It’s Ramadan again.
So what? (You know you thought it.)
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, commemorating when the Angel Gabriel delivered the first verse of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammed in the year 610.
- It is a month of fasting, when Muslims across the world refrain from food, drink, smoking, and sexual relations from sunup to sundown.
- It is a month of joy, as family and friends exchange visits each evening following Iftar, the breaking of the fast.
- It is a month of charity (one of the five pillars of Islam), as the rumbling in one’s own stomach reminds us of the less fortunate, and special emphasis is placed on rendering assistance to others.
And mostly, it is meant to be a month of intense spiritual and self-reflection.
Again. So what’s the point?
Well, I doubt most Christians out there, having now seen the proverbial light, are going to rush to their nearest mosque to participate in evening prayers. (Per one of the other pillars of the faith, Muslims pause five times a day to bow down and pray to God.)
Think about that for a second — intentionally interrupting the never-ending busyness to remember Whose we are and to Whom we owe thanks. Regularly.
Having spent one or two Ramadans in Morocco and Oman myself, I admit I’m not eager to forgo my snacks for the sake of solidarity, either.
But much like when a child hits Lent and focuses on surviving without dessert to the exclusion of all else, it’s too easy to focus on the fasting aspect of Ramadan and forget the rest. Religious creed aside, I’m willing to bet all of us sometimes can do with some “spiritual reflection”— I know I can.
“Spiritual reflection” definitely seems a scary concept.
What does it even mean? Personally, I know of late I’ve been struggling in work. It seems that although I do my best, working hard day in and day out, there’s never any real difference made. I miss my friends, I miss my family, and I’ve forsaken my home for the sake of an ideal that sometimes seems very hard to remember.
Sad to say, I have not flourished in these circumstances. Winston Churchill commanded, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” and the multitude of motivational pep talks to the effect that adversity makes us thrive seems as unending as it is ineffective. Making lemonade out of lemons seems a marvelous concept, right until the point when life’s “lemons” makes you feel like a whole other person—when the constant pressure, devaluation of abilities, and “square peg round hole” syndrome has turned you from a once-smiling, light-hearted individual into a foul-mouthed, foul-tempered shell of your former self.
Ramadan is meant to break this cycle. It is a month set aside, a month of intense scrutiny.
- How have I behaved this past year?
- To what am I looking forward?
- What am I meant to be, to do?
And, like I said, I don’t know—sometimes I don’t even remember who I am myself anymore. Looking beyond the daily cycle of frustration and bitterness though, I’m reminded of a simple verse: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb … my frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13, 15).
I might not always have all of the answers, but it’s comforting to be reminded Someone does. Someone, at least, remembers the joy that caught light in me before I was even formed. Maybe taking a step back for “spiritual reflection” is a good thing after all.
About Brett Beeson
Brett Beeson, officially, is a Lieutenant JG in the United States Navy, currently attached to DDG54 Curtis Wilbur out of Yokosuka, Japan. She graduated in 2014 from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Arabic and a minor in Spanish. Unofficially, she is the “evil twin” (one of Jory’s twin daughters), that annoying-friend-who-won’t-stop-calling perpetual questioner, ice cream enthusiast, scribbler, roarer-of-laughter, and eternal student of God’s amazing mysteries. After extensive travel in Morocco and Oman, she has become passionate about furthering her/our understanding of the Middle East and Islam. To enjoy more of Brett’s writing, please visit Randomness with Brett.