit always had others in it?
For someone who has spent the last five Ramzans away from home and country, I know how crippling isolation can be at this time of the year. My #Ramzanplatter consisted of a sorry-looking bowl of Mac n Cheese, as I waited for the azaan that never rang. So whether you feel a literal isolation (observing Ramzan in foreign lands or away from home) or more visceral isolation (watching the distress unleashing on the daily news) whilst surrounded by loved ones, this one’s for you.
Historical Examples Of Isolation And What Can We Learn
Isolation and Ramzan, contrary to cultural perceptions, go hand in hand. Throughout history, people have been isolated for three different reasons.
1. Isolation from the enemy
2. Isolation from everyone
3. Isolation from the believers
We all know the childhood Islamic story of the cave men who slept for years and years hidden in a cave, away from the enemy. Well, that’s what we are kinda doing right now.
So, there is a reason why we needed this time. This Ramzan, we need to empty ourselves in order to take on the task ahead of us. When we are immersed in dunya we are made to forget the norm, which is worship of Allah. This type of isolation teaches us to be more introspective and reflect on our limitations. We are not the centre of everything, but we are to heed Allah and serve.
Isolation from fellow believers is most difficult. Lockdown has taught us that we have become used to outsourcing everything, including our spirituality. I know congregational Ibaadat – both obligatory and voluntary- has its own punch, but that should never be the only way to rekindle our imaan.
We have all the tools within ourselves to connect with Allah in ways both subliminal and more physical. Whether you are a Ramzan sprinter (racing to finish Quran five times or more) or a marathoner (forming atomic habits through the entire month – which I personally find more useful in the long term and to avoid post-Ramzan slump in imaan), isolation from believers provides a blank slate for us to forge new relationships with Allah and with our deen.
Allah said, ‘Every good deed of Adam’s son is for him except fasting; it is for Me. And I shall reward (the fasting person) for it.”Bukhari
Isolation And Sincerity
Now charity is just one click away and when you fast the whole month, controlling carnal desires, hidden away from creation, Allah sees who is left standing for His sake alone, after all, fasting is for Him only.
Let this emptiness be the impetus to build anew or strengthen our foundation of faith.
Ramzan, A Respite In Lockdown
Let this Ramzan, like last year – our first during a pandemic, be a breath of fresh air during a difficult time. The sharp contrast between the feelings of restrictions i.e. austerity (both financial and physical that we can see around us), heat (don’t even get me started on that), just the general mode of uncertainty alongside the fear that accompanies it, with the abundance of blessings that Ramzan brings should make this time of the year, all the more cherished.
If we are blessed with a single day of Ramzan, where we get to perform our daily prayers, or just make one dua to Allah, we know how Allah generously multiplies the deeds of believers during the month.
Everything is still up to play for, nothing is lost. If there was ever a Ramzan designed for us to attain God consciousness (Taqwa), this is it. How fortunate and blessed are we to see another Ramzan!
How can a believer not shed tears at the departure of Ramadan, when he doesn’t know whether he will be alive for its return or not?Ibn E Rajab
Maleeha is based in Lahore and pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She snacks on books, films, cookies and anything artistic under the Lahori hot sun. Her ultimate goal is to get a room of her own and a fixed annual income in her name (as per Virginia Wolf’s recommendation) to write forever, without falling prey to capitalist trappings. You can follow more of her ramblings on Instagram and twitter