(Originally Posted on August 15, 2010)
Every time Ramadan comes around a few Believers and I discuss ways to â€œbottle upâ€ this spirit we feel over these 30 days and carry it over into the other 11 months on the calendar.
To someone who is observing Ramadan for the first time, itâ€™s easy to get caught up on not eating and drinking. Your stomach seems to be growling every second and your mouth is as dry as the Arabian Desert.
Believe me, I know the feeling.
My first Ramadan was in â€™97 when I was a freshman at Prairie View A&M University. I was so focused on not being able to eat or drink that I would sleep in between classes to â€œpass the timeâ€ and got behind on my Qurâ€™anic readings on the second day because Surah 2 seemed so long. I told myself I would catch up. I did not.
I even started nibbling on peppermints because I figured that wasnâ€™t actually food. As you can see, I was all messed up. I was thankful to my older brother, who is a Muslim also, for guiding me and encouraging me to finish it stronger than when I started.
By the Grace of Allah (God) I did.
Since then I have come to realize that Ramadan is so much bigger than the absence of food and drink throughout the day. Itâ€™s about deep reflection and channeling that same sense of joy, unity, love, high spirituality, compassion and self-discipline towards the rest of the year.
During Ramadan we put a halt to many things such as cursing, arguing, lying, gossiping, complaining and even step away from personal addictions such as TV, the Internet, sugar or video games. Even the grumpiest of us become all of a sudden pleasant. Many clear the dust off of their Qurâ€™ans that was placed at the highest point in their homes to start reading it. We take the time to pray more than ever. The list goes on.
Whatâ€™s halting us from doing this every day? Is it possible to experience Ramadan every month?
When I converted to Islam, I was taught that it is not a religion but it is actually a way of life. Therefore, like all religions, we have rituals but those rituals are seeded with meanings that guide us towards a higher reflection of that which we say we believe in.
Thus the same laser focus we put into these 30 days can be done year round. I love taking this time to reflect on how I need to be more dutiful to Allah (God) and His Cause. I love reading the beautiful words of the Qurâ€™an and hearing the recitation. I love waking up to join Muslims every morning on the Tsunami Prayer Line. I love breaking fast with family, fellow Believers and friends at my home and theirs. I smile brightly every time I get a text message from my Christian friends and family who had just completed one of the days of fasting with us. Weâ€™re all in a spirit of love!
I reflect on how much better I can serve my family and community. My fervent prayer is that I can â€œbottle upâ€ this Ramadan and develop into a better Muslim.
If I canâ€™t be this same â€œBrother Jesseâ€ beyond this holy month and become a stronger Muslim because of it, then what is my motive?
Self-improvement is the key, so as the late musical legend Michael Jackson said, â€œIâ€™m looking at the man in mirror.â€ I am in love with the possibilities of being a better me.
I know you are too.
PS: I havenâ€™t had a â€œpeppermint fastâ€ since â€™97.(smile)