By Fareeha Molvi
Amid social distancing measures and a panicky national atmosphere, Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, is underway. During a time that is usually marked by glittery festivities and a huge uptick in social occasions, observers across the world are abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours in isolation. As I’ve grown into a parent with two young children under five years old, the past few Ramadans have been bursting with iftar parties to break fast with friends, community activities, and dinners with extended family. Early on, my husband and I prioritized fostering a festive atmosphere to inspire love for the holy month in our children’s hearts.
Photo: ibnjaafar/Getty Images
Obviously, Ramadan under quarantine looks very different. Mosques are closed until further notice, and community now looks like a flurry of Zoom calls. Much to my dismay, this strange, isolated Ramadan might be my children’s earliest memory of the holiday. I mourn the precious moments they do not have with their grandparents this year. I mourn the carefree parties with their friends, lovingly festooned with Ramadan decor to make them feel proud of their faith. I mourn the joy that only celebrating in community can provide. How could we ever make up for these losses, I wondered.
As with anything related to parenting—or life, I suppose—what you expect is often not what happens. With the start of Ramadan behind us, I am surprised to report that the children have taken to the month with energy and vigour despite the absence of the usual celebratory events. Every day, as the sun sets, they run around excitedly as the fast comes to a close. They are the first to ask for dates, the fruit traditionally reserved for breaking fast, reveling in their sticky, toffee-like texture. They gleefully step into their makeshift mosque, fashioned from scrap cardboard, and perform the evening prayer with us. I should point out that we pray year-round and usually have to beg them to join us.
As it turns out, they’ve discovered the innate magic of Ramadan on their own, even without all the frills. A sparkle that I remember experiencing when I was a child myself. It manifested in the exhilaration of leaving my lunchbox at home as I conquered my first fasts in grade school. It was in the energy of my home’s atmosphere during the month, like a beloved guest had come to visit. Not surprisingly, around the time I entered the “adult” world, bogged down with deadlines, bills, and responsibilities, Ramadan began to lose some of that sheen.
Since this pandemic started, I’ve wished so many times to be a kid again, carefree and nowhere to be but home. Instead, I’m an adult who, while physically cut off from the world, is not immune to the tragic headlines, fears over the safety of loved ones, and the downward spiral of the economy. With no solace to be found even in a midday quarantine snack, I feared fasting in lockdown would feel even more heavy and solemn.
After celebrating Ramadan for 30 years, I’m approaching this month with fresh eyes and an appetite for discovery, just like my kids. To that end, nights that would have been dominated by a packed social calendar have been freed up for more internal reflection.
Instead, it’s been like cracking open a window in a stifled existence. The novel schedule of fasting—waking up early for sahoor, the predawn meal, skipping lunch, and eating a restorative dinner later than we usually would — has reinvigorated the repetitive rhythm of the days since shelter-in-place began. Like many, my husband and I used quarantine as license to tackle any and every project around the house. But now any productive urges evaporate by the afternoon. As I lay there on the coach, too groggy to even scroll through social media, I am content simply watching my children zoom their toy cars around me. I know they are happy, and I am still for once.
After celebrating Ramadan for 30 years, I’m approaching this month with fresh eyes and an appetite for discovery, just like my kids. To that end, nights that would have been dominated by a packed social calendar have been freed up for more internal reflection. Truthfully, this solitary aspect of Ramadan is one that often gets shoved aside in the hustle and bustle of festivities. Ramadan commemorates when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad while he was alone in a dark cave. Fasting is considered one of the highest forms of worship, because it’s not visibly apparent to others, a spiritual pact between you and God. Like sheltering in place, fasting disturbs your routine state of being to experience momentary discomfort in service of a greater purpose. This year, that purpose is to turn inward, recharge, and reflect.
What I’ve discovered is that for years I’ve been focused on the “doing” of Ramadan, dressing it up however I could, in the hopes of inspiring the holiday’s spirit in my children and maybe even more so in my jaded self. But it took this simple Ramadan of “being” to make me rediscover that it is a wondrous time of year in and of itself. I had forgotten, and in a striking plot twist, my children were the ones to teach me. Although I am anxious to get back to the Ramadan of old, because nothing will ever replace the physical embrace of my loved ones, laughing with friends in their home, and the warmth of community, I realized I never needed to worry about keeping the Ramadan spirit “alive”—it was always there. I just had to sit still long enough to catch it.
Original Headline: Ramadan Is More Beautiful Than Ever
Source: The Zora Medium