This is a guest post by Aamer H. Jamali.
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.
The tragedy in Orlando is a harsh return to reality from the fantasy escape of the Muhammad Ali funeral.
CAIR Florida launched a donation page at LaunchGood for the victims’ families:
Muslim scholars have expressed sorrow and condemnation – Omar Suleiman:
#Orlando Senseless. Barbaric. Despicable. As the shouting wars begin on television and social media, don’t forget the grief of the families who woke up to the news that their loved ones were ruthlessly taken away from them. Our thoughts and prayers are with them today. We condemn this unspeakable horror.
We just spent a week honoring a man, well known to us, who was inspired by Islam to spread peace & justice to every corner of this world, touching millions of lives in a beautiful way. I, and Muslims across this country, refuse to be involuntarily represented by some demented murderer unknown to us who ruthlessly took the lives of tens of people in Orlando today.
Today I am speechless. Fifty people- fifty human beings- lost their lives in an act of absolutely senseless and barbaric violence and a total disregard for humanity.
The news outlets are saying that the shooter affiliated himself with Islam. Know that Islam does not affiliate itself with him. It needs to be said: there is absolutely, categorically no place for what this man has done in Islam. I do not know of a single sound religious tradition that allows, let alone advocates, for such indiscriminate killing.
Allah says in the Quran, “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind.”
Today, all of mankind is hurt by this man’s actions. I pray for justice, unity, and for the families who lost loves ones in this mindless tragedy.
Thinking of my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community this morning. I can only imagine how the loved ones of those killed in last night’s horrific actions in Orlando are feeling. The only way to make sense of such senseless acts is through living with hope, compassion and love. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. #OrlandoShooting
In the Qur’an:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُم بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْأَرْضِ لَمُسْرِفُونَ
We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Qur’an 5:32)
And the most important thing that we can do as a community in response is to heed the wisdom of the Qur’an, and repel evil with that which is better:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! (Qur’an 41:34)
Let us respond to this tragedy, not by trying to define terrorism, or think about public policy, or politicians, or mental illness, but with simple determination to repel evil with what is better. Start by donating to LaunchGood for the families and victims in Orlando. And then let our duas be amplified by Ramadan accordingly.
This is a guest post by Taher Suratwala.
I’ve read and learned some things and that have had me thinking about what I want to focus on this year. I’m having a hard time finding a single word to describe it. The closest I can think of is “steer”. It does a good job of helping me frame my thoughts about another topic, control.
I recently learned about the importance of the perception of control and how that influences the brain. Specifically, the perception of control influences the ability to motivate ourselves. Basically, if you think and reinforce your thinking to believe something is not in your control then it won’t be. For example, if I say to myself, “I’m not able to climb that mountain because I was born without being able to” I won’t try to. Instead, just framing this a bit differently, “I took one step, I can become strong enough to take another” can give me the motivation to be to be stronger. If I believe I did it then I can do more. This realization has changed the way I will interact with my children when trying to motivate them.
The perception of control is an exercise in framing a situation. I’m realizing more and more that so much is in my control. There ain’t no mountain….
I’ve also read a book, The Time Keeper, that had me thinking about time and how we think about it. It also forces me to think that once we didn’t count it at all. There are some words of the author I want to remember:
Consider the word “time.” We use so many phrases with it. Pass time. Waste time. Kill time. Lose time. In good time. About time. Take your time. Save time. A long time. Right on time. Out of time. Mind the time. Be on time. Spare time. Keep time. Stall for time. There are as many expressions with “time” as there are minutes in a day. But once, there was no word for it at all. Because no one was counting…And [then] everything changed.
As with so many times before in my career, I’m bogged down with work and I’m climbing out of some mental cave to get perspective on what’s more important. Recently, I was witness to something in some one else’s life that was way more important. He even showed me the state of his work and reminded me that wasn’t very important.
I’ve spent a couple days thinking carefully about what’s more important and it’s in my control to steer my thoughts to what’s more important while I have time (since I can’t help counting the time).
Taher Suratwala is a husband to his beautiful wife, a father to his two wonderful children, and a son to his wise parents. During the day, he makes use of his math, statistics and economic background as an actuary. This post originally appeared on his blog, B Like Water.