The Ramadan Race
Sometimes Ramadan feels like one big race: the races of the morning: to finish eating prior to dawn, to nap before work, to get to work on time; the races with sunset deadlines: to prepare food, to run and shower, to slaughter a watermelon; the races of the evening: to finish eating before night time prayers begin; to cleanup dinner; to get to the masjid on time; the races at night: to brush teeth; to respond to everyone I couldn’t answer during the day; to turn off all screens and sleep; and the races of the month: to schedule every minute with goodness; to arrive at back-to-back commitments promptly; and to read God’s word from cover to cover. Racing every minute from dawn to sunset and back makes the month sometimes feel like a multi-day ultra-marathon.
In this mad rush to reach each aid station of the day, the point of the month gets lost. The point is not to eat and drink after sunset. The point is not to feel hungry and thirsty during the day. The point is not to dream about watermelon. The point is not to plan the most optimal meals for hydration and satiation. The point is not to be present at every feast. The point is not to run everyday. The point is not to schedule without meaning. The point is not to complete the Quran for the sake of completion.
The point of Ramadan is far greater than food or the absence of food. The point transcends the mechanics of any action.
God explains the point of Ramadan in the Holy Qur’an:
[2:183] O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation.
[2:184] Specific days (are designated for fasting); if one is ill or traveling, an equal number of other days may be substituted. Those who can fast, but with great difficulty, may substitute feeding one poor person for each day of breaking the fast. If one volunteers (more righteous works), it is better. But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew.
[2:185] Ramadan is the month during which the Qur’an was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. God wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify God for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.
[2:186] When My servants ask you about Me, I am always near. I answer their prayers when they pray to Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me, in order to be guided.”
At this halfway point in the month, as we watch the moon wane, sliver by sliver, I yearn to grasp the point of Ramadan: to understand the Qur’an, to implement its guidance, to glorify God, to express appreciation, and to seek salvation. To attain these goals, I ought to reduce all that distracts: to forget about food and embrace simplicity; to leave dinner parties with time for solitude; to enjoy each moment rather than to race from one to the next; and to live un-plugged more often than plugged. Before I know it, the moon will disappear entirely, marking the end of Ramadan, and ushering in a brand new month, which I hope to greet with an improved self.