It’s that time of year again… the month of Ramadan, a time of joy and community fellowship, of shared devotion to purity and piety. It’s difficult to convey why a month of privation is such a meaningful and blessed experience for so many, why people look forward to Ramadan so eagerly. It seems contra-intuitive that a month of fasting from first light to sunset would be something to treasure, and yet for millions of Muslims around the world, Ramadan is indeed a treasured month.
I believe that Ramadan fills a deep-seated human need to cleanse ourselves of the mundane, trivial pursuits of life. It is all too easy for us to get caught up in the daily grind and neglect the beauty of life, the mysteries that take us out of ourselves. Ramadan reminds us of what it truly important, helps us to focus on the big picture, on the Divine and the blessedness of simply being alive in this amazing world we live in, not just for a few minutes each a day, but in a big way, in a long, serious, devoted way that takes discipline and commitment, and deepens the impact by its very intensity and length. The refocusing we gain through Ramadan and the sense of accomplishment at having done so are good for the human psyche. We come out the other side of the month aware of our own ability to persevere through hardships and of our very small place in the big picture. It is humbling in the best sense of that word.
Ramadan also fills our social drive, our innate need to be part of a group of like-minded people because it is done in community. It is not just that as a community we engage in far more social activity, sharing dinners and attending prayers together more often, but there is also an intensification of social bonds through the shared experience of fasting, of dedication to the Divine and to the practice of piety. We are reminded for an entire month that we are more alike than we are different, whether you be Indian or Arab, Malaysian or American, whether your skin is white, black, brown, whatever clothes you wear, whatever language you speak.
No wonder the greeting Muslims share during this month is Ramadan Mubarak! A statement that simultaneously recognizes the blessing that Ramadan is for our community and wishes us a blessed month.