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We don’t need a lot of time. What we need is the unity necessary to cut time short. See you’re powerless and that’s why it takes a lot of time. Because I’m over here doing my thing; you’re over there doing your thing. Somebody down the street doing their thing but our thing should be one thing and that is the liberation of our people totally. We can’t do that as long as we’re divided and envious of one another. We’re like little stupid children, like a dog around the foot of a master. He keeps kicking you away and you keep coming back for more. – Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan
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)
by Guest Blogger Melissa Muhammad
Originally published 11.4.08
Regardless or the outcome of this historical election, the Black community has made a tremendous jump today. We have united under one cause, one banner to bring something specific into fruition. The election of a Black man into the highest office in the United States of America.
Today we put aside our differences, our preferences, or shortcomings in order to support one Black man that has displayed the intelligence, the discipline and the grace that the nation can gather behind. Yet we are not quite clear as to whether or not this means we will benefit any more now than we have in the past. To say the very least, this is a remarkable and profound moment indicating the tremendous growth of consciousness of the Black community.
Sadly however, we did not come to this point solely of our own volition. In this instance, as in many of our remarkable victories in the past, it was done with the aid of sympathizing Caucasians, Latinos, Asians, etc. Others, particularly Caucasians, who are a bit more tolerable toward us than their parents were. Today is a day wherein we, Black men and women of America, can all hold our heads up high, yet in the back of our minds we must acknowledge that we still have yet to come to the conclusion that we must come together with out the prodding or presence of others outside of ourselves.
On a personal note, after I cast my ballot at my designated polling center. I felt the significance of this day. I got the opportunity to feel what my parents felt when they cast their ballots for the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. as he ran for president of the U.S. in 1984. That sense of, yes, pride; that sense that this was for me just as much as it was for my community and that it was indeed going to make a difference. As I was leaving the polling center I was pleased to greet my childhood friends coming in to vote and others I knew from my community. Yet, for all of the joyous emotion I felt as a Black woman casting my vote for a Black man to lead this country, there was notably something missing on this day, a connection. What was missing was the connection that Black people in Chicago felt when we walked to school after the election of Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago, the connection we felt after the Million Man March, the kind of connection we feel after a Black victory. It was missing.
I dare to say, that as a people we have come to the understanding, be it true or false, that we must unite to make specific things happen, such as a presidential campaign, even if it is not clear what we stand to gain by doing so. We honestly cannot say what this means for the Black community in terms of improving our condition; but we can say, once again, that we indeed have the ability to unite under a cause greater than ourselves.
Now the question is, what are we going to do with this understanding that our unity matters and whatâ€™s next?