As the lights dim on the holy month of Ramadan, many will reflect on how quickly it has come and gone. And some may ponder over those resolutions made before the month started and how successfully they had adhered to them.
There are those for whom this Ramadan has been an awakening, a different Ramadan from past months of fasting. Um Ibrahim reflects on how this month has changed her not just in the spiritual sense, but also in the application of all that is good about Ramadan. She narrates about how previous Ramadans were essentially confined to ensure the family was well fed, had clean clothes to wear, and her younger children followed prayer duties.
This Ramadan was indeed different. Living in the flat just across hers was a recently widowed lady who had lost her husband and only son in an auto accident. There had not been many visitors and not much obvious support by the few relatives of the widow.
Leaving her husband to tend to the older kids during the breaking of the fast, Um Ibrahim and her younger children took to visiting her neighbour along with plates bearing food. They would spend time together afterward in prayers and talking about the heavenly gates that awaited the widow’s husband and young son. The widow became a welcome member of their household, and Um Ibrahim believes she has helped in reducing some of the grief in her neighbour.
Staying till dawn on most nights
Omar, a civil servant in one of the utility companies declares that indeed this Ramadan was different for him. “Every year during this month, I fast and end up staying till dawn on most nights. As a result, I find it very difficult to show up to work on time. This year after reading on social media the misery people who were fasting were being subjected to at public service sectors, I asked myself if my tardiness wasn’t also in some way contributing to the pain of others.”
“How many people suffer if I did not show up on time and process their paperwork? And so, I changed. I disciplined myself to be the first one at the office, and to process the requests of customers as quickly as I could, leaving the customer with a look of unexpected gratitude. That is my reward and I wow that I shall maintain such a practice every year. This is how Ramadan should be to all.”
Sarah relates how “it has been the family tradition that every Ramadan we renovate our house. Furniture has to be upholstered, walls have to be painted, and new additions have to be ordered. Why? It’s just been that way I guess, as I have large groups of relatives who visit during Eid and I wanted my home to be a showpiece. My husband was not very enthusiastic this past month about my plans. After I got to the bottom of his lack of interest, I realised that he had lost a bundle on some bad investment, and what little he had left to spend he felt should be spent in a meaningful way.”
“And so we decided that the money would be better spent helping others. I arranged with a charitable organisation to visit an orphanage, and after noting the number and ages of the little children, my husband and I enthusiastically went shopping for new Eid clothes for them. And you know what? We will be there on Eid day distributing Eid presents to them as well. The joy on their faces will by far overshadow any joy when relatives would ooh and aah on my renovations.”
Maintaining family ties
Yousuf, an affluent businessman, did indeed make an effort to make this Ramadan a different one. “Ramadan is not simply about fasting and offering prayers. There is a lot more to the spirituality of this month. And one of them is to maintain family ties. In the past, I would only bother to acknowledge my extended family during weddings and funerals.”
“But this year I pledged to visit each and every one of them during the month. It was not an easy task as I have well over three hundred relatives. Foregoing the usual practice of networking with business associates or watching TV all night, I would take my wife and children with me daily to pay a social call to relatives near and distant. It touched me deeply to notice the expressions of surprise and joy, as we were welcomed into homes we had not bothered to enter in a long time. And I would make a mental note of those relatives who appeared to need some financial help. It is indeed so much nobler to give than to receive, and I will continue this tradition in years to come, Inshallah.”
Ramadan does affect each one of us in a special way. It is not just all about us. For these four people, this Ramadan has indeed been a different, and very gratifying one.
— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena