A big thanks to all our recent donors!
A big thanks to all our recent donors!
Ramadan, a perspective story.
Abstinence and Indulgence. Indulgence with Abstinence.
Over 40 years ago, as a new revert to Islam, I can remember thinking how weird this Ramadan thing was.
As I was abruptly introduced to my first Ramadan, it was pretty much a "do as we do" confusing experience.
I went through Ramadan like a sheep, just following the herd and performing the rituals blindly with no knowledge and no connection.
Who eats at 4 am and then starves for the rest of the day?
It was another culture shock, with no warning and no explanation!
Being new to this rapid change in lifestyle, I wanted to fit into my new family dynamics. I tried to be helpful by testing the curries for salt levels and tasting the sweet batter for sugar, only to be rewarded with a scolding comment.
As a teenager, I was already used to cooking for my whanau, but now cooking in a new cultural context was both exciting, nerve-wracking and complex at the same time. It was a learning experience and a lot of a 'what not to do' homeschooling.
I enjoyed helping to cook those exotic foods with my new family and crying over sliced onions, sweating over chopped chillies, ending up with the smells and aromas of the bhajia, gulagula, blue peas, gulab jamun, ras gula, saina. I learned a new craft.
Mixing a mocktail of cochineal colour and milk sweetened with vanilla ice cream and tins of condensed milk, scented with rosewater and hand-crushed elaichi, I was addicted to this newfound love.
In those early days, as I broke my fasts at iftar, I would gorge down as many deep-fried foods as fast as I could. I filled my quota and eagerly gathered my rizq on a well used scratched whitish enamel plate, edged with a royal blue trim chipped in places and infamously decorated with spray-painted abstracts of blue and red floral designs.
I was hungry and afraid of losing weight. I was handed two or three greens grapes with a date! Why are we eating dates like this!!!! I wondered this every night but was too afraid to ask.
Where I come from, dates are for baking and puddings. We didn't eat them "raw". These sticky jewels stuck to my teeth and the roof of my mouth. Every night I would tell myself, "I ain't eating that tomorrow night". But the next night, someone would drop one on my tin plate and educate me with "you must eat your date first".
I sat cross-legged in the family circle and waited for my turn and someone to pass me the array of plastic bowls filled with samosa, blue peas, bhajia, slices of watermelon, pieces of banana and much more. Too much more! I love this part of the evening despite the date thing.
Today, as a mature aged revert to Islam, but more importantly, as a Muslim, I may have graduated from Ramadan kindergarten, but I will always be a learning student.
These days I see Ramadan fasting as more than fard. I see it as mercy.
Not every Muslim will fast during Ramadan, and many of us will be exempted from fasting. But beyond Ramadan, people fast for many reasons.
Many of us had recovered from those painful experiential lessons when we had to explain to our work colleagues, peers, sports teammates, non-Muslim whanau, school teachers, classmates, authorities. Some of us haven't recovered from those lessons because we were not eating and drinking for a whole month or 30 days in a row.
Who else struggled internally due to the negative comments by non-Muslims - because you were fasting?
I can't count how many people laughed at me, called me "crazy as", or thought I was weird? I know, for myself, I too questioned the rationale behind fasting for many of my earlier years as a new Muslim. But over recent years, various forms of fasting in the modern world have contributed to the latest diet fads and lifestyles. Nowadays, experts say fasting is good for our brain, helps us lose weight, makes us younger with more vitality etc. Fasting, in general, is now approved and recommended by many in the Health community. 'Funny that!' I remember being told "fasting was very unhealthy" for me. Ancient religions and societies have fasted for centuries.
But as Muslims, we know from life experience that fasting in Ramadan can result in weight gain, not weight loss.
For me today, Ramadan fasting is about - Abstinence and Indulgence. Indulgence with Abstinence.
I learned about the rules of abstinence during fasting early on during my journey into Islam, despite it being a crash course. Although I didn't understand the rules of fasting for years following my induction, it took many years of lessons and experiential learnings to move beyond the practical principle of fasting.
How could I overlook the mercies in the month of Ramadan? Those special mercies are given to women and children and men. You see, for me as a woman, I have been excused from the physical fast and abstinence of food and water when I was a breastfeeding mum and when I menstruated, and when I travelled, and when I will grow very old.
Yet these exemptions are for my sons also, should they travel, when they grow elderly and if one day one of them grows man boobs and starts breastfeeding.
With such mercies, fasting puts me and perhaps you in an excellent state of mindfulness and consciousness—a heightened sense of spirituality.
On the one hand, we are more believing and, dear, I say it, more practising in our state of abstinence. On the other hand, we can also be even more practising in a state of indulgence. I want to encourage this.
For me, this is the indulgence of cleansing my physiology - my gut, heart, spoken words, perception, assumptions, and even some learned behaviours. Maybe some of this stuff will take me some time to get there.
I want to get up in the morning, look into the mirror, and like who I see.
Let us fast this Ramadan and abstain from food, water and partnership intimacy.
Let us also indulge in a fast from hate, greed, inequity and racism! Join me.
Ngā mihi Aroha
Penname - Medjool Mara