This is Day 29 of the 2017 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series – June 24, 2017
By Zareen Jaffery
Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? The Noble Quran, Surah Al-Anbya 21:30
There is nothing like the feeling of drinking water after a day of fasting during Ramadan. Every year, I look forward to the experience, acknowledging my privilege in being able to access clean water whenever I’d like.
Water connects all living things and connects us to the heavens. Just as the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun influence the tides of the ocean, we are bound to circadian rhythms. During Ramadan, this link is made even more explicit, as we anticipate sundown to break our fast with our families and community and look to the moon to determine the beginning and ending of our holy month.
It is the connection to others that has felt most strained this Ramadan. As the rhetoric against Muslims has reached a critical point and prejudice against Muslims has become commonplace, it has been a struggle to feel a connection to those around me.
Whether it’s neighbors who proudly display Trump signs on their lawn, or the casual racism of allies who expect all Muslims to condemn the actions of a deviant few, to those who can laugh off Trump as a blip on America’s political history while his administration puts the lives of others in danger, it’s been a challenge this year to find the peace this holy month usually brings.
Perhaps this is heightened by my experience as a minority within a minority. Being a Shia in a largely Sunni congregation can be alienating at times. Having friends who (rightfully) denounce ISIS as targeting Muslims, but who shy away from acknowledging the targeting of Shias specifically, is hurtful.
In my work as a children’s book publisher, I strive to promote books that portray a world that is strengthened by diversity. That is the world I grew up in and the one I believe in. Having friends, or even family members, with different beliefs or traditions or values, doesn’t have to feel threatening. We are all God’s creation, we all deserve love and safety and dignity.
Ramadan encourages reflection, and for Shias, it brings remembrance of two important events: the shahadat of Imam Ali (PBUH) and the birth of Imam Hasan (PBUH). They serve as reminders that life, like the tides, has a push and pull. We cannot escape grief in this life, but we can celebrate joy wherever we find it and feel gratitude for each day that God has given us.
This year Ramadan serves as a reminder that I do everything in my power to share the privilege that I have — and do my part to make the world a brighter place for the next generation.
Zareen Jaffery is an Executive Editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in February 2011, continuing her focus on commercial and literary young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as teen nonfiction. In 2016, she began acquiring for Salaam Reads, an imprint that focuses on publishing books about Muslim children and families.