Despite my young age, I could not wrap my mind around how an expensive electronic item could coincide with the ‘spirit of giving’. I asked my mother about it and she said exactly what I had been hearing on every radio show and television commercial for weeks, “It’s the season of giving!”
It would take me about 20 years to resolve just what the ‘season of giving’ meant to me and at least one lifestyle choice that would help me figure it all out. That choice was Islam and over the past several years since I converted I have learned first hand what the season of giving really means.
To me, the Holy Month of Ramadan is the epitome of what it means to give. I still remember my very first Ramadan as if it happened yesterday.
My very first fast was long and hard. I had never gone without food and water before. So, it truly was an exercise in will power. Then the moment the sun went down and the fast was over for the day my doorbell rang. A total stranger was standing on my doormat with a tray full of rice and fruit.
I barely had a chance to set the food down in the kitchen before the doorbell rang again. There was yet another woman whom I had never laid eyes on before standing on my doormat with a giant platter of fried appetizers. It was amazing to me to see such an outpouring of generosity, which continued throughout the month.
In my own culture, prior to converting to Islam, the only time I ever witnessed anyone giving the gift of food was when someone died and the family was in mourning.
Ramadan is not only about giving of yourself to another human being but it also means you give of yourself to God. Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and amplify acts of worship. The increased night prayers in Ramadan, Taraweeh, and recitation from the Holy Quran extensively are other aspects that make this month so special. The early morning hours are the most peaceful and a time when my children are tucked away in their beds. I adore being able to focus, uninterrupted, on my worship without having to referee between them.
There is peace before and after the dawn prayer that is truly soothing to my soul.
However, what I love most about Ramadan is its simplicity.
While other religious holidays in the World have become so commercialized that the family budget is irrevocably broken buying fancy gifts and gadgets, Ramadan has remained unscathed.
Muslim families do buy gifts for the littlest members of the family, like perhaps a new outfit or a special toy during the 3-day Eid holiday, or feast celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast. But that’s it. A mountain full of presents or glittering decorations is not what Ramadan is all about.
In fact, before the Month of Ramadan ends, all Muslims who are financially sound must pay a ‘poor due’, which is a fixed rate of 2.5 per cent of the yearly savings.
For me, the season of giving in Ramadan means that I put myself last and put worshipping God first and my fellow man second. The Ramadan holiday is not about me, or what I want, but rather it is about performing as many good deeds as I can to seek the pleasure of God and be successful this Holy Month.
Sumayyah Meehan is a Kuwait-based American writer.
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