Nurturing Intimacy During Ramadan

Image source: Daliah Merzaban

This is Day 20 of the 2018 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series.

The holy month is a time for deepening the greatest of all love affairs

It’s well after midnight and burning candles flicker in my dimly lit living room. Music hums quietly in the background. A love song carried through the vibrating cry of the reed flute. My head gently sways right to left to Oruç Güvenç’s sweet notes, and we sit, me and my Beloved, at the table overlooking the night sky as London fades into a deep sleep. There’s a stillness outside and within.

No words are spoken as I gaze at my Beloved with longing, seeing and thinking of only Him. His names are all around me, in the light of the candle, Ya Nur, the Essence of Luminosity. In the delicious scent of the yellow and pink roses in the vase next to me, Ya Latif, the Subtle One. In the love exploding in my heart, Ya Wadud, the Most Loving One.

After eating my suhoor meal a boiled egg and a small bowl Greek yogurt with acacia honey and chia seeds — we move to the sofa. Not for a moment do I let go of His handhold, so strong it will never give way. *

Unable to find words to express the depths of my yearning, I open at random pages of poetry drawn from the wells of masters. Who better than them can express the urgings of my heart.

First, from Mevlana Rumi, comes:

The real beloved is that one who is unique,
who is your beginning and your end.
When you find that one,
you’ll no longer want anything else.
(Masnavi III, 1418-19, translated by Camille and Kabir Helminski)

Then Yunus Emre chimes in:

You fall in love with Truth and begin to cry,
You become holy light inside and out,
Singing Allah Allah
(The Drop that Became the Sea, p. 72)

And Sheikh Abol-Hasan of Kharaqan offers:

Nothing pleases the Lord more than finding himself in the Lover’s heart
every time He looks there.
(The Soul and A Loaf of Bread, p. 61)

I read each verse, aloud or silently, to You, Ya Sami, the One Who Hears All. The goosebumps on my skin and underneath a visceral reminder that You are, as the Quran says, closer to me than my jugular vein.

The Sufis are lovers, and Ramadan is the time when this seeker makes efforts to cultivate greater intimacy with God, the kind that nourishes my heart year round and guides me on how to honor the people in my life through that Divine Love.

While Ramadan is typically a time for companionship with family and friends, I’ve spent it in solitude for many years. My immediate family is scattered across the world, and I’m not currently in a relationship. So, aside from a weekly gathering with friends, most nights I sit down for an iftar meal alone. Before the break of dawn, I wake on my own to prepare for the coming day of fasting.

There are times when I wish to share the sweetness of this blessed month with another soul or souls who share this connection. And yet my gratitude for the gift of having this space to cultivate greater nearness with God is immense. Ramadan is above all an opportunity for intimacy with the Divine Reality, or Allah. Sleeping less, I spend more time consciously seeking my Beloved and Friend, Ya Waliyy, trying to know Him/Her more and more deeply, simultaneously seeing and being seen.

Beyond reading, prayer and dhikr, this intimacy is about doing things with greater intention, care and presence of heart. Gently kissing the Holy Quran and Mevlevi prayer book before and after dipping into them each day. Lighting a candle with a Bismillah (In the Name of God) on my breath to honor its being, then laying it to rest with a Huuuuu, the Divine Pronoun.

In such small and tender ways, I try to honor the love in my heart. It’s akin to that feeling of being love-struck by a budding romance, when we pay attention to each detail of our new darling and want them around in every moment. The difference is this Love is perpetual, encompassing and nurturing all the rest.

We even sit together, me and my Beloved, to do finances during Ramadan. During the 30 days I distribute my zakat, the giving of at least 2.5 percent of my assets to those less fortunate. After calculating it, I call on Al Karim, the Most Generous, to bless my path with those who would most benefit from it and watch in awe as the way always opens.

As we enter the final 10 days of the month, I hope to pursue this love affair with greater intensity. I’ll spend longer nights in worship and reflection as we search for the wonders of Laylat Al Qadr, the Night of a Thousand Months, when Prophet Muhammad received his first Divine revelation.

It is he, peace and blessings be upon him, who offers the greatest sign of potential depths of a human’s intimacy with God:

“Neither the heavens nor the earth can contain Me;

only the heart of My faithful servant can contain Me.”

— Hadith Qudsi

* Quran, Surah Al Baqara, 256

About Daliah Merzaban
Daliah Merzaban is a Mevlevi dervish who draws on inspiration from day-to-day life to write blogs about her spiritual journey for The Living Tradition group blog on Patheos and her personal page, Dew Point. She currently lives in London and works as a journalist and editor covering Europe, Middle East and Africa. You can read more about the author here.
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