In the Name of God, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Ramadan is fast approaching and it is a blessed time and month. A month for gathering meaningful moments that you will cherish forever and that will sustain you in times of trouble or hardship. For me, Ramadan conjures up all sorts of memories of innumerable friends and relations who made the days and nights all the more special.
I’ll never forget how Ammi (امی), my Pakistani sister-in-law’s mother, taught me how to quickly drink chai from a plate so that it was cool enough to finish before fasting started. Sitting side-by-side and slurping down chai together just before true dawn was a source of untold sustenance and satisfaction. “Eat suhoor,” the Prophet ﷺ said, “for in suhoor there is blessing.”
Even more precious though was praying Salat al-Tasbih (the prayer of glorification) with her. It was her wont to offer this recommended prayer every Ramadan, and I wasn’t really sure how to pray it or what to say. So she took me under her wing and led me in it that I might have the blessing of acting on the Hadith:
“If you can perform this prayer daily, do so. If not, then weekly. If not, then monthly. If not, then each year. If not, then at least once in your lifetime.”
My very first Ramadan found me at the shrine of Haji Malang with my husband Uday and his uncle’s family. For those unfamiliar with the shrine, it is situated at the top of a mountain in India. To reach the Sufi shrine we had to exit our car and trek up the mountain for more than an hour. It was unbelievably refreshing to make ablution (wudu) at the summit. I had never cherished water like that before or since. The Haji Malang Dargah is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims and Hindus alike, and the epitome of communal harmony. The Sufi saint came to India from the Middle East in the 12th century. He helped the local residents so much, most of whom were Hindus, that he is fondly remembered to this day by the entire community and well beyond the borders of Maharashtra.
My first attempt at fasting Ramadan as a new Muslim was a complete disaster in terms of the rules (or fiqh) of fasting, as I wasn’t really able to keep it that year. But, it did give me what the Sufis call taste (dhawq)—direct, first-hand experience—and became something I would improve upon and continue to observe year after year by His grace!
Without a doubt, one of the best parts of Ramadan is the time of fast-breaking with family and friends. At how many iftar parties have we experienced the unforgettable warmth, hospitality, generosity, and kinship of loved ones? Ramadan is the month of the Community and it is a month to extend those blessings to the whole of humanity.
It is a month of belonging, and it is a month of giving cues of belonging to our non-Muslim neighbors, friends, and relations to build bridges and create harmony. Examples of belonging cues include eye contact, forms of physical contact (e.g. handshakes, hugs, high-fives), humor and laughter, active listening, and attentive courtesies like saying thank you or even removing harm from the road. All of which may be evidenced from our Prophet’s Sunnah and beautiful character (may a multitude of blessings be upon him).
Allah says of him in the Quran: “It was by the mercy of God that thou [O Muhammad] wast gentle to them; hadst thou been harsh and hard of heart, they would have scattered from about thee. So pardon them, and pray forgiveness for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; and when thou art resolved, put thy trust in God; surely God loves those who put their trust” (3:159).
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ١٥٩
As we get closer to Ramadan be on the lookout for meaningful moments and see how, if, and when you can nurture and help those who are new to the religion as well as those who are curious about the religion. Even seasoned pros appreciate the company of a good friend, benefit from a kind word, a smiling face, a warm greeting, a helping hand, and heartfelt supplication. See if you can take someone under your wing as Ammi did for me, and guide them to a successful, spiritually productive, and eternally rewarding fast, Insha’Allah!
May we find a community of friends this Ramadan who will enable us to draw nearer to Allah, to experience the beauty, majesty, excellence, charity, forgiveness, mercy, and magic of the month, and the truth of His words: “O humankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most god-fearing of you. God is All-knowing, All-aware” (49:13).
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ١٣
From one needy of your dua,