Ramadan Mubarak — Tahseen Shaik

Ever wonder what it feels like to be a sous chef, a waiter and a food deliverer at the same time? That’s what it felt like 45 minutes before iftar as I ran between houses delivering food to one neighbor, grabbing extra tomatoes from another and waiting for another neighbor to plate two dishes for me to deliver — all of this while fasting and burning the last bit of energy I probably had left in my body. But at the end of it when I sat down to break my fast there would be food made with love and care from four different houses. Growing up, this was one of my favorite things about Ramadan. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims where we fast each day from sunrise to sunset and celebrate Eid al Fitr (“Festival of Breaking Fast”) at the end. Currently we are in this holy month with Eid approaching in a few days.

Each Ramadan was filled with friends and family and the days flew by too fast. Some were spent in India, visiting grandparents and relatives, others in Milwaukee spent with family friends. Fasting and preparing food for each evening’s iftar was fun  – cooking with cousins, learning recipes from my mom and her friends, or friends sending each other pictures of food to tease. Prayers were filled with listening to people reciting the Quran and chai breaks during the night. Eid was dressing up, waiting for eidi (gifts) and taking pictures. This was the essence of Ramadan for most of my childhood. However, in recent years, I believe my approach and preparation for Ramadan have drastically changed.

Just a few weeks ago, on the first night of Ramadan, I sat down alone with a pen and paper writing down a list of things I wanted to ask Allah and my goals for the month. My best friend did the same. That night we laughed about how needy we are, how we had to start using shortcuts for words and writing on the backside as we were running out of space. Our childish laughter and complaining made me realize the limitless amount of things we had to ask God. It was clear proof of a change in our priorities and how we each viewed this month. The next night after praying Taraweeh (optional prayers) at the mosque (place of worship), I sat with another friend catching up on our life and figuring out when we can meet again this month aside from prayer. The next week I caught up with another friend and our conversation naturally led to talking about busy schedules and spiritual journeys. These reflections among my friends pointed out this shift from our childhood Ramadans. All of us are young adults who seem to always be busy, and have been living from deadline to deadline for the past few years. Ramadans, especially during my undergrad, were spent studying for finals, grabbing quick meals for iftars and praying within a tiny college apartment. However, this gave me the chance to be humble and appreciate the blessed days in a way I didn’t while growing up.

Unknowingly and naturally, over the past couple years Ramadan has become a time for introspection and training. A time to reflect. A time to become aware of things that are negatively impacting me. A time to implement a new goal or plan to be 1% better than I was last year. It is not only a month to surround yourself with love and care, but also a month to worship, where you learn to love and care for yourself as well. Although I miss the adrenaline rush and commotion of Ramadan and Eid from my childhood, I look forward to the tranquility and discipline of future Ramadans.

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