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15th May 2020 by

Ramadan Reflections by Dr Rehana Parveen

During these strange and challenging times, observing the Holy Month of Ramadan may look very different for our Muslim friends and colleagues. A member of the Law School Academic Faculty here at Birmingham shares her thoughts and feelings on how she is coping under the Coronavirus lockdown and provides some support and inspiration for others.

Ramadan Reflections  – Part 3

We have now moved from the middle of Ramadan to the last third of this month. I usually find the middle of the month is when my faith dips a little. The first week of Ramadan is all full of excitement for the new month and getting myself acclimatised to my Ramadan routines.  The middle of the month sees me flagging a little, having fasted for a couple of weeks and maintained a strict routine I can feel myself getting a little weary.

But as we approach the end of Ramadan I step it up a gear. The Last 10 nights of Ramadan are really important. Many Muslims, myself included, will try to stay awake all night performing extra acts of worship and prayer.  It’s what I imagine running a long distance race may be like. I have never actually ran any such race and have no intentions to do so but I am guessing you start quite quick, you reach a certain pace and things can get tough as you try to maintain that pace and then, when the end is in sight, you really push yourself to the absolute best of your ability.  You put all your efforts into getting over the finish line with your best time. As I said I am guessing this is what running a race would be like.

Well for Ramadan the end is in sight, so now is the time to really exert my efforts so that I can end this month on a high. Not with the intention that I can be pleased with myself as such, but because I want to feel that I have really exerted myself in reconnecting myself to God. I want to feel that I have pushed myself in my spirituality, in my discipline and to feel the contentment of faith.  There has never been anything of significance that I have ever achieved in my life that has come without a struggle. In fact to achieve something without a struggle would barely even register as an achievement.  The struggles of this month are absolutely worth it for me and if anything I always wish I had done more.

I know that that these last few days are now slipping away very quickly and who knows what my circumstances will be like next year. Will I be around to witness and participate in another Ramadan?  This may sound like a morbid question but it is one that I always think about as we approach the end of Ramadan and it is one that seems all the more acute given the current pandemic that we face.

One of the reasons that I think about my mortality in this way during Ramadan is that all these acts of worship, all of these attempts to connect with God are precisely because I do believe in an afterlife. I do believe that the way I live my life on this earth, the way in which I interact with other humans, the way I treat animals, how I treat the environment and more generally the kind of life that I lead matters. It matters not just in this life but in the hereafter. I believe that I will be held accountable for the decisions and choices that I make in this life. Ramadan allows me the time to think about this more deeply. It allows me to humble myself because if I want God to treat me with kindness and mercy in the next life then I need to be kind and merciful to all of God’s creations in this life. And I really have to ask myself whether I do justice to all of the responsibilities that I have in my life.

The hardship that I am putting my body through in fasting this month also makes me reflect on my own vulnerabilities and mortality. This coupled with the pandemic has only served to highlight for me how frail we all are and how connected we are to one another. I thought the pandemic and lockdown would mean Ramadan would be more difficult stuck at home. Actually Ramadan has made the pandemic and lockdown easier to deal with. I have found solace in my fasting and prayers from the anxiety of what is going on in the world around me.

One final reason why I think about my mortality in Ramadan is that in previous years and even in this year people close to me have died in this month. I think of them as truly blessed because they are and will always be connected to a month that I love. Their deaths are entwined with moments of my own deep spirituality and I always make special prayers for them this month. But I pray for everyone this month, whether you are Muslim or not. If you are reading this blog, rest assured you have been in my prayers too.

Dr Rehana Parveen

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