Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr: A staff perspective
By Kehsi Iman Wilson (she, her, hers)
Program coordinator, Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence, Office of the Dean of Students
The significance of Ramadan, like one’s relationship with God, is largely personal. Ramadan for me is a time of cleansing, of renewing, of restoring. The religious significance of Ramadan in Islam is that it is the month that the Holy Quran — the Holy Book that we consider the final revelation after the Taurat (Torah of Moses) and Injeel (The Gospel of Jesus Christ) — was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. I take advantage of this month to focus in on personal goals I have such as meditating daily, increasing patience, preparing for major life events, and standing in the gap for others. It is declared in the Quran, Surah (like a book in the Bible) Al-Baqarat 2:183-184:
“O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you (Christians and Jews), so that you may become pious. Fast the prescribed number of days; except if any of you is ill or on a journey, then fast a similar number of days later. For those who cannot endure it for medical reasons, there is a ransom; the feeding of one poor person for each missed day. Whoever does more good than this voluntarily, it is better for him. However, if you truly understand the rationale for fasting, it is better for you to fast.”
It continues in verse 185:
“It is the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance for mankind with clear teachings showing the Right Way and a criterion of truth and falsehood. Therefore, anyone of you who witnesses that month should fast therein, and whoever is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. Allah (God) intends your wellbeing and does not want to put you to hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period so that you should glorify His Greatness and render thanks to Him for giving you guidance.”
There are many themes visible in these verses, most notably the revelation of the Quran and the centrality of service. Ramadan is often mistakenly referred to by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as “the month of fasting.” Though the fast is important (we fast from sunup to sundown), in fact, the significance of the month is not the fast (everyone does that! See above) but the revelation of the Holy Book. For this reason, all Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran during the month, reflecting on it, appreciating it, and allowing its truth to penetrate our hearts and minds and improve our lives. In all of the Abrahamic faith traditions, fasting is upheld as a time to subjugate the physical self for the purpose of emphasizing the spiritual self.
Ramadan is also a time of solidarity with those around the world who struggle with starvation or otherwise do not have sufficient food or drink. This is where service comes in. It is believed that good deeds done in the month of Ramadan receive exponential reward. Many Muslims take advantage of this to do more good by serving their communities, feeding the hungry, volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens, preparing community potlucks, and nurturing and cultivating their relationships with community members of all faiths. Ramadan is also a major party time in the Islamic community, marked by suhoor (the predawn meal) and elaborate iftar (evening meal) parties that go late into the night (or overnight). Families cook and prepare for months in advance all of the fun and food that will be a part of the daily celebrations. Eid-al-Fitr is the culmination of the month. It is time of celebration and coming together as an ummah (community of believers) to celebrate all that has been accomplished during the month.
I look forward to experiencing new revelations about my faith from the Quran as well as the opportunity to get together with friends and family who are also working toward their own spiritual growth. We support each other, encourage each other (especially during very hot days when the stomach won’t keep quiet), and celebrate with each other. One of my non-Muslim friends is hosting a Mexican-themed iftar party for me this year. My sister does her own modified fast where she gives up media and bad habits. Another non-Muslim friend of mine is “fasting” in solidarity with me by only drinking juices during the day. This gets to the heart of Ramadan: bridge-building and coming together in service, solidarity and love.