The excitement, the build up, the preparation and the intention to harness the spiritual boost for this blessed month for Muslims all over the world is part and parcel of Ramadan- this fleeting guest that gives us that warm fuzzy feeling, visiting us year after year- the time between each one becoming seemingly shorter.
How many of us have found that this blessed month flew by so quickly this year? From all the fuss about Muslims having to endure 18+ hour starvation in the media to fatwa’s on making things easier by shortening them, our guest Ramadan has built up a bit of a reputation with the wider community about being arduous and incredibly difficult- an almost self imposed, self harming deed that ‘those Muslims’ put themselves through every year for reasons only generally known to themselves. Could this also be attributed to our lack of educating those around us about how much of a blessing this guest Ramadan really is for us? Not sharing the beauty and positive spirituality with the wider community?
The Share Ramadan initiative came at the absolute right time to dispel these assumptions for at least every participant and their respective social networks. It is a beautiful concept that brings together the community in a way that educates people outside of the Muslim faith by active participation and the actual experience of knowing what it means or feels like not to have at least two of life’s necessities (food or water) for a relatively short period when you compare us to some of our less fortunate communities in under developed parts of the world.
Of course, for Muslims, abstention from food and drink is not the sole focus of Ramadan- more emphasis is placed on positive actions, humble demeanour, charitable efforts and good manners with those around you- friends, family and community.
On reflection of these last few weeks, I look back at how quickly and easily many of us have become used to the Ramadan routine in what have been the longest fasts that most of us have ever lived to experience – the adjusted sleep and work patterns, the late night iftars and prayers and the shorter nights.
I can honestly say that personally they have been one of the easiest Ramadan fasts that I have kept so far in life. My non Muslim colleagues are surprised to hear this when in comparison; we have also fasted when iftar time is barely a late lunch- opening at just over 4pm during the UK winter! The Share Ramadan challenge should be adapted to help more of our colleagues understand fasting better during these months where the days are much shorter- perhaps as a step to understanding why we fast for longer during the summer months for at least the next few years.
The Share Iftar event organised by MEND (Muslims in Engagement & Development), Share Ramadan and the Myriad Foundation at the Sheridan Suite last week was a beautiful example of the community spirit of Islam and how we must all strive to be during this awesome month.
People from all faiths and none came together to break fast after many non Muslims accepted a challenge to experience the fast as it was prescribed for followers of the Islamic faith.
The turnout was heart-warming, the entertainment amusing and the interaction and community spirit- amazing. It was an evening that set the standard of what interfaith events and community cohesion should be about. Our similarities far outweigh our differences- this is a fact that main stream media tend to ignore and instead focus on the fringe minority negative members of the international community that DO NOT represent the rest of us. We will only dispel these stereotypes and prejudices of one another through education and interaction with one another and what better way to do this than to break bread with one another (and a samosa or two!)
As the beautiful month draws to a close, we ponder on how quickly our guest Ramadan has passed by, what important lessons we have taken from this guest and how we will implement the good practice that we have utilised this month over the next 11 months until our guest visits us again if God wills, to impart more precious and beneficial actions. Life is passing us by in a similar fashion…Over in the blink of an eye and with little to show for our humanity and compassion in the urban jungles and hectic lifestyles we lead.
If you didn’t get a chance to Share Ramadan this month with your friends and community- don’t worry- there will be plenty of opportunities to mimic that spirituality throughout the year via projects set up by some of the organisations mentioned above.
Make intention to Share Ramadan next year with your colleagues and see each opportunity as a means to expulsion of misconceptions and misunderstandings around Islam and Muslims. This is the very minimum we should be doing at a grass roots level. We must challenge negativity and stereotypes as a community.
Whilst the wider community will consider the cessation of fasting as respite and a blessing for Muslims, many of us will feel a deep sense of withdrawal and sadness as we feel when a beautiful friend and guest parts company.
May we have the honour of receiving this blessed guest Ramadan and sharing the beauty of this friend with our community again.
Join millions around the world on social media #ShareRamadan
Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar is a proud mother of four, a medical Doctor and a humanitarian activist. She is due to complete a Masters degree in Disaster Management and Conflict Resolution at the University of Manchester. Dr Islam-Zulfiqar has assisted on humanitarian aid convoys to Syria on several occasions since the start of the Civil War, delivering aid to those most in need and treating the injured in Syrian hospitals. She has also volunteered in humanitarian missions to Gaza, Pakistan and Bosnia in the aftermath of the floods there earlier in 2014. She is also a member of the Board of Governors at a school in Trafford Council.
The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan or the publishers.