This is the twenty-first post in the Interfaith Ramadan 2016 series. Articles written by contributors from diverse faiths and none will published every day throughout the month of Ramadan.
Another Ramadan soon draws to an end.
We look for the moon and a date to signify the commencement of Ramadan. Now we look again for a moon and a date for Eid.
The other type of date of course, is the one we eat - especially during Ramadan. Why? Because it kick-starts the digestive process which has been on battery save all day. The initial rush of sugar offers both nourishment and comfort. Dates are nutritious and high in vitamins. The Quran mentions the date palm more than any other fruit bearing plant. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) frequently ate them and we all know the hadith about a house without dates is like a house with no food. I’ve even rubbed the gums of my newly born children with the fruit.
I enjoy the onset of Ramadan. The build up to the month is full of spiritual promise, intentions and hope. A bit like the resolutions made at the beginning of a new year. But often by the time you get to the last ten days, eagerly searching for the ‘Night of Power’, it feels like bittersweet endurance. An exhausted sprint to the end of a race you never quite want to end. When I get to this stage, I have to ask myself if I’ve done enough. The answer is usually no. Ramadan has come and almost gone and here is the time again for some introspection. Like a bad school report, good effort but could do better.
This Ramadan, amid the devotional fervour and well intended goals I went to five live concerts. In order, Coldplay, Guy Garvey, Wet Wet Wet, Beyonce and Burt Bacharach. Yes, I’ve opened my fast while watching bands and artists on stage. I take half a dozen dates wrapped in cling film into assorted venues and wait. Most bands take to the stage at around 8pm. This year sunset in the UK is around 9.25pm. So I wait. The first hour tends to go fairly quickly. Then I’m clock watching (something I never do at gigs) the last half an hour. It normally takes about 4 songs then I’m counting down minutes into seconds. Just once I would want the band or artist to stop and tell the audience that it’s time to eat. Have perhaps 30 seconds to acknowledge the fast. How incredible would that be? I would raise my date in thanks, read the dua and eat. It’s yet to happen but I’m hopeful. I uncover the cling film, salivating at the thought of the sugary, sweet goodness that will fill my being. I don't wish to encourage a game of ‘date trumps’ where we share the weirdest place one might break a fast but there have been moments where I have caught myself. Trust me when I tell you that after a day of fasting, the moment when you witness the change of day into night is set against the backdrop of live music is quite profound.
Make no mistake, although the practising of my faith may have a lot to be desired, I love Islam. The Muslims around me both real and online nurture and provide me with serenity, critical philosophical thinking and a spiritual nourishment. My belief, my Eemaan (Imaan - faith, described by the prophet as "a knowledge in the heart, a voicing with the tongue, and an activity with the limbs") and all that it brings is unshakeable. Yet I have to reconcile and marry this month with my love of music. Please let’s not start a debate about how sinful it is, how it negates my faith. Or and dilutes my brain and every good deed I have ever done. Music has held me together for the best part of 40 years and I anticipate it staying with me to the end. Consequently what that means it that I go to a lot of concerts. Do I stop going to watch gigs during Ramadan? No. Should it? Again, don’t judge me. I’m only doing my best right now.
The internet is rife with scary, hellfire and brimstone clad information from shouty religious types on what happens when your best isn’t good enough. The numerous blogs and videos answering questions about what to do if we haven’t read or memorised enough Quran or missed too many night prayers all pander to the inherent built in guilt-buttons that are activated with every watch and read. Ramadan is a full of composure and quietude. A month of calm, solemnity and reflection. But I also want to recognise that the day after Eid is also an opportunity to continue building. I don’t want to feel guilt or fear. I want to feel the love of Allah’s continued guidance and mercy.
Anisa Subedar is a freelance journalist and radio producer for the BBC. She’s currently working on her first novel.
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