16 May SOLACE FOR THE SOUL
From April 24th, the crescent moon formed in the sky as indicated in the lunar calendar, telling us the time for Ramadan was upon us. Ramadan is referred to as the holy month, and while many people are aware of its significance to the Muslim community, they often overshadow its beauty and purpose. Students at Queen’s frequently lack understanding and knowledge when it comes to this sacred celebration. However, if we want to be an inclusive and informed campus, we need to start self-educating and expanding our knowledge.
Every year, Muslims celebrate Ramadan, which is when Muslims, if they are able, abstain from food and water (yes, even water) from sunrise to sundown. Breaking the fast is referred to as futoor, and eating before sunrise to start the fast is called suhoor. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. In Arabic, Fasting is Sawm, which means, time for rest. As you can probably tell, Ramadan is my favorite time of year. This experience may sound hard, and sometimes it really is, especially while working a nine to five job. However, knowing the sacredness of this month and anticipating the celebration of Eid which comes right after Ramadan really keeps me going. The fundamental purpose of fasting is to indulge in a humbling experience, where you can reflect on not only your privilege, but better ways to improve as a person. Personally, Ramadan grounds me and makes me feel more connected not only to my body, but to my faith, in all its beauty.
Fasting teaches us to strengthen our willpower and to take control of our desires in the most humbling way possible in abstaining powerful human urges. You may think of Ramadan as a month that cleanses one’s physical, mental, and spiritual state.
Ramadan is a time for healing, growth, and self-meditation. It is when we meditate to enhance our compassion and improve our practices, whether that be to sneak a small Quranic verse, or not miss any of the 5 prayers. It is a time when we give fully, willingly, and unconditionally to the less privileged. In other words, Ramadan reminds us of the boundless ways our humanity extends, and the limitedness behind true kindness, selflessness, thoughtfulness, and patience. During this time of year, my faith and sense of self increases in ways I never thought it could.
It is essential to understand that not every Muslim can fast during Ramadan, including elders, pregnant women, people on travel, people with chronic illnesses, poor mental health, and women on their period. In the time of Ramadan, people who are not able to fast commit themselves to give to charity in various ways, which in Arabic is referred to as Saddaqqa. Charity is an essential part of the fasting experience during Ramadan. By giving Saddaqqa, one’s awareness, kindness, and human self expands, enhancing one’s humbleness and generosity similar to fasting. This inclusiveness and compassion is the beauty of Islam that is often overshadowed. It considers people’s circumstances and ability. No one is forced to do anything that may harm their mind, body and spirit, for that defeats the purpose of Ramadan.
Many people have misconceptions regarding this time, such as when it starts, what it symbolizes, and why we choose to fast. What people may not understand is that fasting is not “torturous” or “unhealthy.” Once a fasting individual faces a physical or mental challenge out of their control, they can choose to break their fast without having to feel bad. When I was fourteen, I got the flu but continued to fast because I felt bad. The minute my family found out, they encouraged me to break my fast, for its purpose is not to harm you in any way. Harming one’s body by forcefully depriving oneself of food and water is not acceptable and defeats the reason behind Ramadan. As a proud self identifying Muslim, it is unfortunately and undoubtedly normal to have many Queen’s students assume I am oppressed and need “saving” from “starving” myself. However, I do not need anyone’s pity because I’ve not been “forced” to do this. In fact, Ramadan is a Muslim’s favorite time of year – it is solace for the soul.
The experience of fasting grounds you allowing you to understand the privilege of having food and a support system of people to share it with. We often forget how fortunate we are to have the simplest things. At this time of year, I am usually surrounded by family and sounds of the adan, which is the call of prayer from the mosques in my neighborhood in Amman, Jordan. This is the first Ramadan I have spent away from my family due to extenuating circumstances caused by COVID-19, and if I’m being honest, it has been hard, but extremely humbling. Every day I learn to feel more connected and be aware of how blessed I am to be in my surroundings with my friends.
For Muslims on Campus during Ramadan, I recommend reaching out to QUMSA to participate in their charity runs and occasionally, if safe, when they host futoor.
The Muslim community at Queen’s is quite diverse in the most profound ways possible, so I encourage asking questions whenever not only to extend your awareness, but to acknowledge the presence of diverse marginalized identities around you and find better ways to show your support.
May you have a blessed month.
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