By Rahat Uddin – a first year Natural Scientist
When it came to the time for applying to different Universities in Sixth Form, my mum said that she didn’t want me to move out. Because of this, I didn’t tell her I was planning to apply to Cambridge. It came as a relief that she immediately changed her mind about moving out when I told her I got in, but one aspect of moving out that neither of us had considered was Ramadan away from home.
I remember looking at the term dates around the end of Michaelmas Term and realising to my horror that Ramadan could start on the first day of Easter Term. I was dreading waking up for Suhoor by myself, breaking my fast by myself, going about my normal Cambridge routine while fasting and revising for exams. Me and my mum had already started to plan how she would still make food for me which I could just keep frozen which would help to save the time I would’ve had to spend making food. However, over the course of Lent Term, I came to realise that Ramadan in Cambridge wouldn’t actually be spent by myself as I had initially worried. Over the course of the academic year I had made so many strong friendships throughout the ISoc and I genuinely could not wait to spend Ramadan with everyone.
I had heard from many second and third years about the Prayer Room iftars, the Taraweeh prayers that are held every night and the amazing Eid Party at the end to top it all off, but unfortunately all of that was taken away from us before we could even realise. For most of us, Ramadan is a very family-oriented time with both Iftar and Suhoor spent together. I was really looking forward to spending those times with my friends instead (not that I disliked spending them with my family), some of whom I’ve known since secondary school and I very much consider family too.
Too often we forget that however many plans we make for ourselves, ultimately Allah has a bigger plan for us, as we are oft reminded in the Quran; ‘Indeed Allah is powerful over all things’. There is a plethora of verses, ahadith and gems of wisdom from our pious predecessors that could be applicable to these bizarre times we’re currently in but two come to mind, the first of which is:
وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكْرَهُوا۟ شَيْـًٔا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْۖ وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تُحِبُّوا۟ شَيْـًٔا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. (2:216)
Many of us have undoubtedly heard of this verse but due to how well known it is, we often don’t give it a second thought when we see it. It’s similar to when our parents, to our dismay, didn’t let us do something when we were younger, and we didn’t understand why. But now in our early adulthood when reflecting upon such incidents we see the wisdom behind it and we cannot help but increase in our love for our parents. We should feel the same way with our Lord because there is certainly wisdom behind Ramadan in Cambridge being taken away from us and we should trust in him for Allah loves those who place their trust in him. The second thing which came to mind was the statement of Imam Ash-Shafi’i رَحِمَهُ ٱللّٰهُ :
“If you knew how Allah deals with your affairs for you, your heart would melt out of love for him.”
Admittedly this does sound a bit cheesy, but the English language cannot fully encapsulate the poetic nature of Arabic linguistics. Upon deeper reflection of this statement we realise that we cannot even begin to comprehend the entire complexity of Allah’s plans for us and all we can do is place our trust in him completely.
There is a deeper purpose behind us being in lockdown during Ramadan at home. We will have more time to ourselves, away from the community vibes of Taraweeh and having big iftars with our extended family. We should use this newfound extra time to focus on ourselves and our own spirituality. The true purpose of fasting is forgotten by many, it is regularly confused to be in order to gain a sense of empathy for those who are less fortunate than us. While it is true that we may gain some feeling of empathy through fasting, Allah tells us the true reason in Surah Al-Baqarah:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. (2:183)
I underline the latter part of the verse because we should hone in on it for the true purpose. For 11 months of the year we gorge ourselves with food without a second thought but for this single month Allah tells us to withhold the luxury of food from ourselves so that we may feed our souls, because we starve them of the spiritual nourishment which they direly need.
So we should use this extra time in isolation away from everyone else to really make a resolute pledge to feed our souls and grow closer to our single lord, Allah.