City of Brass

This is a guest post by Aamer H. Jamali.

Ramadan/Eid Mubarak

Ramadan/Eid Mubarak

You’d think I’d know better by now. I’m not new at this, after all, having observed Ramadan for the past thirty years. And yet every year I fall into the same trap. Shabaan comes around, and it seems every day, every meal, every workout taunts me. A silent (followed by a not so silent) countdown commences. In my mind, Ramadan becomes a big black box, a month erased from my life, a page ripped off of the calendar. The end of the world, for a month anyway; when nothing can be expected to be accomplished.

I anticipate with dread the hunger, the lack of energy, the perpetual “hangry” feeling coupled with the lack of sleep and the expenditure of most of my free time at the masjid. Life takes on a new urgency during Shabaan. I need a new car, I’ve got to shop now, Ramadan is coming! Remodeling the kitchen? Need to choose tile now, Ramadan is coming! Patients to be seen, surgeries to be done…Schedule them now, Ramadan is coming! Taxes need to be prepared (I know, I’m late). Better do it soon, Ramadan is coming!

And then, before I know it, Ramadan is here. And only half of my superhuman to-do list has even been attempted. And yes, I’m hungry (and at times hangry), and tired. And yes, I go to the masjid. But it is always amazing to me–the sun still rises, the sky is still blue, the birds still sing. Life generally goes on, unabated.

Much to my surprise, my work schedule which I had lightened in anticipation of my reduced energy, seems too light as I sit at times with nothing to do. I still find time to meet with my contractor, or go for a test drive. And I always, always seem to find time to procrastinate even further on my taxes. Somehow, this big black box is not actually that. The page was never torn off the calendar, it is just another month in life. It has its own challenges and unique routines, to be sure. But life is able to be lived despite these fasts I was dreading so much.

This year, I choose to reflect on crux of this disconnect. Because despite concrete proof and experience saying otherwise, Ramadan in many ways continues to feel like a black box, like the end of the world for a month. The feeling is not born of dread. Despite the fasts, the lack of sleep, and the busy schedule, I don’t actually dread Ramadan. After all, I observe it of my own volition every year; if I truly dreaded it, I could easily stop and in many ways nobody would be the wiser. I do dread aspects of Ramadan, I would be lying if I said I actually enjoyed fasting. But I also look forward to aspects such as the renewed spirituality and the camaraderie.

Perhaps Ramadan feels like a black box because in many ways it is–just not in the ways I anticipated. It is a month erased from my life and torn off the calendar and given to Allah (SWT). All of these feelings are markers for the importance, the azamat, that I grant Ramadan. I will go test driving during Ramadan, I will talk to my contractor. And I will work. Just not if it interferes with namaaz time. At least for this one month, I will give ibadat the prime priority it deserves, insha-Allah.

Aamer H. Jamali, MD, FACC is a cardiologist in Los Angeles.

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