This post was written by guest contributor @leftyspeaks.
Many of us wish for a new beginning, a clean slate, an opportunity to leave everything behind and start afresh. A few short weeks ago, I left my home on the southern tip of Africa, to spread my wings across the Atlantic, in search of knowledge. I left behind all that was dear to me – the beautiful sunrises, the extravagant Table Mountain, my family and friends, and my African coffee – to plant roots in the “high rise” habitat that is called Toronto – a first world metropole. It quickly became apparent that, despite the warm and ever-friendly Canadian hospitality, I would be a stranger among the 2,79 million people who walk this city, until such time as I made a new life: new relationships, new discoveries, and new coffee. However, within a week of me arriving, so did the first fast – all 17 hours of it! It was during my first iftar that I realised the challenge that lay out ahead of me.
Many of us often take for granted the privilege of family and friends that make up our inner circle, the bonds that give us support and make us feel complete, significant and valuable – this reality that no being is an island. Ramadan is a time for giving, the occasion when we feel closer to our loved ones, more compassionate to the needy and the sick and generally, a time when we express more humanity. It’s only natural that during this time, we crave the human bonds that comfort us.
So, “fasting on arrival,” a phrase I coined early into Ramadan, was quite different to the previous years. What did it mean to be in relative isolation, far from my close connections and the comforts of home? I spent time in “quest,” asking Allah: why here; why like this; why so long; why so hot; why so far from those who give me comfort and joy; why alone?
In truth, every moment I am aware of my fasting – I am “with fast” from sehoor until iftar. It reaffirms my Muslim identity, with my recurring abstinence of social norms like eating and going out. It enhances my character, when I give without receiving. It frowns when I struggle with caffeine withdrawals. It smiles when I pray on time. I am “with fast,” and it hums through the day, keeping me company. It tunes in and out of my senses as I experience this new city, reminding me that the fasting heart needs only Love for sustenance. For there is no better joy, no better coolness, no more supreme comfort than Love. And so, with this new chapter, full of possibilities and new desires, this fresh start in a foreign land, with so much to consume at every corner, being “with fast” nourishes my taqwa first and foremost, for this chapter to be meaningful and significant in the Right Path.
As a believer, I always aim for this, but what better time than the month that bestows Mercy and Redemption. I fast to guard my soul, to humble myself by exercising self-restraint from all that feeds my senses. I make intention to let go of all that consumes me in this world. Even in the agony of separation from that which is closest to the heart (in distance, in grief, in war, in suffering), the fasting heart swells with Fullness. In doing so, I embrace my own state of inner peace, of Islam.
As the curtain closes on Ramadan 2013, it is this “state of peace” that I carry onward to embrace the city that is my new home. The heart that swells with Love can leave everything else behind. It is at peace with the Company that resides, even when my inner circle is at its smallest.
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.