There is something mysterious that surrounds the month of Ramadan. There is this anticipation of the body cleansing and the hunger. There is an understanding that our souls are trying to get closer to the elusive Superior Being and seek forgiveness for the life which comes after our bodies are no longer alive. There is a communal buzz that elates the members and makes them feel that they are connected in some way for at least a short period of time. Muslims are advised to abstain from food, water, sex, gossip, cursing, and other sinful actions during the month. They are advised to pray and ask for God's forgiveness. This month is holy and it is said that the doors of Heaven open to those who seek absolution in their hearts.
I was born into a non-practicing Muslim family. Both my grandmothers were very religious women, but my parents were not. Both my grandmothers prayed five times a day and practiced Islam in all its earnestness. My sister recently found herself in the religion and has been practicing it, but I think it's more out of fear than from the real understanding of God. Early in my life I turned to religion seeking salvation from the injustice and suffering that I was going through at that time in my life. Now, I find myself in the crossroads where my heart and my brain are telling me that there is something more. In the innermost part of my soul I feel that the mere following of one particular religion is not enough to make my heart feed for eternity. It is easy to claim belonging to one religion, it is much, much harder to claim independence and call God or Universe your own.
Recently someone told me that religion is all about humanity, and that God exists outside of it. I have been thinking about these words as Muslims all over the world welcome the holy month of Ramadan. I face questions every day about eternity and my obligation as a human being to the Superior One that oversees our destinies. I question suffering and I have a hard time understanding it. I shy away from the Islamic religion (and any other religion) for their clear cut regulations that sound so much as something that the governing humans thousands of years ago carved out in their attempt to rule their herds. Pray five times a day, perform very specific bodily motions, pray in the words from the great books (written by men), pray and stay away from thinking and contemplation.
Prophets from all the religions are alike. Religions are products of very smart, intuitive men, such as Abraham, Mohammad, Jesus and others. They were great. I am sure. When I look at their lives and actions I realize that they probably never meant to be in the center of these grand religions, they only meant to show the human race that goodness lives in all of us, waiting to be harvested. Goodness is the center of it all, pulling us together, saving us from the horrors of implosions that I see every day on the news. These great men helped the poor, they did not cast judgments, and they loved and cherished their families. They stood up for injustice and shielded those who were unable to shield themselves, from the forces that threatened to turn their lives into suffering. Their immediate followers on the other hand wanted to neatly package their teachings and guard them from changes or better understanding among the masses and also from questions that someone like me might ask one day.
So, during the month of Ramadan, it is easy to give up the food and the water. It is easy to line up on clean carpets and turn your bodies east and go through the motions of praying for forgiveness. On the other hand, it is hard to take a stand for injustice even though you fear that your life and the life of your own children might be on the line. It is hard to look at another human being, so different from yourself and understand their uniqueness and their struggles. It is hard not to see someone else's skin color and not turn away out of the fear of unknown. It is hard to understand that there are things in this Universe that will remain a mystery to us. We have come far in the history and sacrificing a goat or a lamb no longer holds the same symbolism as it did thousands of years ago. Fasting is no longer the same as it was then. We carry the pain of ignorance under our ribs as we continue down the path of blindness of human suffering that is presented to us every day.
During this month of Ramadan I pray to the One that he saves the children of this planet, not from Satan, but from the evil that humans themselves are sowing. I pray that I do not ignore the news of Syrian suffering, of terrorism attacks in Turkey, Nigeria, of racism in America. I pray I am strong enough to see and act and love and accept.
I wish Ramadan Mubarak to all the humanity. I wish all those who are fasting to open their eyes and feast their souls by reading and learning. I wish them a feast of differences, different religions and skin colors. I wish them compassion towards children, no matter who they are. I am humbled by the Universe and saddened that our world no longer contains true spirituality.