As you may already know, tomorrow marks the beginning of the month of Ramadan on the Muslim calendar, and that I identify as a Muslim. What you may not know, unless you’ve read my previous post on the topic, is that I belong to the Shia Imami Ismaili sect of Islam. This is an esoteric faith with a focus on education, service, and living a balanced and healthy life, with faith as a lifestyle that is always in remembrance of God. It is a faith that always has an Imam of the time to guide his followers according to the changing times, also known as followers of the Aga Khan, or Ismailis.
During this month of Ramadan, I will not be fasting in the literal sense by abstaining from food from sunrise to sunset, and many may label me for this as not being a “True Muslim” (whatever that means). In my opinion, those who judge me are the ones who are fasting in the literal sense, but living a life of sin, thereby completely defeating the true meaning of Ramadan. I am choosing practice my religion in a different way not only because my current personal health situation will not allow it, but also because our faith teaches the esoteric meaning of fasting, which is a lifestyle that should be lived year-round. However, Ramadan serves as an excellent reminder and opportunity to pay special attention to our thoughts and actions and gain a closer relationship with God.
So what does Ramadan mean for us, or rather, to me as an Ismaili Muslim? To me, Ramadan is a month of purity, simplicity, and gentle grace. Fasting during Ramadan consists of sacrificing sleep to meditate in order to purify my soul and improve my relationship with God. Ramadan means living clean and eating only clean and healthy foods, and abstaining from any inappropriate thoughts or actions that may harm myself or others. It is a time for performing community service, and most of all, opening up my mind and my heart to its fullest potential and acting on this by treating all others with the utmost patience, understanding, kindness, compassion, and respect. Ramadan is a time for me to work on improving each and every aspect of my life, and then incorporating that into my everyday life rather than just during the month of Ramadan.
So, to all my Muslim brothers and sisters, no matter what you believe or how you choose to practice your faith, I wish you a prosperous month of health, success, love, laughter, and eternal peace and joy. Remember to focus on your own self rather than judging others, and that blind acceptance of religion means nothing without a true understanding of your faith along with pure thoughts and kind actions to back it up! Ramadan Kareem!