On Jam-Making and Ramadan

On Jam-Making and Ramadan July 10, 2014

How is it that the first week of Ramadan has already gone by? It’s been a bit of a struggle for me to let go of some of my commitments to spend more time on reflecting this month. With the fasts being as long as they are (~17ish hours, if I’ve done my math correctly), alongside full-time work, I haven’t been to my local masjid yet for the evening tarawih prayers. I’m usually asleep shortly after my evening meal, waking up the next morning to pray isha, eat suhoor, pray fajr, nap (if I can fall back asleep), and head to work for another day. In my free time I try to catch up on my Quran reading and take care of myself. I miss my days as a student (and shorter fasts), when I was able to participate more fully in the month.

There’s a part of me that dreads going to the masjid at all, though, even during this blessed month. There’s a wall that separates men and women that I hate praying behind. And yet, I know that completing disengaging and not speaking up about it (or finding another more welcoming space) isn’t going to help matters—for myself or the community—in the long run. I think there’s something to be said about respectfully discussing a difficult situation—not talking about it at all is a disservice to the community. Keeping people away from the masjid shouldn’t be one of the masjid’s primary aims, especially during Ramadan.

While I’m still trying to get a routine down for the month and figuring out how to make it to the masjid, I’ve been more mindful of getting those goodly nuggets of Ramadan insight wherever I can. This year, I’ve been so happily surprised to hear from friends I hadn’t heard from in a while wishing me Ramadan Mubarak and filling each other in on our lives. I’d like to be more mindful of doing a bit of this myself this month, along with maintaining those positive relationships that are sustaining throughout the year.

Local strawberries.

As Ramadan has fallen during the most bountiful season of Summer, the questions it brings up around our food and how we choose to nourish ourselves have been on my mind. These past few years, I’ve become particularly keen in supporting and eating locally-sourced food that’s in season as much as possible—as I live in the northern hemisphere of the world, summer is the best season to do this (nothing grows under several feet of snow). I visit my local farmer’s markets regularly on the weekends, dodging the delicious samples and bringing home far more produce than I’m able to finish on my own. The fasts we keep during Ramadan and how we choose to break them at the end of the day are ripe moments of mindfulness: What do we eat? Who do we eat with? Where does our food come from? How do my decisions affect my well-being and the well-being of those around me?

These are the questions that came to mind for me, thinking about this Ramadan. I was lamenting how spiritually bereft I’ve felt recently what with my masjid and sleep schedule woes, trying to come up with an idea for this post. As I was in the kitchen, stirring a skillet of bubbling strawberry vanilla jam, I remembered how new the process was to me last year. I decided I wanted to learn how to make my own jam, committed to it, and somehow managed to successfully make a couple of jars of cherished preserves to enjoy in the middle of winter. The set was harder than it should have been, and I forgot to wipe my jar rims—beginner’s follies. But the learning process was so well worth it, I thought to myself as I stirred my jam this year, remembering to take it off the heat sooner for a looser set (and promptly forgetting to wipe my jars—again).

And that’s when it occurred to me: Ramadan isn’t about letting go of our commitments, but being more mindful of their place in our lives. Remembering our past and recognizing how far we’ve come since then, acknowledging even our smallest improvements. Not getting bogged down by the mistakes we’ve made. Being grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to learn and grow—remembering that they will continue to come throughout our lives. It’s so easy to fall into the idea that Ramadan is supposed to be about making some huge spiritual shifts, but sometimes it’s the smaller shifts that take place and accumulate over time that have a much longer-lasting impact. How do we use the month to build on our spiritual skills, even in the smallest of ways?

For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.

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