It was the 17th day of Ramadan in the Second year of Hijrah (624 AD) when Prophet Mohammed and his followers found themselves face to face with their greatest opponents, the Quraish of Mecca, in one of Islamic history's first and greatest battles: the Battle of Badr. "Allah had helped you at Badr, when you were a contemptible little force; then fear Allah; thus may you show your gratitude. Remember you said to the Faithful: 'Is it not enough for you that Allah should help you with three thousands angels (specially) sent down?'" (Quran 3: 123-124)
While greatly outnumbered, 300 to 1,000, the Prophet's army was victorious, paving the way for the spread of Islam. The Quran recounts that the Muslim army was reinforced by an invisible army of thousands of angels. While most know about this battle and its historic impact, few remember that it actually took place during Prophet Mohammad's first Ramadan. Having stepped over and slipped on scattered sticky date seeds inside Masjid al Haram - Mecca's Grand Mosque - after tens of thousands of worshippers had broken their fast on dates and I had yet to do so, I ended up fuming all the way back to my spot on a prayer carpet on the ground next to my friend. She gently reminded me to "take it easy", adding that I was lucky that the size of the obstacles thrown in my path that day were only tiny date seeds.
Pulling a foldable fan out of her purse, she brushed the seeds to a corner, removing them from our path and that of anyone else on their way to prayer. "See, there is more than one way to remove obstacles in our life," she said. After a wet wipe helped clean off some of the stickiness, she ended up using the same fan to keep us both cool before the next call for prayer. Two years later, and I still remember that day when my friend and I headed to Mecca to break our fast in one of the holiest mosques in the Muslim world. It was one of the most memorable nights of prayer for us. We didn't let anyone or anything interfere with "our private time" with Allah.
These days, whenever I lapse into complaining about a lack of strength after a long and demanding working day, I remind myself that the Prophet and the Muslims before us often had to fight and defend their faith and their families during their Ramadans. I have fasted during 25 Ramadans and have yet to come close to the kind of patience, charity and worship that the Prophet practised during the holy month.
Before, many of the battles were on the fields of war, and it was clear who the winner was. But these days, many of the battles are social and personal, and it is not always clear who the winner is and what it takes to win. These days, before each prayer, I try to refocus and reconnect with my inner self. Slowly, I clear away those noisy layers of stress and issues and make the most of my time with Allah. I have some inner battles to fight, and with Allah's guidance, I hope to win a few this Ramadan.