How Fasting Connects Us All – Remembering the Past

Image source: Priscilla Martinez

This is day 24 of the 2018 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series.

Assalamu’Allaykum,

Ramadan is a time of reflection and connecting with Allah (swt). However, through fasting we are not just connecting with Allah (swt); we are also linked to everyone that has fasted before us. In the Quran, Allah (swt) tells us “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn God-consciousness.” (2:183).

As fasting helps us to remember those who came before us, my Eagle Scout Service Project also helps me to reflect upon the sacrifices of so many who came before me or were forced to come here.

This weekend will be the second set of two workdays for my project. My Eagle project involves building a 400-foot trail consisting of 800 feet of wooden 4×4 borders, 16 tons of gravel, and 400 one-foot metal stakes at the African American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont.

A couple of weekends ago,  35 volunteers came from all over the community on a hot summer Ramadan day to break ground on the trail, clear the path, and dig up two inches of dirt along its 400-foot length. The volunteers were from different religions, races and backgrounds working together, pouring our energy into this project.

One of the goals of my project is to show appreciation and respect for those buried at the cemetery. This sacred ground is so important to many different people and communities, and we have an opportunity to unite around honoring those laid to rest there.

Some of the volunteers joining us were fellow Muslims, also fasting the whole day in the hot weather. We really felt the effects of fasting — our mouths dry as we cleared the trail of debris and large rocks. We heard our stomachs growl as we shoveled load after load of dirt into numerous wheelbarrows. And that is part of the point of Ramadan: To test us, to help us to understand what other people, our fellow human beings, have gone through and go through in their lives.

Muslim volunteers who were fasting valued the food and water at iftar time with slightly more reverence on those days. Our work connects us and helps us to recall the sacrifice that enslaved Africans gave to this country, their blood, sweat and tears. The story of Africans taken from their homes is something we must all strive to tell and to remember. We are compelled to honor those that came before us and built this country we call home.

During the last few days of Ramadan, we must focus on what we will do going forward, and how we will keep good habits after the month ends. But, we must also remember to look backward to those just like us whose stories we must carry forward.

Let us all rededicate ourselves to honoring our past, in particular those who were enslaved. Let us rededicate ourselves to remembering their stories and honoring them in the ways they were denied in their lives. Let us rededicate ourselves to using our platforms and redoubling our efforts to never forget the struggles they went through as we approach the end of Ramadan this year. We must unite as a people over their stories of sacrifice.

About Mikaeel Martinez Jaka
Bio: Mikaeel Martinez Jaka is 5th generation Mexican American and Native American. He is a Boy Scout in Troop 163 and a Venture Scout in Crew 786 at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, VA working on his Eagle Scout rank (the highest award in Scouting). Mikaeel is an active member of Scouting's National Honor Society (the Order of the Arrow) in which he is the Editor of the Shark's Tooth, a quarterly newsletter that is mailed out to over 4,500 Arrowmen in the Washington, DC, metro area. Mikaeel is also a member of the Order of the Arrow National Arrowmen Press Corps. He enjoys interfaith work and preserving Native American traditions. You can read more about the author here.
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