Dr Munazzah Chou, Hitchin, UK
Ramadan is a time I look forward to; a time of heightened collective and personal spiritual endeavour. Other more worldly or mundane commitments fade into the background and spiritual activity is brought into focus. More time for Quranic recitation is carved out, more time is spent in superogatory prayers and the entire day, more than ever, revolves around fulfilling religious obligations.
Ramadan reminds me of exam revision; intensive study for hours you would never imagine possible (at least at the beginning of term) and then once it’s all over, you look back with satisfaction in the knowledge that you managed to push yourself to a level which you never knew you could.
Part of the beauty of Islam in my eyes is the flexibility it allows for and the emphasis on intentions. While fasting during Ramadan may be obligatory in principle, there are those who may have the intention to fast but are unable to due to personal circumstances. The surgeon or pilot who cannot function optimally if fasting would legitimately choose to fast on non-theatre or non-flying days and make up the deficit. Islam allows for this as the spirit and philosophy of fasting is the attainment of spiritual heights, not at the expense of others and not just bullishly charging towards a goal of questionable personal relevance or blindingly following the masses.
Once Ramadan is over you are left with a feeling that something is missing and the feeling that if you could possibly maintain that level of commitment and endeavour you could achieve so much.
More often than not however, that level of intensity falls precipitously. But as my father says, progress is step wise, you will rise and fall, which is ok as long you don’t fall back to below the stage you were at before.