Reflections from Ramadan 1444
It’s beautiful how fasting truly brings everyone to the same station of struggle during Ramadan. Whether one has achieved worldly success or one is still fighting to find comfort in life, they are both brought together in this spiritual striving. The gaps created by all sorts of divisive identities of race, class, nationality, etc are ideally lessened as people are brought together in this practice. Regardless of where one is in life, Ramadan unites you with others who are experiencing similar pangs of hunger and spiritual exertion. If we look beyond the mere physical act of fasting, there is so much potential here for building a visceral sense of solidarity with others with whom we may normally feel as though we lack a substantive connection.
Ramadan also lays you bear before yourself. The sense that you are self-sufficient, master of your own destiny, etc. — these kinds of arrogance all dissolve in the experience of dependence and embodiment that fasting occasions. You come to remember you are a biological creature whose health and longevity depends on all sorts of interconnected networks of other beings who facilitate and constitute your sustenance. Our true and proper response to having yet another day to live in this world is gratitude for all the things upon which we rely to live — not self-assuredness that one’s own efforts are somehow responsible for this blessing.
Fasting also reveals your true nature in providing the conditions for all sorts of yearning and desperation to arise in your experience. What kind of character do you exhibit when you are hungry, thirsty, and tired? Do you remain kind and mindful? Or does a darker side of your soul come out, which uses your discomfort as an excuse for lower standards? When you’re denied the pleasures of food, drink, and the body, what kind of grasping emerges to try to take the place of these comforts? Seeing clearly the extent to which one is a creature of base yearnings, desperate for security and grounding in this tumultuous world — truly this is a great gift for anyone genuinely seeking the path of humility.
There is also this aspect of spiritual seclusion right in the midst of worldly life which is beautiful and deeply needed in our age. How wonderful it would be to be able to disengage from the world to pursue one’s fast , leaving behind the demands of work and the temptations of social existence and focus purely on spiritual purification. Yet how much deeper and more meaningful it is to pursue this same spiritual practice right in the midst of the world, learning how to integrate rather than divide spirituality from the complexities of everyday life! A greater challenge for sure, but a vision of spirituality which reminds us that our purification is not for ourselves, but for the sake of others, the world, and something higher. If your spiritual growth does not manifest as deep and heartfelt service, what use is it beyond yet another way to comfort and satiate yourself? And isn’t that exactly the sort of thing which Ramadan urges us to turn away from?
Eid Mubarak! May all who fasted this month find inspiration in their experiences of creaturely embodiment and dependence to strengthen them in love and service until next year when we do it all over again.