As we are counting mere days to the blessed month of Ramadan, I cannot help but recall the times in which I spent my Ramadans in Tarim, Yemen. Similar to narrations by friends who spent their Ramadan in Senegal or in the Haramayn, the entire community came alive from dusk to dawn.
Fasts were broken in the company of loved ones, melodious recitation of the Qur’an echoed not just from mud minarets but from each home, and thobes and dresses shuffled in unison at an Imam’s resounding ‘Allahuakbar’. Scrumptious scents wafted through the streets as the beauty of the Word of God and warmth of good company filled our souls.
While the night scene may not quite be the same in our city streets, we give praise to God for the easing of COVID-19 measures announced in recent days. We can once again look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder at the mosque for Tarawih and breaking bread with fellow Muslims, something we might have taken for granted in years past. Personally and with our families, we can keep the Ramadan nights alive in our homes, in prayer and reflection, just as our friends do around the world.
The Prophetﷺ emphasised countless times on the merits of keeping the stomach hungry. In Imam al-Ghazali’s ‘Disciplining the Soul and Breaking the Two Desires’, he quotes several Hadiths on this such as “… There is no action more beloved in the sight of God than to hunger and to thirst” and “Meditation is half of worship, while eating frugally is all of it”. Fasting, as Imam al-Mawlud’s book ‘Purification of the Heart’ reiterates, feeds spiritual growth; the less we fill our stomachs, the more we fill our souls. And Ramadan is the welcomed friend who gently nudges us all to feed our famished souls.
I close with a beautiful reminder for myself by Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi in ‘Irshad: Wisdom of a Sufi Master’: