Ramadan s a time of family and contentment, it reminds me of my initial resistance and subsequent joy.
I was five and it was the middle of a scorching Sydney summer when I first realised Ramadan was a thing. My cousins and I had returned from our weekly Arabic class and as we spoke enthusiastically of the things we’d learned that day, we were being stuffed with post-school snacks including jelly cups and ice-blocks.
Our family were observing the obligatory fast and my older cousin was trying to convince her younger brother and I to begin ‘practicing’ for a few hours each day, so that when we were older, we too could fast the whole day.
Nothing about her proposition sounded especially appealing, and so we continued to devour our raspberry flavoured ice-blocks.
I imagine that soon enough she grew tired and probably a little bit hungry at the sight of two children indulging in dripping, sweet, icy goodness, and she tried once more to convince us that after polishing off an entire packet of Mint Slice and multiple glasses of cold milk, we should fast until Iftar (the breaking of fast, which is observed at sunset). Somehow- and to be honest I’m not really sure how- we agreed. My guess is we were pretty full anyway.
By my calculation we probably fasted a whole three hours. The time during which was spent reenacting scenes from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At the time of iftar my cousin asked us if we’d fasted post our mini-Mint Slice coma. When we said yes - mostly because in our quest to save April from Shredder we’d forgotten to eat - the family was pretty darn pleased, responding with variations of ‘MashaAllah (Praise Allah), you fasted all afternoon.’
We were then each rewarded with hot chips, a small sum of money and plenty of smiles. Satisfied with our earnings for the day we repeated our exploit again the following Saturday. And so our practice began.
Till this day Ramadan embodies a great deal of what that initial experience marked, without the financial incentive. It is a time of family and contentment, it reminds me of my initial resistance and subsequent joy. But more than that, Ramadan is the time of year where I ground myself, reevaluate my priorities and reorient my goals. Goals now more complex than the successful reenactment of a cartoon rescue mission.
Ramadan is when I take the time to ask myself what I want from my life and how I might attain it. And each Saturday night at our weekly (extended) family iftar I witness the next generations’ struggle with fasting and achievement at the end of the day with a sense of nostalgia wondering if Ben 10, will ever be as cool as Ninja Turtles (no chance).
Ramadan is a month where I look deep inside me for all the goodness and love I can find and aim to reflect it back onto the universe, difficult as it may be. And believe me sometimes it’s very difficult.
I still struggle with the thought of not eating from sunrise to sunset each day for a month - mostly because I’m a grazer who eats small meals with perfect regularity and grazing from 5pm-11pm each night isn’t quite the same - yet, each year when Ramadan comes I feel an amazing sense of relief at the realisation that through abstaining from basic acts of eating and drinking one can become more aware of every moment in their day, every act they perform and every word they utter. To take away those things we engage in without much thought fills us with a spiritual vibrancy that turns the often mundane reality of living into an appreciation for being.