It’s the holy month as many people refer to it. Ramadan.
A month of discipline, fasting, self-reflection, and faith.
A month of love, family, and traditions.
A month of no food and lots of food.
A month celebrated by Muslims, something I wondered if I truly still identify with deep down.
I woke up on the first day of this month, wondering if I would like to fast. Abstaining from food was one of the core practices of Ramadan, the other being praying and reading in the holy book, talking to God and all what comes along from positive values such as practicing humbleness, empathy, respect, introspection, abstaining from lavishness and all of that.
Ramadan to me had changing meaning throughout the years.
As a child, I was raised in a religious family. We were taught to pray and fast. And so I did, however as a young teenager I started questioning the patterns that my religion requested. One of those was praying multiple times while reciting pre-defined verses from a book. Every time I would do that, I would feel ingenuine. My mind would wander, I would stumble across the words, making mistakes which only meant I had to do it again. It became, simply, odd. I knew deep in my heart that talking to God should not be so complicated. We should be able to have open and candid conversations. If the almighty was indeed so merciful, caring and loving, why did [he] impose rules on how we should [obey him]?
So I stopped praying the way I was taught to, and I engaged in more personal prayers countless times of the day. Thanking God for food, for my education, for the roof over my head, for the way I was raised, the love I experience, and all the many beautiful aspects of my life. I even thanked him for [making me] a humble person in a way, never out loud, not even to myself. I think I’m actually acknowledging this last thing for the first time, maybe. Of course, I knew my parents were not so happy with me not practicing prayers. But I still fasted during Ramadan, and that made them happy. It also made me happy, most of the time.
As I got older and exposed to all the realms outside my religion, I felt more at ease to make decisions. I knew I had solid answers when asked why do I no longer pray the way we, muslims, are supposed to. I would even laugh at the times when friends would address me with words like “You cannot fast without praying, it doesn’t count you silly fool.” I was entertained by the interpretations and rules humans have appropriated actions with, basing them on their knowledge of the almighty. To me, it was simple. If indeed my actions towards God — which I believe are innately good and pure — are going to lead me to suffer in the afterlife, then it’s a shame this is how life indeed is. This, essentially, lead to another series of weird looks, dismay and some sort of disappointment.
I was gradually starting to change my behavior every Ramadan. Not fasting on the days where I feel disconnected.
And it just took on from there. I had moved countries, distancing myself from the beautiful “vibe” that Beirut and its surrounding areas would dress up into. After all, Ramadan was a cultural activity too. A time to celebrate. Having left the country, I tended to engage in more contemplation on all these practices. And wondered how everyone else thought and felt about it. Was everyone doing it because it was what everyone else was doing? Did they also have questions while they practice? Did they do it because “it’s nice” or for health reasons? Was it about practicing discipline and patience? Here I was today, having to address these questions to myself again.
I woke up on the first day of this month, wondering if I would like to fast. And I could not find the answer.
This particular day, I woke up with no hunger in my stomach. No desire to eat. No fear of my hanger.
I wondered if it’s a sign. Or just science.
If I miss fasting because I miss home.
If I miss home because my mom is sick.
If I miss fasting because my dad fasts.
And if that would bring me closer to him right now.
I had recently been practicing mindfulness and non-violent communication, two disciplines that have helped me find more peace within me. And this peace makes me feel more grateful. More united with the greater energy in the world. The energy that I tend to refer to as God.
Today, Ramadan feels exceptionally personal. And it possibly always was.
Perhaps my hometown loved to celebrate because we were just like that.
Perhaps it never really mattered how you practice.
Perhaps the notion of having a full month dedicated for one thing was strange in itself.
I sat down to write about it this morning, hoping to find some answers in my words. I am yet to make a solid conclusion, but this helps. It always did.