Last evening, as I sat down to break fast (iftari) at the beautifully laid out table at Fauzia Syed’s house, next to our children and grandchildren, I remember exclaiming “what a joy to finally eat, and to eat together with family”! The Syeds always have a wonderful spread, and I could not believe that Javaid had driven to Brooklyn to get some fun food- the staple of our iftar- such as pakoras, samosas, dahi baras, fruit chaat, kachori, talk about snacks from the Indian sub-continent – they are endless! And Fauzia had cooked chicken korma at the last minute once she knew the kids were staying! The spirit of giving and serving is so ever present in Ramadan. The biggest celebration was of course the roza khushai (celebrating the first fasts) of our grandsons Saif and Zain, who had kept fast that day!
I remember we visited the grave of our dear friend Iqbal Zia last Thursday, who left us exactly a year ago, and his wife Hina Zia went all over town gathering to go iftaris for us visitors- a sweet and generous gesture and so in keeping with our lovely traditions. And how can we forget Shireen Jamil’s iftari bags for all Wanderers taking in the beautiful cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park? Tonight we are looking forward to another dear friend Zahid Hasan hosting a communal iftar at a Pakistani restaurant.
The most beautiful feeling is that we conquered our body’s need for food and drink for 15 and a half hours (if we medically can), and we have been doing it for 20 days almost, with the last ten days – also known as the Ten Days of Power- fast approaching. And we did it for our Creator, as he has said in the Quran “Fasting is good if ye only knew its benefits” and “it has been prescribed by many messengers before”. That spiritual knowledge and belief keeps one going throughout the whole month. Our sheikh Yurdaer Baba said at the beginning of Ramadan: make Ramadan contagious, and I guess that is what I am trying to do with my blog too!
The joy of eating after so many hours of not eating is indescribable, and it is a bittersweet joy, as we mentally visualize all those who go hungry every day. It reminds us to give more of what we have, and that is why most Muslims give most of their zakat in this month- I have stacks of letters from charities and NGO’s that arrive in this month, and every day I sift through and process a few of them. As I sift through them, I am saddened to see so much need in every corner of the planet. It seems overwhelming at times. But as Sheikh Hakim Murad reminds us in his Ramadan video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvujsbmaBPY&t=106s ), “rida”- being content with how things are is also a goal of the seeker. And it is not just about food, we abstain from many bad habits hopefully, and we pray and read the Quran a lot. I have been enjoying the Quran with Urdu translation, which my dear departed Amijan did daily, and it feels like a connection to her.
As any iftari party attendee can attest, we dig on so fast to gratify ourselves. It takes conscious effort to slow down and not overwhelm our system. Some of us overeat and then suffer heartburn for sure! But in the end, the joy of having conquered us feels like a great personal physical and spiritual challenge met. As I was chatting with Amna- my daughter-in-law- she said that she feels sad that Ramadan will be over soon. I was so impressed with her dedication, since I am actually counting the days, that things will be normal again and I can have my Cappuccino at 11am! But yes, I will miss the communal spirituality and the lengthy prayers which make me feel closer to God, and help me be a better person. I will leave Ramadan with more patience, more empathy, more giving and more love for all hopefully, or Inshallah as we say.