My Ideal Ramadan
“Two minutes left,” we hear, and right hands fly in the air, lifting the last of the day’s liquid to the lips. The gulping of water down throats becomes a familiar sound.
Time. It is 4:03am. I stand up, and hear another familiar sound: swoosh, a river makes waves in my stomach.
I brush my teeth, make ablution, dress in a cloak that covers from head to toe, spread a prayer rug across the floor, and with an intention, a word, and a gesture, I enter my first most important conversation of the day—a dialogue with God:
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. [All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds – Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path – The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” Quran, 1.
The sun begins to shine through the windows, and still in my PJs, I realize that a nap would be delicious. I shed the prayer cloak and fall right into good dreams. The post-Fajr sleep is so sweet that if school permitted, I would slumber a night’s worth away. But I have a long list of numbers to analyze and papers to write, so I set two alarms and pray, “Dear God. Please protect me from my lazy self.”
Two hours later the alarm rings. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. Sometimes I battle with the bird recordings. I want to press snooze, and I must fight the urge. Get out of bed, Sarah. Wash. Dress. Leave. On the bus en route to school, I orient myself and imagine finishing a day’s list.
It is 8:30am. I check the computer’s progress from the day before and then set it to work harder for me today. Time is running out, I lecture myself and the machine in one. Sometimes, the analyses set into motion with my first attempt. Most of the time, it takes until Dhur to work. In either case, when Dhur comes, I am grateful for her arrival. I step away from the computer and put on hold every task from the half-baked to the burning. I have something much more important: my second meeting of the day with the Divine.
I emerge refreshed. It is 1:30pm. Half of the day has passed. At this point, I should have created a product in mind. With the goal of completing before Asr, I execute it on paper. That is the life of a PhD student: thinking and doing with the former in greater abundance.
AllahuAkbar. AllahuAkbar. God is the Greatest. God is the Greatest. Asr time. Prayer always comes at the perfect time. I press pause on the thinking and the doing of the PhD, and go to meet God. It is 5:10pm, and this is the last prayer between me and food. I start to remember that it is almost time to eat and the thought of food makes me hungry. I remind myself why I am fasting. My need for God is greater than my need for food. My love for God is greater than my love for anything else. I feel blessed to be alive for Ramadan, and take this elation to my meeting with God. When the prayer ends, I yearn to stay longer in His Glory. I say some praises of His name and open His book.
It is 6:00pm. I am still in my office. I put the PhD hat back on for one more hour of production. On a high achieving day, this last hour flies like minutes.
It is 7:00pm. Time to run. I wrap up work for the day, mark where to pick up tomorrow, and change into running clothes.
During these evening miles, I reflect—sometimes targeted and sometimes untargeted, until my legs move mechanically to the thoughts of nothing at all.
Four – six miles later it is 8:00pm. I shower, change, and hustle to iftar.
“AllahuAkbar, AllahuAkbar,” a brother makes the call to prayer, and everyone knows it is time. 8:40pm. I break my fast with a date and everyday it tastes like the best thing in the world. The juicy flesh is unparalleled in its ability to delight and satisfy in one. The first cup of water complements the date, and stands also, as the best thing in the world. The clear liquid is unmatched in its ability to nourish and hydrate.
In this iftar bliss, I join my brothers and sisters in faith for Maghrib. After the fourth meeting with God, we feast. This year, I will try my best to remember the 1/3rd rule. The feast is about community more than it is about food. I see friends that I have not seen since last Ramadan. I make new friends instantly. The intensity of the month means that anyone else who shares it with you is a potential friend. We talk about how good the food tastes. After a day of fasting, food always tastes good.
It is 9:50pm. In 20 minutes, time for the final meeting with God will commence. I re-locate to the prayer hall, and partake in the last of the five daily prayers, Isha, and the start of the special night prayers, Taraweeh.
I catch the 11:30 pm bus home. By 12:00am, I am in bed, as I have set my fake birds to chirp prior to dawn. Before suhoor, I aim to spend an hour with God. I want to be like those who God described in the chapter of the Holy Quran called “The Prostration:”
Their limbs leave their beds of sleep, during that time they invoke their Lord with fear and hope: And from what We have provided them, they spend [in charity].” (32:16)
In such nights, there is a sweetness that overcomes fatigue. There is a tranquility that makes the body tremble and the soul whole. There is a peace that is everlasting—a reason that I am alive, a reminder of my upcoming death, and a promise of what is next.
Striving for God-consciousness, in between sets of prayer, I sip on water. The clock strikes 3:50am. It is suhoor time. I start the way that I end—with the fruit of palm trees and the liquid of life.
This is my ideal Ramadan. The reality will be punctured with bouts of laziness and perpetual shortcomings. While, I keep on trying, I will be reminded everyday that time is finite. Every minute matters. In the face of eternity, I have two minutes left.