The hot Houston heat beamed down on a normal afternoon in May, as I walk down toward my car parked by the east garage on campus, I see everyone passing by chugging down their bottle of cold water. My throat is dry and my body is yearning for a sip while my thirst intensifies further. But then I remember I’m fasting and I am held together by strength of my faith not to break my fast before it is time at sunset.
We’ve all heard of Ramadan, and most people just associate it with religious aspects of the Islamic faith. But what does it really mean? For me, and many other Muslims, it is the holy month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. This word comes with heavy showers of blessings upon the people of Islam who celebrate by abstaining from eating or drinking from sun up till sun down.
“The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for mankind, and clear as signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong” (Surah Al Baqrah verse. No 185)
I wake up for Suhoor, before sunset, every morning around 3 a.m. to eat the food and drink all the water that will hold me out for the rest of the day. Often times it is a challenge not being able to eat or drink when I’m hungry or thirsty, but then I think about the people around the world that live that way each day. I remember to humble myself, keep patience and internally cleanse myself in order to bring myself closer to God.
I perform the five daily prayers of Islam as well as other voluntary prayers later in the night. My family and I drive over to our local mosque to open our fast with our friends and community. It’s a refreshing experience to be able to travel to the house of God each day and pray within the four walls of a holy place. Sunset is called Iftar, where we recite a small prayer and open our fast with dates and water then continue on to our meal.
For me, this is the best time of the year. It’s a time to reflect on yourself as a person and a Muslim. I stop listening to music, I stop cursing, disrespecting anyone and stop doing things that are considered a sin in Islam as much as I can.
I am abstaining not only from food but also from sin. The virtues of Ramadan are narrated through the prophet Muhammad explaining the infinite numbers of blessings this month brings. According to the sayings of the prophet in the Hadith, a book of Muhammad’s words, all doors of heaven are opened on the first night of Ramadan and when a person fasts on that first day all his previous sins will be forgiven.
“People who keep fast in Ramadan with faith and belief of reward, all of their previous sings will be forgiven.” (Bhukari wa Muslim, volume no.3, page 57)
This beautiful month of Ramadan brings joy and strengthens the faith of many Muslims as they fast for hours without food or water in the name of religion. I try to control their anger, give to charity, spread love and tally up on as many good deeds as I can, because for me it’s not just a word, it is a lifestyle.