Reflections on Ramadan
from Notes: New Islamic Directions by Imam Zaid
‘Id Mubarak! Another Ramadan has passed. We pray that Allah accepts all of the righteous deeds undertaken by His servants during this month and that all of us have left the month with our sins forgiven and our prayers answered. For me this was an especially powerful Ramadan. There were many great openings and subtle and manifest blessings.
I will mention a few of these blessings. To begin, last March I severely injured my ankle playing basketball, an activity I should have abandoned years ago. As a result, I was afflicted with chronic swelling and pain, which worstened as Ramadan approached. My doctor informed me that there was nothing I could do, I would be dealing with this for the rest of my life. It was extremely difficult to stand in prayer for a lengthy period of time and I wondered if I would be able to perform the Tarawih Prayers at all. As the blessed month commenced, I was determined to pray all twenty rakats, beautifully recited at the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California by Hafiz Amair Kamil, who recited according to the reading of Ya’qub, and Yasir Ali, whose beautiful Hafs recitation filled the night. I was prepared to seek the aid of a chair if necessary. After the first few nights passed, I noticed that the pain was receding each night and it was no problem whatsoever to stand for all twenty Rakats (units of prayer). As the month moved on, not only was the pain receding, but the swelling was also lessening. By the end of the month, both the pain and the swelling were gone. Even as I write these words, I am rubbing my ankle to reassure myself that these words are true. They are, and all Praise is to be rendered unto Allah. I still do not think I will return to the basketball court.
One of the greatest blessing of this month was an innovative program initiated by the Lighthouse Mosque, which we called the “Green” Iftar. We wanted to cease carting away the large trash bags filled with paper plates, plastic utensils, paper or styrofoam cups and food scraps. Collectively, all of the masjids in North America must generated many tons of waste during this blessed month. So we purchased stacks of stainless steel plates, metal spoons and forks, reusable cups, and washable, cloth hand napkins and tablecloths to serve the food on. Not only were we able to reduce the waste to a small bag of compostable food scraps, but the healthy meals were the most delicious I have ever eaten in any Masjid. The blessing of the effort added the flavor of barakah to the food and it cannot be matched by any “flavor package” that Burger King, McDonalds or any other producers of “food products” (that is an oxymoronic phrase) are able to match. This was an amazing initiative that not only soothed the stomachs but brought hearts together as the wonderful teams of brothers and sisters worked together do to make sure the dishes were washed, the napkins were laundered and prepared for the following Iftar and the compost materials were hauled off to the waiting gardens.
As the month progressed the Iftars grew larger and larger until eventually brothers and sisters, in scenes resembling those to be found in the Sudan, were eating on tarps spread out on the sidewalk and in the vacant lot adjacent to the Masjid. May Allah bless us to see such blessed nights again in this lifetime.
During Ramadan, I try not to travel. The month is a time for reflection and introspection, activities that the rigors of travel do not readily encourage. This past Ramadan was no exception. I did have one major journey during this time, and what a trip it was. During the Labor Day weekend, I was blessed to participate in the historic United Against Malaria program in Washington DC. This program, which is part of an effort begin spearheaded by Islamic Relief to get Muslims more involved in the effort to eradicate malaria, an effort being promoted via their “Bite the Bug” campaign, was cosponsored by United For Change (UFC). This program was unique in a number of respects. Not only did it unite a wide array of Muslims scholars and activists, it did so with no strings attached. No group or individual participated in the program based on the condition that this or that person apologizes for what he said about this or that group, or that this or that group or individual renounce or endorse a particular controversial theological position. Everyone was focused on the higher objective that was being served.
Hence, Shaykh Muhammad Ninowy, Imam Muhammad Magid, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Imam Abdul Jalil, a Shi’ite scholar, and Dr. Altaf Hussein, were able to join Dr. Fatimah Jackson, a biological anthropologist and geneticist, who has invented a biodegradable insecticide, and Sister Saleemah Abdul Ghafur, a pioneering worker in the area of malaria and other relief and developmental projects, for a day of stimulating talks, informative lectures, soothing entertainment, and most importantly, focusing on an issue bigger than the capacity of any one group to tackle. Although the turnout was less than the organizers, led by Tariq Subhani, Amad Shakur, Asma Mirza, Moutasem Atiyya and others representing United For Change and a host of volunteers from Islamic Relief, led by Naeem Muhammad, Nazia Hussein, and others whose names are too numerous to mention, had expected, the fundraising goal was exceeded. This was from the blessings of Ramadan. The day program was nicely sealed with a surprise visit from Shaykh Abdul Hakim Quick, who closed out the program by relating his own experience with malaria, and then with a heartfelt pray.
The day was concluded with a wonderful Iftar gathering. The room was filled to capacity. This helped to create a warm, intimate affair that brought the hearts together to cement the spirit of conciliation that had begun earlier in the day. This evening program also had a surprise visitor, Imam Abdul Muhammad Abdul Malik, one of the principal organizers of the Jumu’ah at the Capitol event, to be held this Friday (September 25, 2009) in Washington DC. Imam Abdul Malik, in his polished but powerful style, encouraged all present to spread the news of this program and to make every effort to attend. He encouraged the faithful at the gathering to go forward with courage and vision to bring the teachings of Islam to bear to address the ills of the country.
To me, the United Against Malaria event really captured the spirit of Ramadan. Our religion is a religion of action, not talk. Growing up, before I was a Muslim, we used say that talk is cheap. One will find that this is a profound statement if one thinks deeply on its meaning. However, as Muslims we know that some talk, especially that which is not backed up by action, is not only cheap, it is hated by our Lord. He rebukes us in the Qur’an, O believers! Why do you say that which you do not do. Terribly hated is it with Allah that you say that which you do not do. (61:2-3) It is also significant that this program was undertaken to assist our needy brothers and sisters in Africa. We are told that we should remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters during Ramadan. To not only remember them, but to have an opportunity to be able to do something to assist them is a great blessing. May Allah bless us with pure intentions and may He grant us all a good end.
After returning to the San Francisco Bay area, the month was to dedicated prayer, devotion, the Qur’an and spending. Allah created many opportunities to spend, even modest amounts. This is a great prophetic practice that many people neglect during the blessed month. However, many others take it very seriously and I was able to see so many individuals and organizations benefit from the generosity of our community. One small example is the following, this past Saturday, for many the last day of fasting, Islamic Relief raised $252,000 during an online fundraiser sponsored Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and his organization, Seekers Guidance. This was a beautiful outpouring of support from the Muslim community, and it was also embodied the best of spirit of Ithar, giving preference to others. Shaykh Faraz could have used his resources to do a fundraiser for the his own fledgling organization. However, he recognized a greater need and subordinated the needs of his own organization to the needs of the poor and needy Muslims in various parts of the world. This is the spirit that will make us a great community.
There were many other highlights to this amazing month: The Night of Power gathering that is indescribable, so I will not even try; the midnight session with Imams Suhaib Webb and Fahim Shuaib at the MCA in Santa Clara, California. This session, which is becoming an annual event saw over a thousand people, many of them youth, packed into the multi-purpose room of the masjid almost all night for an engaging discussion of the theme, Ramadan Revolution, ably moderated by Dr. Hatem Bazian. The energy at this program was strong and positive; a harbinger of good for our community.
These memories are powerful and sweet. I am sure that everyone reading these words have had similar or surpassing experiences. However, the month has now passed and everything we did during the month has been relegated to a memory -except those things we carry forth in our hearts as an ongoing inspiration to push us to continue the wonderful acts we initiated during Ramadan. May Allah bless us to see the next Ramadan, and until then may the spirit of the blessed month live on in our hearts.