As soon as the sun went down last night, Ramadan began. Ramadan, one of the Islamic months, is a month of fasting, in which one fasts from dawn to dusk each day. This means no food, no water, no smoking, and no sex from when the sun comes up to when the sun goes down.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, meaning it is one of the basic and mandatory acts that one must follow in Islam. It’s obligatory for adults, but not for those who are ill, traveling, elderly, pregnant, or menstruating. In Arabic, it’s called Sawm. These five pillars are for the Sunni sect of Islam, the sect of which I’m a part of; there are other pillars for other sects, and I think this Wikipedia article does a good job explaining the pillars.
In this month, the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam, like Christianity has the Bible, and Judaism has the Torah) was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad, the one who brought Islam to the world. Fasting is not only to celebrate that Islam was brought down but it is also done to earn taqwa, which translates to fear of God, but means being devoted to or conscious of God. It can also be understood as God-consciousness. With fasting, we also remember those who are not nearly as fortunate as we are, those who don’t have daily food or water to survive.
Ramadan has always been a special part of my life when I go home. It’s a way to connect to my family, my Muslim community, and my religion and spirituality. When I wake up in the morning to eat for Suhoor (what we call that morning eating time), I’m usually pretty tired but the rest of my family is too so we all eat in tired silence, sometimes with minimal words. In hindsight, it’s kind of hilarious (in a good, satisfying way). Imagine a whole bunch of exhausted people sitting around the table eating food and kind of grunting affirmations or denials when being asked questions. But it’s a happy sort of sleepy that encompasses us and I value those moments. When we were younger though, my siblings and I would just stay up the entire night to eat in the morning. And we’d be so hyper! Our parents, sometimes amused but often times too tired to deal with us, would tell us to keep our voices down at the table but it would never work. We’d be loud until we had to pray Fajr, the earliest prayer of the day, and then we’d sleep. Some of my happiest moments are in those hours.
Technically, we’re supposed to stay up for the rest of the day (after sleeping for a time) and carry out our errands the way we normally would, but as children, we’d sleep in until we had to wake up for Iftar, which is what we call the evening eating time. It sort of defeats the purpose of fasting, but we were children and it wasn’t obligatory for us anyway. I remember a few years ago, I completely switched up my sleep schedule for Ramadan, in that I was sleeping from 8 AM to around 8 PM and staying up the entire night. The amazing thing I realized after I did that was that the sunrise never lost its beauty.
By evening, we were starving. We’d grab as much food as we could and gobble it down, after praying of course. I can taste all the wonderful food, even now. It’s different for other cultures, but in my Pakistani culture, we would have samosas (my dad makes the BEST samosas I’ve ever had), curries, chicken pilaf, and biryani. Although chicken pilaf is my favorite (my mom makes a mouth-watering chicken pilaf), chicken biryani is a fan-favorite among many Pakistanis.
And Iftar is can be celebrated with many other people, so we’d always be invited to others’ houses for Iftar parties, in which everyone would break their fasts together. And if we were at a masjid, the Arabic word for mosque, or went to one after breaking our fasts, we would pray the rest of the night. These prayers were called Taraweeh. They could often last until Suhoor, if we wanted to stay that long. Sometimes, on the weekends, we did.
For Iftar parties, I and many others loved dressing up, although I think this is a cultural aspect rather than a religious aspect. I would don a beautiful salwar kameez. Here’s me in one, although this wasn’t taken during Ramadan:
I remember snippets of Ramadan, and more continue to be added. I remember my parents at the table, my friends and I praying in the masjid or just talking, reading the Qur’an in the quiet hours of morning, or finding my parents curled up near the lamp reading their respective Qur’ans. I remember watching sunrises come up with my friends, leaving the masjid at daybreak, the hustle and bustle of Iftar parties and Suhoors at the masjid, and late-night talks with my siblings and cousins about the meaning of life or our existences. I remember snippets of laughter, of community, of happiness. I remember feeling content.
*For the header image: Mubarak means blessed, so the phrase Ramadan Mubarak is to wish a blessed Ramadan.