During my somewhat apathetic teenage years I never gave Ramadhan much of an in-depth thought. I knew it meant waking up as early as 4.30 a.m. to eat suhoor, staying away from actions and things that would make my fast invalid and not forgetting, taraweeh night prayers (which can be long and tiring). I knew it also meant increasing deeds that would please God. Deeds such as reading or reciting the Holy Qur'an more frequently and giving sadaqah (charity). Fasting during Ramadhan was a tradition and deep down inside I knew it was a positive thing to do so I didn't question why or why not. My friends and I would learn in school about the benefits of fasting and the beauty of Ramadhan but it was more of learning so we could get an 'A' in Islamic Studies and not really because we were interested in understanding our faith a lot more. I guess that is what happens when you live in a Muslim country. You do things because it's socially acceptable, everyone else is doing it and they expect you to as well. Not because you truly understand why.
When I moved to New Zealand at the age of 15 years old, Ramadhan was a different experience. At first I missed going to the various food bazaars around Kuala Lumpur and being absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to what I wanted to eat for iftar. I've always had a sweet tooth so choosing desserts such as caramel pudding and tepung pelita would be the highlight of my days! But here in Dunedin, my family and I would break our fasts at the local mosque instead of at home. Muslims from all over Dunedin would gather in the spirit of Ramadhan and everyone was always happy to see and help one another. Every night we'd eat meals that were cooked by different people everyday. One day it would be Malaysian, then it would be Afghani and then the next night we'd have Arabic food. Getting to know all these different Muslims from around the world and trying their traditional food was one of the experiences that made me fall in love with Islam in a way I never did when I was living in Malaysia. For the first time in my life, I saw how Islam was able to unite people of different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities so beautifully. We blended together as one Ummah (community). Hence, I have always enjoyed Ramadhan in New Zealand for the past 6 years or so because socially it's a lot of fun; family and friends come together and iftars are exciting. However, I don't think I've ever enjoyed Ramadhan spiritually, not until this year. Instead of sighing about how fasting gets in the way of my daily activities this year I actually complain about how my assignments and studies are getting in the way of my ability to focus on my ibadah.
Those who know me would know that is not a very 'Sha' thing to do... not until recently at least.
And I even enjoy taraweeh prayers too! They used to feel like they last forever but no, not this year. Perhaps I have to thank the 17 year old almost-Hafiz who is our imam for taraweeh. He recites pretty fast plus we only do 8 rakaats a night. But still. I usually wouldn't stick around for the night prayers but this year I want to. I take no credit for all these changes as I'm quite surprised with myself too. Maybe I'm just growing up or maybe as my best friend, Marissa, said I'm going through self-actualisation. She's a Psychology major so I'm sure she knows what she's talking about ;) I've heard of this notion of self-actualisation by Abraham Maslow in some of my Marketing courses. I decided to look it up and this is what I found:
The first thing to note about self-actualisation is that it is a process not a goal. In other words, self-actualisation is not something that you aim for: it is something that you do... It is a growth process that enables you to transform the unhappiness you feel into personal satisfaction with who you are and how you connect with the wholeness of your existence.
(Sourced from ChangeZone)
My oh my. Pretty interesting stuff!
Ramadhan gives us the opportunity to reconnect and rebuild our relationship with our Creator through good deeds and ibadah. It is also a time of purification in every sense of the word. When our efforts are focused on doing good, that consequently purifies our intentions, thoughts, heart and soul. These are the parts of ourselves that we tend to overlook or neglect when we're so busy chasing dunya (worldly desires). When I put aside all the distractions in my life, I can honestly say that I'm happy and contented. My life isn't perfect, I'm not perfect and I don't have everything that I want (or everything that I think I want) but alhamdulillah, I have so much to be thankful for. Even little things that others might scoff at can make me feel excited and happy these days - things like spending time with my Mum, finding out that a fellow blogger just had a baby, sitting through an illuminating lecture or reading an inspiring hadeeth or book. I guess self-actualisation does explain what I'm going through in life at the moment. I do feel like things are starting to fall into place and this Ramadhan has opened my eyes and made me realise that.
Some facts about Ramadhan:
1. The name "Ramadan" had been the name of the ninth month in Arabian culture long before the arrival of Islam; the word itself derived from an Arabic root rmd, as in words like "ramida" or "ar-ramad" denoting intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations.
2. The Prophet (pbuh) passed through approximately nine Ramadans after the Hijrah. They were filled with decisive events and left us a shining example of sacrifice and submission to Allah swt. To know more about what the Prophet (pbuh) experienced during Ramadhan in his time read 'Ramadhan in History'.
3. Fasting develops a spirit of patience [and gratefulness] in man, with the realization that the days of fasting, though seemingly unending, do have a successful and happy end. Thus is life. All bitter situations pass, and come to an end. For more benefits of fasting visit Ramadan 101.
4. Ramadhan is truly about making positive changes within ourselves. What Ramadan demands of us is the internal change – a change that positively transforms our lifestyle, character, attitudes, conversations, and habits. Allah has described this change in the month of Ramadan as follows: “so you may exercise self-restraint (Taqwa)” [Quran 2:183]. Find out 16 ways to kick bad habits (and not just for Ramadhan!)