Ramadan is the 9th
month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast for the entire month. I've been a Muslim revert for more than 2 years and this is my fourth year of fasting. And while Muslims all over the world are blessed to experience Ramadan for yet another year, every year is a small accomplishment for reverts as we learn even more meaningful lessons.
So, after welcoming this holy month for the third time as a Muslim, here's what I've learnt during Ramadan so far:
1. Spiritual Fulfillment
After a few years of fasting, the biggest challenge for me is not the physical limitations anymore but more of a spiritual struggle. That's because you can get used to not eating and drinking after a while but increasing your faith and spirituality is a constant and uphill battle.
2. Struggle and Patience
After being in the Muslim community for a few years now, I've learnt that Ramadan is truly the time when Muslims practise struggle and patience. I see it embodied in street vendors - it's very challenging to face food every day but somehow they are so patient with it ?
During Ramadan, we're also tested by Allah, and sometimes it seems like the problems we have are bigger than they actually are. Many don’t realize how challenging it is to run HHWT. There are days when I feel like anything is possible and there are days where I feel so discouraged from the number of problems we have to solve – made worse by an empty stomach ?
But through it all, I find comfort in this ayat from the Quran:
I pray that we understand that whatever bad things happened because Allah allowed it. And no calamity will strike unless decided by Him. For He is the best of planners.
This year is significant, because it's the first time me and my wife, Suzana, are (finally!) spending Ramadan in our new home ☺️ Having our own home is of course, a milestone for us, but it's also taught me a lot about independence and responsibility, and that's especially true during a time like Ramadan.
Every little thing requires some discipline - from waking up for suhoor to preparing our own meals for iftar.
4. It's still easier with the right intentions
My non-Muslim friends find it amazing that we are able to go without water and food for vast stretches of time. My simple answer to that is intention
. It’s so much easier when you understand why you’re fasting.
My first attempt at fasting happened 4 years ago. Needless to say it was a miserable attempt, even though it was a half day fast. My tummy was screaming to be fed at 11.30am. I didn’t fare better in my second year, having to break my fast because I fell sick in the middle of the month.
"O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous" - Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183
It got a lot easier last year after I understood the reason why we must fast ? Apart from being one of the five pillars of Islam, engaging in fasting reminds us of how blessed we are to be able to afford food and water, amongst other things.
5. I am Chinese but I am also a Muslim
Strangely, I get this quite often from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The most common response I get after revealing that I’m a Muslim is “Huh you Malay ah?”. It’s sad that there is a tendency to associate Islam with race in this part of the world.
"And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge." - Surah Ar-Rum 30:22
"Indeed, We have sent down for you (O mankind) a Book, (the Quran) in which there is Dhikrukum, (your Reminder or an honour for you i.e. honour for the one who follows the teaching of the Quran and acts on its orders). Will you not then understand?" - Surah Al-Anbiya 21:10
The message is for all of humanity. While Muslims are one brotherhood, we belong to the larger brotherhood of humanity and our differences are a sign from God. Today, we see people from all over the world embracing Islam, regardless of race, nationality or status. That is the beauty of Islam.
6. Stay close to friends and family
I remember my first 2 Ramadans. I was fasting in secrecy for fear that my family and friends would find out. It was difficult and a very lonely period of time. I’m grateful that my Dad respected my decision to embrace Islam earlier last year. It has been a challenging journey back to faith.
Now that my Dad understands why I’m fasting, it’s really nice to be able to have Iftar with my dad and also with my new found brothers of faith.
7. Spread the message of peace
I’m sure many of you have seen the death and destruction happening across the world in the recent weeks ?. On the other side of the globe, world leaders are trying to figure out whether they should still be inviting towards Muslims.
It’s easy to close our hearts and lament the fact that Islam has gotten the bad rep in the recent years. But what you don’t realize is that we can help change public opinion about Islam and Muslims if we all try to spread the message of love and peace.
You can do this by being a good, father, mother, colleague, son, daughter and friend. You can do this by showing compassion, kindness and understanding towards non-Muslims. We all have a responsibility and capacity to fix the current situation. If only we are willing to try.
I hope your Ramadan was as rewarding of an experience as mine. I'm looking forward to being able to continuously grow and learn in time to come, insyaAllah.
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