Every time Ramadan comes around a few Believers and I discuss ways to “bottle up” 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, it’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 ’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 pass the time and got behind on my Qur’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 wasn’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 smelling crunching peppermints on my breath when I came home one weekend from school. He asked, “You fasting?” I said, “Of course.” He said, “No you’re not, eating peppermints.” He laughed when I told him it’s not real food and then he told me it’s activating the digestive system. He went on to guide me and encourage me to finish Ramadan stronger than when I started.
By the Grace of Allah (God) I did.
Since then I have come to realize that Ramadan is sooooo much bigger than the absence of food and drink throughout the day. It’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 back a bit 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 Qur’an, 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.
What’s halting us from doing this every day? Is it possible to experience the spirit of Ramadan every month?
Not that we have to abstain from food, drink and sexual relations throughout the day every single month but the discipline of putting things in check can be practiced daily.
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 Qur’an and hearing the recitation. I love breaking fast with family, fellow Believers and friends. 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 in solidarity. We’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 “bottle up” this Ramadan spirit and develop into a better Muslim.
If I can’t be this same ‘Brother Jesse’ 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, I’m looking at the man in mirror. I am in love with the possibilities of being a better me.
I know you are too.
PS: I haven’t had a peppermint fast since ’97. (smile)