Ramadan is different this year, as is the blessing "Ramadan Mubarak" (literally a blessed Ramadan).
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sexual intimacy from dawn until dusk. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar-based, Ramadan this year falls in late summer when the sun sets around 8 p.m. Please do not pity us, because when it is time to break our fast, we celebrate like kings. We drop what we are doing and rush like madmen towards the dinner table. And “dinner” is an understatement. It is an epic feast of the finest and tastiest dishes. We devour special Ramadan desserts as families gather to break fast with one another. Almost each night of the month, we find ourselves invited to a friend’s or family member’s house to share this very special meal. It begins with a dried date, according to the tradition of the Prophet Muhammed, and almost always ends with a group of very satisfied, and sometimes drowsy, worshippers.
Food is not the focal point of Ramadan; there is so much more to this month. It is about attempting to feel and understand those who go hungry on a daily basis. Through Ramadan, we perceive a vision of a unified human experience in which we can attempt to understand starvation and food crises around the world, like Somalia, and thus work towards alleviating them. Fasting grounds us. It reminds us of all the blessings we take for granted, especially when Ramadan falls during the hot and long summer days.
It is a time of spiritual purification. A time when a Muslim will use his or her lunch break to pray and read the Koran rather than eat. Some will give up television or music during this month to focus on becoming more devout. After iftar, the breaking of the fast meal at sundown, we go to the mosque for additional prayers. Some remain there long after everyone has left, kneeling and prostrating into the next day of fasting.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is an obligation for each healthy Muslim and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a time when we learn empathy and mercy. We strive to become more patient and considerate. It is the chance to reflect on one’s relationship with God, family, friends, and humanity.
So how do we spend this month? Just like we do any other month, but we only factor in less food, more prayer, and sweet memories to look back upon. So even though we will not be wishing a blessed Ramadan with, “Ramadan Mubarak” anymore, it will continue to be a blessed time for Muslims across the Middle East and beyond.
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