Love is the essence of faith. When we pray, fast, or take part in supplication, we ask God for his love, and the love of those who love Him — including those who aren’t quite like us. As millennials, we’re trying to navigate our different “selves.” In Ramadan we can sit in a cafeteria with our co-workers and we’re comfortable with that. We have IHOP and kale smoothies for Suhoor. Before Ramadan some of us do a caffeine detox, find Buzzfeed articles on healthy foods to eat when we break our fast, and stock up on chia and flax seeds. We may have an app for finding the local farmer’s market, but more often than not, the most fundamental thing we struggle with is finding a loving and understanding community.
We’re called the egotistic generation.
Psychologically, an ego is not a bad thing to have, but a rigid ego eliminates our acceptance of love. When we go to prayer, take part in dhikr, and engage in supplication, feelings of tranquility might dissolve this ego so that we might find peace. When we take care of our ego, then we can develop a sense of love for others (insha’Allah).
Ramadan is a time for developing a greater and better self; a time for reflection. It’s also a time to know our community or even try to build a community, for those of us that don’t have one. It might be, sadly, the only time some of us go to iftars, Taraweeh, Dua Kumyal, and other spiritual gatherings. This should not be the case, but lets face it, Ramadan is not always peachy. You’re hungry, dehydrated, and sweaty. But you know you’re doing this for the Creator and to create a disciplined self. It’s the only time you’re on your best behavior, hopefully.
What better time to get to know people than when your vision should be at it’s clearest? Special times of the year and spiritual acts, such as fasting, make us more aware of what is beneficial for us, including what we want from our life and the path that we embark on. In this time, when we’re trying to draw the maps of our lives and Allah’s blessing are around us, we can ask Him to guide us and help us select the people that will walk on the journey with us.
The Buddha says enlightenment is not about becoming divine, but becoming more fully human. As Muslims we have this opportunity for enlightenment every year, not to mention everyday. Charlotte Kasl states in her book, If the Buddha Dated, that bringing a Buddhist-state-of-mind to finding relationships is to stop searching avidly for your subjective notion of “the one.” Instead, seek acquaintanceship or romance with an open mind and really get to know different people. Learning compassion and kindness for others would supersede “being with someone.” It is our communities, whether they’re online or offline, that help us develop those skills. With the consciousness of an ego-less and kinder self we wouldn’t put people on pedestals or below us, we’d treat everyone the same without judgement.
I can’t tell anyone what they can or cannot do, and nor do I want to police the behavior of others. If you want to find potentials to meet during iftars, Bismillah to that. If you think that Ramadan is a time for self-reflection, Bismillah to that as well. Whether you’re trying to make friends, get to know people, or only make this month time between you and God, this is the one month of the year where we will all be in deep reflection.
Outside of dhikr and prayers, take the time to reflect on where you were last Ramadan, how far you’ve come and what is different. I know Ishqr wasn’t at the same place this time last year. I didn’t even know if I was going to continue working on it or what it was going to become.
I have friends who are mothers now, friends who are engaged and friends who are married. I also have friends who were spending last Ramadan with their spouses and are now divorced. There are also friends who didn’t know about Islam this time last year, and this year, without a complete understanding of their new religion or integration into the Muslim community, they will be fasting this holy month. If you know any people like this, extend your heart to them. Give a kind word to the aching, a gift to the celebrating, and a warm embrace to the lonely. Ramadan is central to spirituality, self-reflection and discipline, but sometimes we find God in acts of kindness. Just like the Prophet (PBUH) said,
‘Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, will say on the Day of Rising, ‘Son of Adam, I was ill and you did not visit Me.’ Man will say, ‘O Lord, how could I visit You when You are the Lord of the world’s?’ He will say, ‘Do you not know that My slave so-and-so was ill and you did not visit him? Do you not know that if you had visited him, you would have found Me with him?”
Whether you eat lots of dates, go on actual “dates,” or have no dates at all, try to open your heart to others and remember the souls that are meant to be in your life you’ve already met, you just have to find them in this world.
Contributing Editor: Gabriel J. Vanlandingham-Dunn