So, if you work for the NYCDOE you had yesterday off. I’m always looking at my calendar …because I live by it. And I saw that schools were closed on the 26th, but I had no idea why. It wasn’t until late last week that I found out; schools were closed to honor the end of Ramadan.
So, today on the last day of classes for teachers and students in NYC, we at CREAD send you off with a brief history lesson to compliment our piece on Friday. For the first time, I can remember my Facebook was filled with well wishes to the more than 1 Billion Muslims around the world. My heart was warmed with the love and true inclusion that is taking place.
So, as you rejoice that the year is over and celebrate your new freedom, maybe you can take some elements from today’s blog into your summer and prepare for September 2017.
Welcome our sister Zakiyyah Ali!
As Ramadan has come to an end, Muslims all the world over are now in full festivity mode with the celebration of the fast’s end called Eid Al-Fitr. When I was growing up, this season was what every adolescent looked forward to. We dressed in our finest wears, looked forward to the gifts that the adults would give us for having completed the fast, enjoyed the fellowship with our communities in the large outdoor congregational prayer, and most importantly looked forward to the abundance of delicious food that we could now eat in the daylight again.
And though we are now celebrating the end of Ramadan, I am hear to shed even more light on the significance and importance of Ramadan, which began with my sister’s blog on Friday.
It is about supplication, reading and mindfulness, and being in one accord with more than a billion people all around the world, for the sake of obeying one of the major pillars of Islam and what it means to be Muslim, or to submit to the will of the Creator through fasting. In Arabic it is called saum.
This year, Ramadan began on May 26th, 2017, as the date appeared on the Gregorian calendar we follow in the Western world. However, Ramadan is based on the following of the lunar calendar–the moon’s cycle. It also aligns with the time in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the 9th month of the lunar calendar (Ramadan), whom Muslims regards as the last prophet of all of the revelations of Allah or God.
While most non-followers and non-believers of Ramadan see fasting as an amazing feat that would be extremely difficult to do, Ramadan is actually the test of a person’s ability to do precisely what Kendrick Lamar commanded, to be humble and sit down.
No matter a person’s race, nationality, gender, or class, more than one billion people around the world are fasting at the same time. I cannot think of a more uniform time in human behavior in the world than during Ramadan and that humbles me. For me, as an African American, descendant of enslaved African Americans and Africans, it is especially humbling that my parents came full circle by practicing the faith so many of our enslaved ancestors practiced until they were forced into Christian conformity.
The humility of observing Ramadan shows up in actually having the will to not indulge in food and activity and behavior that would normally take place as parts of natural default behaviors. However, for the homeless and poor, when they are hungry or in need, they do not have the ability to satisfy their hunger, nor to satisfy their needs. In these moments during Ramadan, there is constant mindfulness about the ways in which we see our lives through the lens of another person’s misfortune, inability, and / or material lack. It’s quite humbling when you think about it.
Physically, Ramadan can appear to be especially taxing on the body because from sunrise to sunset, a faster’s body is without food and water. The abstention of water, especially during the summer months of Ramadan can prove to be very difficult, which is why it is important to just sit down.
Because fasting physically impacts the body, it doesn’t make sense to maintain a normal pace of activity of physical exertion that can arouse hunger and thirst. In these sedentary moments, believers and followers of Ramadan are expected to read one thirtieth of the Qur’an to coincide with every day of the fast. Sitting gives the body moments to be at rest, to rejuvenate, but also to center the mind and focus on the word of Allah.
I don’t believe there are coincidences in life (neither does Oprah–and I trust her!) If Muslims follow Ramadan during the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, we also follow the command Muslims universally believe to be the first words revealed in the Qur’an, Sura or chapter Al-Alaq, which translates into The Clot:
- “Read (Proclaim!) In the Name of your Lord Who created”
- “Created man, out of a clot (of congealed blood).”
- “Read (Proclaim), and your Lord is the Most Generous,”
- “Who taught by the Pen,”
- “Taught man that which he knew not.”
To understand these words requires an understanding of Prophet Muhammad’s life. At the time when he received this revelation from the angel Gabriel, the same angel who appears in Judaic and Christian texts, Prophet Muhammad was not versed in reading and had come from a background of having lived as an orphan and as a merchant in his life. As he grew older, he became a more prayerful person and he would spend long hours, for weeks at a time every year praying in Cave Hira.
To Muslims, Prophet Muhammad’s mindfulness to prayer is the example, and during Ramadan, his behavioral example is the expectation and obligation to all Muslims worldwide.
See you all next year, Insha’Allah (God willing) for Ramadan beginning in the earlier part of May 2018.