There is a term in Islamic cosmology called ibadah. It means to give in service or servitude, but its etymology produces shades of humility, obedience, and submission. In Islamic understanding, ibadat refers to its plural, therefore meaning the various services that can be given towards praising God or Allah. These services are both inward and outward, though tasawuf otherwise known as sufism, which focuses on the inward, has always been central to the earliest traces of historical tradition.
It’s funny. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to observe how various mandatory services within our way of life, attracts a multitude of personalities who translate and manifest teachings in different ways. For some, salahat or prayer, comes easy. I’ve seen people who can finish their five prayers seamlessly and with ease. Similarly, some acts are harder for certain individuals, who possess certain aptitudes more than others. Some may find it hard to fast. Or for the one that is perhaps less charitable, find much unease at quelling their own nature of abrogated self-preservation.
When I was younger, I found prayer to be hard. There were days when I felt at peace, and days when it was taxing as I struggled and second-guessed as to whether I was building my connection the “right way.” This topsy turvy in the pursuit of building a genuine relationship became easier as I went through my own trials and tribulations in life, and it became easy for me to be grateful for all the things that I did have. And in my solitude asking God for help never hurt anyone.
These aptitudes are not purely religious, God bestows wonderous things to all people and to all societies. I see the way marine biologists have such passion about the well-being of orcas and dolphins, and their scientific pursuits regarding all saltwater organisms and their habitation. It’s a truly humbling feeling to witness the individual fingerprint of each soul’s quality and the ways in which they give in service to something greater than themselves. We say, God has given that person, baseerah or an inner light, clear proof, or wisdom towards that specific thing. A responsiveness to something internally embedded within them.
For me, fasting has always been my favorite ibadat. I can’t be self-congratulatory and say it’s easy, but I definitely have it better than others. I don’t feel hungry, but in waking moments I dream about water.
The idea of cultivating an inward dimension of the self is challenging amidst a technological world that, while helpful, produces its distractions. Fasting is not only about not eating or drinking from sundown to sunset. It’s also not just about giving to the poor and creating an empathetic remembrance of their trails and the desire to support the needy. It also fosters a fasting of the mind, the tongue, and the emotions, in order to cleanse the spirit. I’ve heard some colleagues, and even friends, I know that simply call it my “time of month,” where I’m a lot more introspective and quieter.
I listen to less music. It’s amusing to realize how used to music I am during my drives and how I am used to headphones nestling in my ears during routines at the gym.
I try my best to stave off social media; it’s hard when you’re used to sharing memes with your friends and dealing with feelings of being left out from your usual circle. Sometimes it produces a lasting effect of distance from people who don’t quite understand, but that is doable if one pursues something they find nourishment and value in.
I catch myself when I’m about to speak badly of someone else. In a hyper-emotional and performative world, it’s so easy to speak ill of someone and technology is readily available to point the finger at others we do not even know.
I don’t go to late parties; instead I become alive as I pray into the night.
Contemporary fasting has come with it a different shade when dealing with the present and all its appendages. Sometimes technology is a good way to bridge differences or similarities while creating an understanding. I have friends who add stories on their Instagram’s during early hours of suhoor, a meal that people partake before dawn. By showcasing the rituals within the month of Ramadan, others of differing faiths or ways-of-being can understand the physical and mental preparedness and sacrifice millions of people go through for an intentional collective washing of the soul.
High-income, middle-income, rich, poor, impoverished, black, white, lawyer, engineer, shepherd, shoe-maker, elders, adults, teens, children, eastward, westward.
For myself in Canada, I follow Mountain Standard Time. I wake up around 3:00 am to eat suhoor, I wash my body, and around 4:00 am I pray, and then I begin my fast. I go back to bed for a bit before waking up for work, I pray some more in-between. I come home, and eventually break my fast around 9:20 pm, and then I pray. Furthermore, on this special month, I include taraweeh, or added prayers. If it’s around 1:00 am or 2:00 am, I stay up till suhoor again, and then rinse, rise and repeat for a whole month.
Maryam Gowralli is an English student from the University of Calgary and an emerging writer. She was an editor for The Quill Magazine and NōD Magazine, and continues to produce a scattering of published poetry. Her works tend to be inspired by her diasporic crossroads as a Canadian woman of Trinidadian-Indian and Indonesian descent. She's currently working on her upcoming chapbook, A Self-Portrait of a Primordial Wench.
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