When I was 12, my teacher asked us in the classroom what did the month of Ramadhan mean to all of us?
We said all kind of things but he simply shook his head and said nothing after that.
Years later, I now know exactly why he asked that question. Ramadhan pulls no punches nor demands any favours. It lets you envelop yourself in a velvet of grace unconditionally.
Ramadhan also creates a wall of defence, even your demons, who normally reside in the darkest recesses of your mind, cannot break.
But the month pulls certain strings as well, like the chords of the heavenly cello, to play harmonic pitches in your spiritual instincts to lull you in deep relaxation. You are always in a prayer, whether you are on the praying mat or going through your daily routine.
The only thing that most of us do not realise is that every little gesture we do for each other counts in a formidable way. The best gestures are unspoken. For example, like when you open your wallet for charity during the month.
If your bank balance is on the negative side, then other gestures are almost as powerful.
Every smile, every touch when we pass each other in a crowded mall, the hand on our chest when we greet each other, the look of approval and the nod of encouragement mean so much on one another.
Going back to my childhood, I knew then even the rich needed ‘charity’ from the poor.
If the rich have money in abundance, the poor have the unspoken word to make ‘the art of giving’ perhaps more affective than cash.
Just the end of the street where I was born, this old woman had a knack of being needed by the rich without advertising the fact.
She was the first one to turn up when someone needed to cook special “iftar” which she accepted no money in return.
She also managed a one-woman “moral support” where she turned up to settle every quarrel in the neighbourhood and mediate in every disagreement.
It is all about putting yourself in the right frame of mind during Ramadhan.
In this month, our path is always littered with blessings in every step we take but many times we rush up and fail to acknowledge them.
This is how the rest falls nicely on your lap by making yourself conscious of gifts bestowed by God. We see people taking for granted simple routines by wasting a lot of time complaining about how hard fasting is. While all the time, ignoring the benefits and the health rewards.
Ramadhan is a trend setter, too.
You begin the holy occasion by new vows by getting a chance to clean the slate of all the wrongs you did in the past by the end of the month.
You start the first day of Eid as a new person by turning a new page — a page of forgiveness.
But before you forgive others, you must forgive yourself first to rid yourself with the cobwebs of guilt.
Then you move to the other half of compassion by forgiving people around you.
You cannot cleanse your soul if you still harbour enmity towards your relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
I might also be forgiven if I say the month is like a fashion that never fades away.
We always get to new things, tread into new paths that we never dared in the previous years.
For example, when we try out the midnight prayers or travel to a village to distribute food.
But above all, Ramadhan is never a relapse of old habits but an improvement to sharpen our skills in the way we deal with each other.
In conclusion, Ramadhan reminds us that the best way to win God’s favour is to put the needs of others before our own needs.
Saleh Al Shaibany