By Merna Daabis – first-year studying HSPS

Ramadan is here!!

The holy month of Ramadan is finally upon us – much awaited with a mixture of excitement and perhaps a little anxiety. Hopefully this will help ease your mind a little and encourage you to embrace and enjoy every minute of this month.

For anyone who may be reading and not know what Ramadan is, it is a month in which we not only abstain from food but where we also strive to cleanse our bodies from toxic feelings and refresh ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically. It is a chance to connect with ourselves, our souls, our identities; it is a chance to connect with God and liberate ourselves from whatever ails us by channelling our feelings into prayer, sadaqat and fasting; it is a chance to connect with others – both in the sense of a community and the love and togetherness that we know is characteristic of Ramadan, but also with those not so literally close to us.

To explain this final point I need to draw a distinction between sympathy and empathy, which really helps to locate the essence of Ramadan. Sympathy is about feeling compassion and pity for others, empathy is about placing yourself in their shoes. Whilst Ramadan is an amalgam of both qualities, empathy is something that strikes me as very unique in how it is discovered, performed and internalised in Ramadan. We can all agree to the fact that we live privileged lives (alhamdulillah). We all have food, clean water and shelter; we have a fantastic education and inshAllah a bright and prosperous futures beckons as we seek to learn and spread knowledge (as Islam teaches us). As we move up we simultaneously move away from those who are poor and struggling. They feel and are literally distant, and that chasm between us grows and grows. We as humans are forgetful – we forget that there are people without water, food, shelter, medicine, family. What we need is a stimulus to remind us of our humanity and responsibility towards others. Whilst giving charity is extremely valuable, Ramadan is in many respects this stimulus. But it is also something else; something immaterial. We are giving and sharing feelings. For anyone who has ever said or felt that Islam is a violent religion, I ask you this – if we care so much about other people’s feelings, will we not care about their lives? For anyone who has ever said or felt that Islam is not a religion of equality, I ask you this – when we all observe Ramadan the same way (rich, poor, old, young, male, female etc.) and we all strive to make ourselves equal with those who are less than us so that we know their pain and never forget it, where is the lack of equality and love?

We forget to be grateful and we go through our lives over-indulging but never feeling fulfilled. SubhanAllah it is when we lack something – the absence of something we value – that grounds us back in reality and reminds us how privileged we truly are. Ramadan is truly restorative – for the mind, body and soul.

Is it difficult? Of course! But nothing in life is or should be easy. And if it is difficult for us – when we know that at the end of the day we will be having a warm meal; we know the exact minute that we will start and break our fast and we know that it is only one month – then what is it like for those who don’t know where their next meal is? Ramadan is one of the most humbling human experiences. May Allah accept our fasting, prayers and deeds and multiply them for us. Ameen!