Relationships in the Ramadan Rush
Alhamdulillah, it’s been a great Ramadan. A little quick in the way it raced past us, but great nevertheless.
Of course, this is a very subjective opinion. Some people might not have found this Ramadan to be too great; that’s not an unusual thing. Some of us might not have been happy about our Ramadan because it just seems like we didn’t get the full spiritual benefit from it that we think we could have. Some of us might have been ill and were unable to fast. Some of us might have just missed it; it whooshed by too fast and we only discovered on the 27th night that it was upon us. Some of us, perhaps, don’t care too much about Ramadan (what a great pity).
I can’t talk for all of us, but I can talk for myself. There were a number of reasons that I enjoyed this Ramadan and I want to highlight some of these (very personal) reasons.
One of the joys of this Ramadan was the relationship that my two sons and I had developed. It might be just a Ramadan thing.
There is a lot about this Ramadan relationship that makes it special. It was the banter, the messing around, the teasing, the insulting, even the fighting between us that was so beautiful. (Maybe we should keep fighting after Ramadan?) And, of course, preparing iftaar together.
Having Iftaar with friends or relatives was just not the same for the three of us. When we broke our fast at home we spent a frenzied hour or so preparing, cooking, working together at a hectic pace to beat the adhan. And we enjoyed it! Then, after we heard the adhan, we would relax and share the fruits of our labour – taking a break, of course, for Maghrib.
Referring to this – a sentiment I had expressed elsewhere, an Australian friend wrote to me: ‘I can totally understand why Minhāj and Shir’a would prefer to eat at home. Especially as their dad travels and works a lot. Normality and familiarity can be a bit of a treat sometimes, I guess.’
Another lovely Ramadan ritual for me is the 9th Ramadan. It has been, for the past seven years, a special day for me. A number of us friends get together, we break our fast together, share food, laugh, make lots of jokes, some chatting, some catching up. We sometimes pray tarawih together.
It was on the 9th Ramadan, seven years ago, that my wife, Shamima, breathed her last. And the bunch of us that have been getting together every year since then includes some of her and my closest mutual friends in Joburg. It is an occasion for us to remember a close friend, comrade and (in our minds, at least) an icon of various kinds of struggles which we feel strongly about.
Of course, for me, sharing a life with Shamima was only partly about those struggles. It was, more than that, about the various lessons I had learnt. Her courage and her compassion being foremost.
Former Al-Qalam columnist Farid Esack, in his obituary for Shamima, quoted the hadith: ‘If the last hour strikes and finds you carrying a sapling to the grove for planting, go ahead and plant it.’ And that was her life, continued planting: writing, speaking, running The Voice radio station – even in the last weeks of her life with her body wracked with pain.
But more importantly, it was with Shamima that I began to understand what it meant to live a life reliant on Allah. Her four-year illness was trying for us both. But it was also a period of enormous growth. It was a time that helped us understand more intensely our relationship with each other and our relationship (together and individually) with our Creator. The period before Shamima’s death was one of the two most spiritually uplifting in our lives.
We learnt about reliance on Allah, about the importance of being able to give ourselves completely to Him and putting our trust entirely upon Him. We learnt about the necessity to be comfortable and contented, to have peaceful hearts, even as we were dealing with chaotic situations around us.
It is the importance of that relationship with Allah that I celebrate and reflect on every year on the 9th Ramadan.
Perhaps the most demanding part of my Ramadan this year – apart from 280 student essays that I had to mark – was the tafsir programme that I did on The Voice, night-after-night after the tarawih salah, together with Molvi Sulaiman and Gauteng Muslim Youth Movement chairperson Ebrahim Fakude. It took lots of preparation every evening: research, thinking, reflecting, before we went on air. For me, what was intensely pleasurable about it was the daily sitting with the Qur’ān and poring over its meanings, trying to grapple with what Allah was saying to us, to me. Trying to understand Allah’s words in my life and in this time. Trying to do it in a way that wasn’t talking just to me but would be talking to thousands of listeners. Trying to see and feel Allah in this Ramadan.
And so this Ramadan was a great joy and blessing for me. It was a blessing because of relationships created, strengthened, nurtured. It was a blessing because of my relationship with my sons, with my wife, with friends and most importantly, my relationship with Allah and His Revelation. I’m sure we will all be grumbling about how this Ramadan zoomed past us. But it is precisely these relationships that slow the month down, that give us pause, that make the Ramadan rush tremendously meaningful.
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