There is one memory that jumps to my mind when I think of Ramadan, and most importantly when I think of the spirit of Ramadan. I grew up in the States, so the one Ramadan that I spent in Egypt as an adult was a new experience. I was never sure if it beat my Ramadans back home in America, but this one memory of Ramadan in Egypt fills me with happiness and the spirit of racing to do good that Ramadan inspires in all of us… (wa fee thalika fal yatanafas il mutanafisun- And in that, let them compete).
One day, my husband and I were invited for Ramadan iftar at my second cousin’s home near theAl Malik Al Salih (Pious King) metro stop in Old Cairo. I don’t remember the metro ride, I don’t even remember if it was the metro we took, but I do remember the rest of the story from the moment we stepped out of the metro station into the sandy, brown neighborhood streets of Al Malik Al Salih neighborhood.
It was dusk time, maghrib time, and the streets were yellow with the last rays of the setting sun. The sound of athan had just faded from the horizon, and the streets were quiet, minus the sound of honking cars and screaming merchants. And yet, in our faces were about 4 or 5 young men and boys, each one handing us a small cup full of milk and a plate covered with dates. I was overwhelmed at first; it took me a few seconds to realize they were offering me my iftar dates, my fast-breaker. They realized that it was iftar time, that these last lingering metro riders had probably not broken their fast; and they raced against each other to give my husband and I that first date and sip of milk, so they could receive the reward of feeding a fasting person.
Until today, I am overwhelmed with feelings every time I think of it. I have to be honest with you, I couldn’t drink from that cup of milk because I was a bit spoiled and had no idea where that cup or that milk had been, and I can’t even remember if I had the stomach to eat the uncovered dates. But until today, I ask Allah to reward those boys and men for giving me a taste of the spirit of Ramadan, a taste of the meaning of racing forth to do good deeds, a taste of competing with each other in all that is good.
Six Ramadans later, I remember their faces, their outstretched arms, their desire to feed me, and I say alhamdulillah for the spirit of goodness in our ummah.
May Allah bless this Ramadan for you and I, and may He increase our desire to give generously like the blowing wind.
Fatima lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two daughters. She is currently a full-time mother and part-time youth worker with MAS Youth