This Ramadan is unique in comparison to the Ramadans that came before it just as today is unique in comparison to each yesterday that we have lived and every tomorrow that we will see.
As in years past, Muslims all over the world, myself included, will abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual activity from sunrise until sunset for a month. The rituals and actions that render my fast to be valid will stay the same.
What will make this Ramadan different is my being different. While taking a moment to think about how much my life has changed this past year, I also should take a moment to think about how I have changed in the past year. Where has my growth been, where have I digressed, and how have I stayed the same?
Much of time we forget in our undertaking of journeys that how we reach our destination is just as important as the destination itself. In pursuit of our goals and objectives, worldly, material or otherwise, we often leave this behind. Our focus lies mostly on the external, and, as such, we prevent ourselves from seeing the remarkable people and places around us, because we fail to reach the potential within us.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may attain consciousness
The potential of knowing myself more intimately is at its highest during Ramadan. What indicates that I have yielded the consciousness that fasting has the potential of nurturing is that I do something with the knowledge that I have acquired.
What good is knowing of my weaknesses if I don't strive to challenge them? What good is knowing of my strengths if I don't try to enhance them? Sustaining in action what I have learned of myself becomes one of the hardest challenges.
Even if I'm bringing nothing else from the last year of my life, what am I bringing from the last Ramadan of my life to this one? Whether you are fasting this year or not, be sure that as you move forward in your lives, to always take time to look back. Understand who you are by remembering where it is that you have come from, and allow for that remembrance and understanding to help define where it is that you will be.
I look forward to sharing once again reflections daily during this month of Ramadan. Although my days may be similar to those of a year ago, I pray that I have grown enough as a person that my thoughts and reflections on those days are different.
A quote that I shared last year that my wife had heard from a female Islamic scholar named Fariha Fatima is worth mentioning here again, mostly as a reminder to how those who are fasting can deepen the experience from the very first day:
There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us. Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up. Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah's majesty. Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower. Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone. Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies. Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us.
Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions. Let us fast from desiring what we do not have. Let us fast from obsession. Let us fast from despair. Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart. Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior. Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important. Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view. Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah. Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah's Prophets and friends, and our own true self. Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.
Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his facebook page or follow him on twitter.