[Asma Mobin-Uddin is the board chairwoman for the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). A version of this column first appeared in the Columbus Post-Dispatch.]
Busy with the worldly demands of our hectic lives, many of us leave the deepest needs of the human heart unattended. For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan, which began this year Sept. 13, is a time to subjugate the needs of the body to tend to the needs of the heart.
During Ramadan, the call of the heart and its longing for connection with God take precedence.
Every year before Ramadan starts, I am filled with anticipation, hope and usually some apprehension. I wonder if I will be able to meet the demands of the daily fast. Abstinence from all food and drink — even water — is required during daylight hours. Even in a state of hunger and fatigue, a fasting person must do his or her best to be patient, avoid harshness with anyone, show compassion and mercy to others, give of time and wealth in charity and avoid any falsehood or bad deed.
Yet each year, I quickly realize that the greatest challenges of this month lie not in the physical abstinence but in the struggle to improve my character.
Muslims believe that during Ramadan, God provides tremendous support, love, mercy and forgiveness for those struggling to attain piety and nearness to him. During Ramadan, Muslims believe God binds the forces of evil so their negative influences on people are restrained. With the gates of God’s swung wide open, even the smallest acts of goodness are rewarded exponentially.
What I cherish most about Ramadan are the opportunities for quiet moments in solitude with God. The stillness of the morning before dawn provides a perfect setting for communication with God. In a silence far removed from the frenzied pace of the day, with intimacy, I pour out my soul’s thoughts to God. In those moments of devotion, I deeply sense God’s love and compassion. (MORE)