I remember I was once asked by a psychotherapist, ‘why was I so excited and looking forward to Ramadan?’. A month of no-eating! I thought, hmm … how do I answer such a question? Do I go into the features and ruling of fasting in Islam? What clever, intellectual explanation do I give?
Then I decided on giving my personal reason, away from any fancy words and concepts.
My personal reason at the time was ‘connection’. Ramadan was a time when I felt more connected with myself and my soul. The times of Iftar when the whole family comes together to break their fast was time to connect with my family. The whole fasting and worship experience made me feel more connected to Allah.
While fasting the month of Ramadan is a pillar of Islam and has many cultural practices involved in it, it is a personal experience. You make of it what YOU make of it!
Here is where stories from the Quran can give us a glimpse of our person choice and attitude. They are gateways to change our attitude to open our hearts to the possibilities that Allah presents us through what we call life. Because life happens! An attitude change that could add so much to our lives and Ramadan is a fantastic time to practice it.
Let’s begin with Mariam, the daughter of Imran and mother of Prophet Issa (peace be upon him). Mariam was raised in a practising household. Her time was dedicated to worship and looking after the house of Allah.
The mother of another prophet, Prophet Musa (peace be upon him, came from another time and place. Despite her motherly love, or maybe because of it, she followed her intuition, the message sent to her, to throw her baby into the river.
This baby encountered another woman. A kind hearted one who saw goodness in this baby and wanted to look after him. Asia, the wife of Pharaoh. Asia was married to a tyrant who claimed lordship. She was tortured for believing but she was brave and patient.
From a wife of a king to a woman who was a Queen. Bilqis, Queen of Sheeba.
When prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him), a powerful king, sent her a message to submit she was wise to go and visit his kingdom to seek to forge an alliance rather than risk a losing war.
Four unique women in their own personality and circumstance. Yet, they were able to find the possibilities beyond the obvious.
Mariam was devoted to the service of Allah by her mother but she actually took that on herself and was honoured by Allah among the great women mentioned in the Quran. Then when a time for change came, the miracle birth of her son, she was amazed and bewildered. When she calmed down and understood that the this is the decree of Allah, she accepted the change with steadfastness. A woman with her position in society could’ve been fixated on the shame and insults but Mariam was able to see an alternative.
The Mother of Musa (peace be upon him) was open to an alternative beyond her imagination. Even for a woman from Banu-Israeil at that time with limited means she was still proactive. Rather than sit and wonder as to what will happen to her baby, she sent her daughter to follow him and her daughter, Musa’s sister, was a cause for bringing back mother and son together.
Asia, who came from a rich household, wanting for nothing was open hearted to accept the message Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) despite the trials she was going to endure for sure. She taught us that even in what we’d call her darkest time she made a choice. In her dua, she asked Allah for his nearness before asking for Jannah.
When Bilqis visited King Sulaiman (peace be upon him), she closely inspected his kingdom. She was resistant at the beginning. As she literally stepped across the strong evidence that this king was unlike others she was able to open her heart to his call to Allah. Her journey to Allah began by the desire to find an alternative to war. She chose the lives of her people over her ego as a queen.
I invite you to open your heart to new possibilities. Change is inevitable, so why not embrace it and grow through the experience!
Whatever your circumstances, background or past, know that you have the ability to choose moving forward.
Begin by choosing to intend the pleasure and nearness of Allah. It will connect whatever you do to your ultimate purpose of worshiping of Allah and allow you to reap rewards from your everyday actions not limited to your prayer, fasting, Quran recitation etc.
Banish negative things you say to yourself: ‘I must do …’, ‘I have no choice but to …’, ‘how could someone like me ever be or do …’. You would be just pushing yourself into a corner and will be unlikely to take wholehearted, excellent action. Instead ask yourself ‘What are the possibilities presented by this situation?’
‘What are the possibilities presented by this situation?’
From here you can expand your horizon and get a better view from which you can take the path that best suits who you are, what you are striving to achieve and how you want to serve others from the options that are still pleasing to Allah and in line with the teachings his Prophet (peace be upon him).
Be in the company of good supportive people and be a good supportive companion. As Mariam, Asia, Bilqis and the mother of Musa (peace be upon him) inspire us to unlock the wonderfulness inside us, you also can be a means to supporting another in your own way that meets that particular person’s or group’s needs with wisdom and sensitivity.
My wish this Ramadan is that in our experience of the blessed month of fasting and even after it has departed is to open our hearts and minds to the possibilities to perfecting our iman and actions.
My invitation to you …
Begin by choosing to intend the pleasure and nearness of Allah.
Banish negative things you say to yourself.
Be in the company of good supportive people and be a good supportive companion.
Go forth and take wholehearted, excellent action.