Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fourteen years of fasting and Ramadan gets better each time

If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I would be celebrating my 14th Ramadan this year, I may not have believed them. I was a practicing Christian at the time, actively participating in my journey towards spiritual discovery and content in my religion. In retrospect, Islam was the natural next step for me, but at the time, I was so involved in reading the Bible and reforming my lifestyle to reflect the values and standards illustrated in the Old and New Testaments, that converting to another faith was the farthest thing from my mind.

The most that I knew about Islam was that, Muslims did not eat pork and Malcolm X – El Hajj Malik El Shabazz – had embraced Orthodox Islam after leaving the Nation of Islam in the 1960's. 
As a Christian, I had begun covering my hair in modesty based on the scriptures in the New Testament Book of 1st Corinthians, had stopped eating pork and began altering my diet based on the Old Testament Book of Leviticus (although I had virtually stopped eating pork since high school after learning that pigs do not sweat – yuck!), and I prayed three times a day minimally as a way of building my relationship with The Creator.

After converting to Islam from Christianity in April of 1998, I was extremely eager to learn as much as I possibly could about my new religion, but I can honestly say that I may not have accepted the faith if I had not been introduced through reading the Holy Quran for myself.

When my husband, who had taken his shahadah before me, offered me a copy of the Holy Quran to read, I was not even aware that there was a separate Holy Book for Muslims, and so I did not have an opinion of it. He told me that the Holy Quran was a confirmation of the Holy Bible and a continuation of the religion of Abraham (pbuh). For that reason alone I opened it and gave it a chance.

I have written about the significance of the Holy Quran in my reversion to Islam before, and write about it again because it is such a clear sign for me. 
The first words of Surah Al-Fatihah were like rivers of cool refreshing water over my mind and Surah Al-Baqarah made my chest swell with emotion upon reading those first few sentences:

"This is the Book in which there is no doubt. It is a guide for those who are God conscious, who believe in the unseen, who establish regular prayers and spend in charity out of what We have provided for their sustenance; who believe in this Revelation which is sent to you and the Revelations which were sent before you and firmly believe in the Hereafter."

Each and every verse was a clear instruction – I instinctively knew that I was reading the truth – and everything that I had been seeking in Christianity was fulfilled in Islam.

With each Ramadan I gain a greater understanding of what it means to submit to Allah (swt), not only from the restrictions that come with fasting, but from the guidance of Islam's Holy Book.

Al-hamdulillah, 14-years after converting to Islam, I feel more dedicated than I have ever been. 
The most important aspect of Ramadan for me is the daily recitation of the Holy Quran, and every year I understand the revelation better and on a deeper level.

This year has been the most memorable by far and as Ramadan nears its end, I am extremely grateful for the experiences that I've had this month. I have met and interacted with Muslim sisters who have been an inspiration, and I am the most secure that I have ever been with my faith.

The blessings of self-restraint are more evident to me now than they have been in the past, and as I watch my son fasting and praying, I am filled with joy. He is fifteen years old now, but during my first Ramadan he was a toddler and I would hold him in my arms during salaat; now I line up behind him and my husband during prayer – it’s impossible to put the elation and happiness that I feel into words.

I pray that I may see dozens more months of fasting during Ramadan in the years to come, and that I may be permitted to experience lining up in prayer with my grandchildren one day. 
I will cherish the vision of breaking fast with my son, grandchildren, and a future daughter-in-law within my heart, and hope to witness such a blessing one day.

Life Reminders

Psalm 145:8-9 The Lord is Gracious and Merciful
The Lord is Gracious and Merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His Compassion is over all that He has made.

Matthew 11:28 Gentleness and Humility
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Surah 33:21 Beautiful Pattern of Conduct
Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.

Sahih Muslim, Book Unknown: Changing an Evil Action
“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.”

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