Ramadan – a month of appreciation. Photo credit: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
This is a short write-up about an expat excited to spend this upcoming Ramadan away from home while providing an insight into what Ramadan is about and the principles it promotes.
Ramadan is a special time of year for Muslims all over the world. During this month of appreciation, self-restraint, and spiritual reflection, Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk, seek forgiveness, and provide for those in need. But for me, I now realise that it’s not only about fasting or appreciation; it develops a purpose of belonging to a family.
This is going to be the first year that I will spend Ramadan away from home. Having a movie marathon after the Taraweeh prayers, playing cricket with friends till Sehri, or playing cards with my cousins, it feels surreal not to do those this year. I had experienced Ramadan in various countries before and had my family by my side. Our experience has always been pretty much the same, regardless of the environment, as most of our iftars were done with home-cooked meals.
For all these years that I spent Ramadan with my family, I took everything for granted. My mother cooked the most delicious meals, my dad prepared fried foods to perfection, and I helped prepare the fruits. All these times, I had never thought about how many tasks were involved before breaking fast. I had never thought about the countless ingredients and foods to prepare beforehand. I never thought about how my parents came home from work, put aside their stress, and immediately started preparations. Never did I expect to miss the times when we all sat down around the table, ate together, laughed together, and enjoyed each others’ presence.
I also remember the days when my father handed my brother and me some cash and put it in the donation boxes. My younger self did not understand, nor did I question the purpose of that. As I grew up, the significance of Zakat increased for me; I developed a feeling of sympathy for the needy.
Now, being away from family, balancing studies, managing financials, and working a job have evoked my independence and given me a taste of what it really feels like to grow up and apart. I can reminisce all I want, but at the end of the day, life goes on; some time or another, this was meant to happen. The first few days of this Ramadan will be quite different and difficult to adjust to as the challenge of fasting, and iftar will jump in along with my current schedule. But, eventually, I will steady the ship.
On the bright side, I couldn’t be more excited to spend Ramadan in Malaysia for the first time. The number one thing on my checklist is visiting the Ramadan Bazaars for the traditional foods, such as the bubur lambuk. I aim to discover places around KL and do iftar with my friends of diverse backgrounds. I look to visit some community centers and the mosque near my place and share meals there too.
Kampung Baru – A Renowned Ramadan Bazaar. Photo credit: Hari Anggara
For the first time in my life, I will experience a real sense of giving back to society by performing Zakat; I will contribute towards strengthening the community and ensuring that someone can live better days.
Zakat is obligatory for Muslims who are capable of doing so. Photo credit: bmh
Lastly, Ramadan provides an opportunity for Muslims to reflect on their relationship with God, and others, as well as work on improving themselves. Individuals support and encourage each other in their spiritual journey too. Just like I did with my friends and family before, I plan to do the same with my community in Malaysia.
This year, spending Ramadan without my family is truly a beautiful reminder of their significance in our lives. Malaysia is a new country for me, but that doesn’t matter; the real difference this year is that my close ones are not there beside me, encouraging me to take more food, drink some more juice, or tell a story. Without my greatest support, all this seems a bit daunting. But I reflect back to the principles of this month. After all, Ramadan is a time of togetherness; I will have to spend it with a different community, a larger and less immediate family. The place where I spend Ramadan may have changed, but my life has changed too. Now, I just have to wait and see.
I wish you all a very blessed Ramadan.