More than ten years ago, when my daughter was fifteen, she entered a writing contest. This is an excerpt from her entry:
What Ramadan Means to Me
The abandoned soccer field is silent and empty except for a small crowd of children scrutinizing the horizon. A few eager men and women stand a small distance away clutching binoculars in their gloved hands. A joyful shout arises suddenly from the shivering crowd of children. “I found it! I found it!” exclaims an excited child and a finger points to the sky. Immediately, almost everyone else sees it. Like the glistening of pearl from a crack in an oyster shell, a thin sliver of moonlight adorns the sky. Squeals of delight escape the children and the men shake hands joyfully. A soft chant comes from the lips of a young boy, “Welcome, welcome, O Ramadan!”
The shimmering “hilal” is the telltale sign of the coming holy month. It is something I look forward to eagerly throughout the year, which in comparison to Ramadan, is like a barren desert, For Ramadan is the month in which I am closest to my religion, when I can best experience its joys and rewards. In no other month do I feel so surrounded by Islam and its followers. In no other month does Islamic pride raise its banner so high.
To me, Ramadan is much more than fasting. It is a period of Islamic rejuvenation, in which I set my goals, and then try to go beyond them. It is one of the few times of the year when I am aware of the millions of Muslims besides me, doing what I do, feeling what I feel. Ramadan is a time when apologizes are made, grudges forgotten, new friends embraced, and old friends renewed. Sometime during the course of Ramadan comes that moment when I realize that no place is dearer to me than my Masjid. During this month, I often reach an ultimate peak, when I feel that my heart has never been closer to Allah(swt).
For the child who comes home with a construction paper lantern dangling from his wrist and the grandmother who takes her special Quran off the shelf. Ramadan is a “spring cleaning” of character. In Sunday School, children are taught to control their anger and to give and to be grateful to Allah. Ramadan is the time when many sisters young and old, decide to adopt the hijab as their timeless companion. We discard all bad language from our tongues and try to replace it with a constant flow of Dhikr. We recognize our mistakes during Ramadan and work to correct them. He with the parsimonious greed becomes he of the generous giving, and she with the uncontrollable temper becomes she of the patient understanding. Most importantly, Ramadan is the month in which we beg Allah(swt) for his forgiveness with all our being. For me, Ramadan is a total revising of resolutions and intentions, which I only hope that Allah(swt) will purify.
Some may think that Ramadan is not clearly defined. We do not have any tangible symbol of its presence; no adorned trees, no special costumes, no standard carols, and no flickering lights in our windows. To outsiders, Ramadan is a month of starvation and obsolete dullness. However as the observant eye would soon realize, the meaning of Ramadan is so profound that it is difficult to comprehend with one custom or one symbol. Ramadan is the celebration of Islam through serving of Allah(swt) in which we find our joy and comfort. It is the happiness prevailing at our hearty Iftars, it is the voice of an Imam resounding throughout all of our humble but grand madjids, it the firm handshake after a long, satisfying prayer, it is the tears of a repenting believer’s duaa’, it is the relieved smile of a child completing his first fast, and it is the satisfied “alhamdullilah’ released from the lips of a Muslim as his Quran has been read from cover to cover. Ramadan, especially in this country can be compared to the anticipated moment as Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) began the first call to prayer from atop the roof of the Ka’abah, shattering the heavy, desert silence with a resonant cry of, “Allah Akbar!”
Sumayah Guilford lives in Maryland and is the mother of three now grown, home-schooled children and three grandchildren. She enjoys reading and inspiring others in the areas of self-development, parenting, and creative activities for kids.