Ramadan is a riddle. Fast ferociously, eat excessively. Contradiction? Pray for forgiveness this month just to go astray next month. Hypocrisy?
The intensely personal time is one that is conversely communal. Perhaps that is the Ramadan trope and not the reality. Balance. That is your equation. Find it. Practice it. And so, the posts, the blogs, the snaps, proliferate on ‘eating well’ and ‘being fit’, while you fast. Mindfulness in meditation. Check. Do not forget charity. Give a dollar. Give ten. Give a hundred. Post about it. Tell people about it. Check. What is Ramadan?
Many things to many people. That is okay. It is a month of search and defined by as many questions as there are answers. In the West, it is a cocoon for one’s identity as Muslim. In the East, it is an obligation of collective expression of identity. It is habit. It is practice. It is when you fit back in. Is that Ramadan?
What I hope though, is that Ramadan can be a time of transcendence. Transcendence over my ego, from self to something larger. Transcendence over the petty and parochial, the pedantic and political. Transcendence over inscribed identities and immature inflexibilities. Yet, what I see is foolishness. I see a Muslim world – an umma – locked in foolishness.
Ramadan does not empower escape from this but only seems to supercharge it. We reinforce the ingrained differences and injustices and satiate our appetite for difference making with nominal – important, but nominal nevertheless – contributions. Our divisions remain. Our ignorance’s stay with us.
If Ramadan is a time to elevate and be transcendent why do, we not ask – why? Why must we be locked in conflict between Sunni and Shiite? Why must Persians and Arabs have enmity? Why must Pakistan and India be at war? Why must the vast majority of what was Muslim civilization be governed by autocracy? Why must Christians be killed? Why must Jews be absent from our cities? Why must we treat people with a lack of education as having a lack of valid perspective?
Many say they are above this, do not believe in it, and want to change it, but at the same time they – we, me – benefit from the very system that perpetuates the reality that we should be questioning. We – the elite of the Muslim world – are the merchants of Mecca before the Prophet, walled off in our own world, and each Ramadan we celebrate it in our silence, as the world burns around us. Why?