Now that Eid is here, I find that I have mixed feelings about it. You see, I’m away from home right now, in a city where I don’t know any Muslims. It’s very hard to celebrate something when you don’t have anyone to celebrate with. I do feel blessed by all the “Eid Mubaraks” I’ve received from all my Muslim (and non-Muslim) friends, but it’s not quite the same.
I also have mixed feelings about my first full Ramadan. (I didn’t become a Muslim officially until the last day of Ramadan last year, but I fasted for the last five days.) I’m so blessed that I was able to attend three iftar dinners. The kindness and generosity of those who invited me and the fellowship I felt with those who were also there are true gifts from Allah.
I’m so thankful for all my friends who encouraged me along the way as I struggled through my first Ramadan. And I do mean struggled. I fasted every day but not always perfectly. I wasn’t able to give up smoking. And I only managed to read half of the Qur’an.
It’s hard to admit less than perfection, but I can’t pretend that I observed Ramadan to the letter when I didn’t. I understand that I can make up fasts during this coming month. So Ramadan isn’t quite over for me. I can still give up smoking, insha’allah. And I’m continuing to read the Qur’an till I make it all the way through and then I’m going to start all over again!
This illustrates one of the dilemmas I face as a Muslim. We’re called to righteousness, but we’re human. And yet we can’t use that as an excuse for not always doing what is right. I tried to do my best, but how do I know that I did do my best? Couldn’t I have tried harder?
When I was a Christian, I took it for granted that I was accepted as I was as long as I believed that Jesus was my Savior. But as a Muslim, I’m held more accountable. And I like that. I think it’s good for me to have to work at being a better person. (Not that Christians don’t strive to be better, too, but there’s less of an incentive because they believe that there’s nothing they can do, short of disbelief in Jesus as God’s Son, that can jeopardize their salvation.)
Now, as a Muslim, because I am more aware of my need to improve, I think of and rely on Allah more than I would otherwise. When I do fail, I can’t fall back on the Christian formula that belief in Jesus equals forgiveness. I have to recognize my sin and ask Allah to forgive me for falling short. His forgiveness relies on an action on my part. What a blessing it is to know that He is merciful and forgiving if we are truly repentant!
For all my imperfection, I was deeply blessed by my first Ramadan. I found that I could rely on Allah to give me strength when I thought I was too hungry or thirsty to last till sundown. There’s a certain freedom in being released from the constant search for gratification of our desires. I could spend that time thinking of other things to do with my life, like giving to others and making each day count for Allah.
I’m sure that I would have been even more blessed if I’d been more faithful. I ‘ve learned that I have to practice patience and perseverance when dealing with my very human nature. Fortunately, Allah honors our intentions, weak as they may be.
I guess the real message of Ramadan is that we should not stop doing the things we make an extra effort to do during this holy month. I found an article in emel magazine by Sarah Joseph on how to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive during the remaining months. Give it a read and let me know if you think her suggestions are helpful.