As we are in the midst of Ramadan reflecting on what to break our fasts with and attaining spiritual elevation, we cannot help but think about the tremendous discipline that is bestowed upon us during this entire month. So many out there were questioning their body’s fortitude, if they can actually survive the 16 plus hours in the heat without food or drink. And yet, somehow, Muslims are coping and also flourishing. There is no doubt that there is a special blessing in Ramadan that facilitates the fast and closeness to Allah. And yet, do we use the specialness of this month as a barrier, or rather, an excuse that prevents us from attaining great things outside of Ramadan?
I ponder this question out of a conversation we were having at my parents’ house during iftar. My superhero mom had made a spread that would make most of the world salivate. In fact, neighbors have routinely approached my mom asking her what the beautiful aromas are that emanate from her home in Long Island (very atypical for Long Islanders). As we were trying to find a space on the table to fit our plates amid the pastas, steak, rice in the tagine, bamya, molokheya, etc. the topic of weight-loss came up. My husband started relaying a story of a friend who has run several iron-mans, and ultra marathons (and by ultra, I mean 155 miles through the Sahara Desert ultra). My cousin looked around at the spread of food and asked whether or not my husband’s friend would be able to eat any of this. He responded by saying, “He mostly stays away from this type of food. To him, discipline is more rewarding.” My cousin wondered if it was worth it- to give up the pleasures that are so ingrained in us that they have become a part of our identity, our culture. I mean, we do bleed the simple syrup of qataayif and kunafa during this month too (at least, at mom’s).
As the conversation ensued, I wanted to point out the fact that the story of my husband’s friend, who has never met the rest of us, was one of the highlights of our dinner conversation. It’s amazing how his story has spread and it couldn’t have happened without the day in and day out grudge work it took to accomplish something extraordinary. At the same time, when we reflect on all our Prophets and great companions (may Allah be pleased with them), their stories lift us to a magical place because of the discipline each one of them exercised during the hardships they faced. Whether it’s Bilal (ra) proclaiming “Ahadun Ahad” in the hot desert while heavy boiling stones were placed on his chest, or our Prophet Muhammad (sas) getting tortured at Ta’if, their ability to divorce themselves from this world carries on through today. As parents trying to raise God conscious children, we make sure to relay their great accomplishments. As I think of my own day to day activities, I wonder how I’m living the “discipline is more rewarding” mantra. I pray that this Ramadan Allah bestows upon me some clarity in this old, successful, and yet often neglected way of life- that I may taste the sweetness that comes with breaking my nafs and building something better.
Marwa Aly loves reading, writing, volleyball, and tacos. She enjoys spending time with her young family and connecting with other like-minded dreamers.