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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020

'Ramadan is about so much more than refraining from food and drink'

Ramadan is that one month where you can easily focus on your spirituality in a busy world, writes Hajar Akl.

Hajar Akl Student

MUSLIMS FAST FOR a month during the month of Ramadan – the ninth month in the Islamic calendar – which means not eating or drinking anything from before sunrise until sunset.

To those who do not fast during Ramadan, you might think it’s just about refraining from food and drink, but Ramadan is so much more than that.

It took me a while to understand the true meaning of Ramadan and what it symbolises, but once I did, I felt a unique sense of empowerment, one that only fasting can give.

A feeling of nostalgia

When Ramadan is just around the corner, there’s always a lingering feeling of nostalgia in the air. Everyone is reminiscing about the feelings that Ramadan brings with it. It’s a beautiful time because it is a chance to start afresh, and to focus solely on repairing your relationship with God.

Arriving only once a year, it’s an opportunity that needs to be made good use of and being given that opportunity is a huge blessing, even though we might not appreciate the enormity of it.

The realisation of how Ramadan is empowering hit when I understood what refraining from food and drink actually means. Eating and drinking are physical needs that we as humans desire. But for a whole month, to be able to control your physical needs, means that you can control and discipline yourself if you put your mind to it.

It’s empowering because you realise that these desires do not drive you, you are the one who holds the reigns.

You can focus on your spirituality

For the rest of the year, we’re all too busy prioritising work, school, relationships or whatever. It feels like materialistic, worldly achievements take centre stage while our spiritual lives are put on the back burner. And believe me, before you know it, you will exhaust your soul.

Ramadan is that one month where you can easily dedicate more time to focus on your spirituality. With Taraweeh (nightly prayers that take place during Ramadan) happening every night, and food, drink and other physical needs out of the picture, you find yourself with a lot more time to read the Quran, pray and work on your relationship with God.

Ramadan to me is more than giving up food and water from sunrise to sunset, it’s a time to heal the intricate workings of your soul, the corners you have left untouched and neglected. Ramadan is a time to recharge and to give yourself a boost to strengthen you for what is to come.

And Ramadan is also about family, friends and neighbours. Thinking of Ramadan brings back fond memories of sharing meals with family and friends, of the kindness of strangers, of people standing on the streets at Maghreb (prayer at sunset) time, giving out bags of free food and drinks to cars passing by.

Subtle festivity in the atmosphere

There is something about Ramadan that makes people kinder and more generous. There’s a subtle festivity in the Ramadan atmosphere. Every evening you’re gathered around with family for Iftar (the meal when you break your fast) and every night, you’re meeting your friends in the mosque for Taraweeh. You only find such a familial atmosphere in Ramadan, which is part of the reason why we look forward to it so much.

So not only does Ramadan help in giving you time to focus on healing the broken crevices of your heart, it’s also a time to reunite with friends and family, to pick up the phone and call family members who you haven’t spoken to in a long time. It has been a long-standing tradition in my family to call my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all over the world to wish them a blessed Ramadan. Ramadan helps in strengthening family bonds, and reaching out to those who you have not been in contact with for a while.

And finally, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss academic, philosopher, writer and professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the University of Oxford, summed up fasting perfectly:

The philosophy of fasting calls upon us to know ourselves, to master ourselves, and to discipline ourselves the better to free ourselves. To fast is to identify our dependencies, and free ourselves from them.

Hajar Akl is a journalism student in DIT who’s lived in five different cities growing up, which has helped her develop a curiosity about the world and its inhabitants. From there, stems a passion for journalism, investigation, photography and all aspects of storytelling. She speaks both Arabic and English, and currently lives in Dublin. 

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Hajar Akl  / Student

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