When I moved to Wellington in late 2014, one of the first places my friends Chloe and Ali took me to was a second-hand bookstore called 'Pegasus' on Cuba Street. Time has passed and now, Chloe and Ali are in Jordan where they are both studying Arabic and Chloe is running her Etsy store selling Islamic art-inspired digital art prints, colouring pages, and craft projects.
|The cutest couple I know, Ali and Chloe (تبارک اللہ)|
The Grateful Slave
One day a good-natured king gave a rare and beautiful fruit to a slave, who tasted it and thereupon said that never in his life had he eaten anything so delicious. This made the king wish to try it himself, and he asked the king for a piece. But when he put in his mouth he found it very bitter and he raised his eyebrows in astonishment. The slave said: 'Sire, since I have received so many gifts at your hand how can I complain of one bitter fruit? Seeing that you shower benefits on me why should one bitterness estrange me from you?'.
So servant of God, if you experience suffering in your striving, be persuaded that it can be a treasure for you. The thing seems topsy turvy but, remember the slave.
During the month of Ramadan we not only fast from food and water during the day, but we also try our best to refrain from things that are displeasing to God, such as being angry and hurting others. In a way, we endure some suffering because we are fighting against our ego's desires (nafs). This story is not only a reminder that the test and trials we face in life can be hidden blessings but also means for us to build our character if we respond to them appropriately. Fasting can be perceived as a form of worship (ibadah) that helps us to refine our character because we learn to be more patient, God-fearing and akhirah-centric, among many other things.
Fasting also teaches us to be more grateful for the things we take for granted everyday, such as the ability to drink clean water and nourish ourselves with nutritious food. I believe it also serves as a reminder that suffering is temporary so we should be patient and appreciative of the good that we do have as we strive to improve ourselves and alleviate our condition. When we learn to appreciate the basics, we'll know how to appreciate everything else and attain closeness to our Creator (إن شاء الله). This is one of the many beautiful things about Ramadan.
Ramadan al-Mubarak, everyone. May we reap the treasures of this blessed month and may our days be filled with His love and light.