I love the idea of Ramadan, as I’ve written before. I like the idea of doing without (although I am nooo good at it!), to remind us of our many blessings. I use that term w/ some trepidation, as most Americans associate the word ‘blessing’ with a divine gift. I’m using it more in the original sense — infused with bloody marks to escape wrath and bad luck.
Blessing derives from the same root as the French verb blesser — to wound. So that a blessing is a kind of wound, a gift that brings with it pain. For me, it’s the pain of knowing my luck (and often it’s that alone: privilege conferred by birth, really) isn’t universal. A kind of offshoot of survivor guilt, in an oddly sympathetic way.
Ramadan reminds not to dismiss that unease, because it connects me to the real world. Each year I hope to participate, in my Buddhist journey. Islam has become so vilified in the West that the many wonderful charities and actions of the faith are lost to most Americans. Ramadan — so much like our Lent, and far far more onerous — is only one. Muslims will be observing this holy fast for another week and a half, until the Eid al-Fitr breaks on the 16th of July.
Right now, as I write, Muslims across the world are attempting to fast in hellish conditions: long days of sunlight (fasting is from dawn to dusk, more than 16 hours in some places) and temperatures consistently above 100° F (one day it hit 112.64°; another 108°). Despite the Prophet Mohammed’s insistence that to fast during travel, illness, or extreme circumstances is as disobedient as not to fast when life is normal, many devout Muslims — like many devout followers of other faiths — seek to follow their will, not religious text.
This breaks my heart, but also inspires a kind of head-shaking awe. I can’t comfortably go a day w/out food for my physical! To go a month, w/ only small meals after sunset? Wow. And even young pre-teens attempt this. When was the last time you heard of tweens in the US getting down for Lent?
So here is a heartfelt shout-out to my friends keeping Ramadan, and I have several. It’s an observance of faith that inspires me, and I’m grateful for that. To stop for a moment, and consider the many many in the world so very less fortunate? What a blessing. Wound though it is, as well.