|Muslims around the world are beginning their journey into the sacred month of Ramadan. I wish everyone, observing the month or not, Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan). Once a year for the last 1400+ years, Muslims have partaken in a form of physically distancing with the aspiration of drawing closer to God and coming to better know ourselves. From dawn to dusk, we fast—physically, and hopefully spiritually—by distancing ourselves from food, drink, and intimacy. But, for the second time (and hopefully the last), this year’s unique reality has social ramifications, disenabling communal itfars (dinner gatherings to break the fast) and nightly prayers. At risk of missing the spiritual opportunities, Ramadan presents additional complexity for the Muslim community, challenging us to embrace this temporarily trying circumstance in new emotional and spiritual ways.
I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all spiritual practice, but I do believe that our spiritual and emotional states are inextricably connected. While living socially distant can sometimes feel like emotional asphyxiation, I have found it also presents an opportunity to slow down and turn inward—to figuratively double-click and examine–the things the high-paced frequency of life lets me overlook. As a spiritual season of approximately thirty days (because the Islamic calendar is lunar, months are twenty-nine or thirty days), Ramadan is the perfect opportunity for this work. Through our diligent conscientiousness about our bodily consumptions, we have additional energy to refocus on introspective inquiry and analysis, fortifying healthy qualities, and strengthening what needs improvement or cessation.
Regardless of whether you’re Muslim or not, I invite you to use this time as an opportunity to become more familiar with yourself. What would you like to examine thoughtfully about your habits, patterns, or choices? Where are you seeking spiritual awakening or emotional healing? This invitation is essentially an invitation to be courageous because honest introspection is never without difficulty. But, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Be diligent in what benefits you, seek God’s aid, and do not tire.”
Despite how we perceive our own capacity for courageousness, I pray we grow emotionally and spiritually and every way possible beyond our imaginations. I pray we surface from this current temporary reality existentially healthier and more whole.
I pray we all have a Ramadan Mubarak. Amen!
Imam Abdul-Malik Merchant