Yesterday, I woke up to the interesting fact that it actually took me more than twenty-four hours to realise that I’ve actually done it!
It’s Eid ul Fitr which means I’ve made it through thirty days of the very unique mix of #Ramadan and #Corona. Al Hamdulilah.
Full thirty days, not even twenty-nine.
Ramadan experience can be very personal as you might know, different people can approach this special month differently.
In my case, I usually tag Ramadan with keywords like: simplicity, minimalism, spirituality, Quran, mercy, struggle, details, family, generosity, love, self-discipline, privilege, and design as in life design. But I find the word “beautiful” the most descriptive one. It just magically sums up many aspects of Ramadan and its elegant vibes. “Beautiful” is also a natural fit considering the fact that Ramadan is the month of Quran … a beautiful miracle by itself.
However this year, my Covid-19 flavoured Ramadan felt different, and the word “beautiful” had to clear space in my mind to another word: sanctuary.
Throughout the weeks and days building up to Ramadan, I was going through the peak of Covid-19 situation, just like you and people all over the world. We had (and still have) to deal with this mutli-faceted unprecedented crisis. The pressure was building up physically, mentally, financially, socially and so was the level of anxiety and stress.
I usually allocate part of my time during these pre-Ramadan days to reflect, plan and design my life in this holy month, and I usually do that with a blend of anticipation and excitement, but this year I had a different feeling. I felt confused.
I know Ramadan very well, but I had no idea what a Corona-flavoured Ramadan would look like, or how to handle it. I was seriously struggling trying to picture Ramadan with the lockdown, social distancing, daily Zoom sessions, the daily case count, the Ghanaian pallbearer dance meme (I easily call this the meme of 2020, love it!), the curve that we had to flatten, the conflicting government(s) messages and tracing apps, the pressure from personal development experts lecturing us on how we must use every single minute of our day and subscribe to all the now-free online resources, the Instagram DMs from my PT who adjusted his “business model” to remote work out, the daily dose of conflicting advice from “health experts”, and even some genius self-proclaimed experts telling us to inject our bodies with Clorox.
And to make my situation more interesting, I had to simultaneously think of this crisis — just like many other aspects of my life — in three different mindsets that are planted in three different parts of the world with very distinct mindsets and cultural systems: Sydney, Dubai and Khartoum.
I was overwhelmed. So I just gave up, and decided to let Ramadan take care of itself this time.
Somehow, at some point during the second week of Ramadan, it actually hit me. It dawned on me that Corona and Ramadan were actually cross-fertilising each other, every single day.
My usual basic personal aim for Ramadan is to fulfil my duties as a Muslim in the finest possible way, and through that to leverage Ramadan spirit and special vibes in focusing inwards and connecting with my inner-self. I know for a fact that when I succeed in showing Ramadan the respect it deserves, these thirty days and nights turn into a unique annual opportunity for self purification and refinement.
But honouring Ramadan is not that easy. Somehow, the social norms and traditions turned this holy month into a season of heavy social burdens and distractions.
Thanks to Corona, this Ramadan was way quieter and calmer. When the Ramadan crescent moon emerged, and like most of the people in Australia and elsewhere, I was in self-isolation and started to impose a huge and sudden change on my daily lifestyle. Slowly I started to realise that this full and strict “stay at home” situation was exactly what I was looking for in Ramadan. Scrapping plans like Iftar social gatherings, Taraweeh prayers on the other side of the city at Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, my late afternoon Bondi hikes and visits to Lakemba street festival meant that I had to spend my time at home with Ramadan.
And I’ve decided to leverage this golden opportunity and focus on turning this lockdown into a space to practice solitude and self-reflection, prayer & meditation.
In essence, Corona turned this Ramadan to what I always desired it to be: a sanctuary.
In return, Ramadan was very generous in reciprocating this gift by offering me superb help in coping with the stress and worry caused by this unsettling and bizarre crisis.
Ramadan arrived while my mind was busy trying to make sense of this new reality and envision how the future might unfold for me on both personal and professional levels.
As you might have experienced yourself, there has been a set of common practices and self-management strategies that were widely promoted as survival mechanisms to help us navigate this situation. This includes for example taking care of body and mind and developing a healthy daily routine.
And to survive this crisis as a society, we need to spread kindness, compassion, generosity and support for one another.
All of these practices and values are at the core of Ramadan spirit. Moreover, Ramadan simply reminded me of the very basic meaning of being a Muslim, that is to acknowledge what life throws at me, focus on my day and stop overthinking the future. After all, the word “Islam” itself translates to: submission… to God.
The fasting and self abstinence from food among a long list of other life pleasures, was just perfect to boost my self-discipline and to adopt the minimalist lifestyle we need to navigate through Corona times.
And whenever my mind tried to trigger me to panic and worry about the future, Ramadan reminded me of the assuring words of the Messenger — Mohammad “peace be upon him (ﷺ) who said: ‘Whoever among you wakes up physically healthy, feeling safe and secure within himself, with food for the day, it is as if he acquired the whole world.’”
On the morning of Eid day, I felt like I emerged from Ramadan more tranquil and resilient than I was a month earlier, and also better equipped to navigate life under Corona as it unfolds.
Now, as I share this story with you, filled with the joy of Eid ul Fitr, I feel grateful to Allah for granting me the opportunity and privilege to witness this unique Ramadan and to capture its surprising interchange with the Corona crisis.