When you strip down Islam to its core – removing ALL the perceptions, interpretations, opinions, rituals and innovations – all you have is faith and trust in One God. It’s a sense of God Consciousness in every aspect of our lives. It’s an acknowledgement of what He has given us... from the food we eat, to every breath that we are allowed to take. And in that consciousness and acknowledgement is a perpetual sense of gratitude for everything we have in our lives.
It’s the first day of Ramadan here in South Africa. The new moon was sighted last night... or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. I was too busy trying to find a nurse to help me inject myself with a vial of Vitamin B12. The things we do for our deficient blood cells...
I love this time of year, not only because I derive some kind of gratification from deprivation, but also because it gives me time to reflect and re-group. It’s like a spiritual detox for the mind, body and soul. For me, fasting is more than just a physical experience. It’s a spiritual one where I feel kinda zoned out from the perpetual rush of life. It’s like my body and soul is being brought down from the highs and lifted up from the lows and made to settle somewhere in the middle, in contentment. I feel more centered during this auspicious month than I do at any other time of the year.
In many ways, this Ramadan won’t be any different to previous years... I’ll still be hungry at 10:30am, I'll still be going to bed earlier. I’ll still be taking my breakfast/sehri/suhoor before dawn (at around 04:30am here). I’ll still suffer from caffeine withdrawal for the first few days. I’ll still count down the hours before I get to break my fast (at around 05:44pm today in Johannesburg) and eat good homemade food. I’ll still be significantly well behaved and somewhat subdued (or try to be). I’ll still use whatever free time I have to immerse myself in prayer and remembrance of The Almighty.
I always think of my late grandfather during this time. I think of the legacy he left behind. The kind of man he was. He was a man who devoted his life to helping others. He devoted his time in the service of humanity... regardless of their race, ethnicities or religion. He never ever judged anyone. People often came to see him from all over the country and they had a tremendous amount of respect for him.
The result is that even though I haven’t met him I regularly encounter perfect strangers in the street, telling me what a great man he was. They hold all their stories or accounts of their personal experiences with him and his memory in their hearts, like little treasures they want you to see. It always makes me think “I should have met this man; where can I meet him?”. Some of them cry while they narrate their stories... nearly 40 years later and they still cry for him.
The one thing I want to focus on this Ramadan is my way forward in life. I want to focus on change and reflect on the kind of person I want to be - my place on earth that would honour his life - not for myself, but for others and for the sake of The Almighty too. Life is like a river in that sense... the water always needs to flow, it can’t remain stagnant because stagnant water is often toxic and unhealthy.
You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips ~ Oliver Goldsmith
Side Note: Here in SA, we have many towns and areas that have the word "fontein" attached to their names e.g. Slangfontein, Kalkfontein, Jackalsfontein etc. "Fontein" means "Fountain" in Dutch and Afrikaans. I have added an "Islam-fontein" section to this blog for additional Ramadan reading, chronicling previous posts and relevant material.