Let us keep Ramadan all year round

It's pretty much done. I have been asked so many times how I feel about the end of the holy month that I have developed an automatic, ambivalent reply: I'll miss the family gatherings, but it will be nice to return to normality. The promise of Ramadan lies not just in our attempt to be good, so to speak, for a mere 29 or 30 days, but to extend those values to the rest of the year. Imams and preachers often speak out in sadness that mosques,filled to the brim on Laylat al Qadr, will the rest of the year host only a handful of worshippers.

The better angels of our nature should not be constrained by any time limit. Fears of a waning faith are sometimes overblown. Younger generations, for instance, increasingly see the value of prayer. Sure, we will all miss the dates with milk, the "tamr hendi" drinks, the Arabic sweets, the family iftar gathering every day. But to me, Ramadan represents the potential for us to be extraordinary, to be much more than what we are 11 months out of the year, and to hold onto that ideal.

That's one thing we are always reminded of as Ramadan blends into Shawwal, the next month in the Islamic calendar. Beginning the last evening prayers of the month, the preachers tell us not to abandon the mosque, not to abandon the Quran. It would be such a waste, they say. The message is reiterated the next day during the Eid prayers. My memories of them stretch back to my earliest years. We always put off shopping for new Eid clothes until the last couple of days, and we got home loaded with shopping bags, eventually falling asleep in the wee hours.

But it was only a couple of hours before we were up again, dressing in our new clothes, doing the fajr, or dawn prayers, and drinking a glass of water to signify the end of the holy month. When we get to the mosque, we join the sea of worshippers chanting praise for Allah, before the Eid prayers begin, followed by a sermon, and then the congregation disperses. And then it's almost as if everyone in the mosque is a distant relative. Everyone shakes hands with everyone, and friends separated by time and day jobs hug and congratulate each other on Eid's arrival.

We developed a tradition of inviting cousins and friends for a breakfast meal after the prayers, a final goodbye to Ramadan, before all the children begin nagging for their Eideya, a bundle of fresh cash handed to the children who braved the trials of the month. Even now, my parents insist on giving me my Eideya, even though I'm gainfully employed. But there is one thing everyone says in the middle of the festivities: "Asakom men awadih", or may it return to you.

Because no matter how many times we complain about caffeine withdrawal, dehydration, abject hunger and nicotine addiction, we will miss Ramadan because it helps us shoot for something better that we then struggle to maintain. Just 11 more months to go. Eid mubarak. @Email:kshaheen@thenational.ae

Russia's Muslim Heartlands

Dominic Rubin, Oxford


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