In a few hours, I will be preparing suhur, the pre-dawn meal Muslims share with family and friends during this holy month of Ramadan. It is the meal that sustains us through each day of foregoing food and water from daybreak to sunset.
I am watching the clock now, and I look forward to starting the 25th day of Ramadan by sharing a hearty meal and prayers with my community.
Ramadan is also when we practice rectitude by avoiding negative thoughts and speech, as well as strive to be kinder and more charitable to the people in our communities.
Work hours for Muslims who live in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are adjusted to 7:30 a.m. for those who adhere to the fasting, and we get to leave our offices earlier, usually at 3:30 p.m. so we can prepare iftar (our evening meal, when we break our daily fasting) at sunset, and so we can answer the call to our evening prayers.
In almost seven years of working in Cotabato, I’ve only been able to spend time with my family during the last few days of Ramadan leading to Eidl Fitr. I’ve mostly spent the holy month with my officemates. They’re fun to be with because we normally spend snack time together and there is usually food in the office.
During Ramadan, however, there is no food (no temptation?) in our office, but we still do spend our break times together, enjoying the solidarity of fasting as a group.
The past few years have been busy and I have come to enjoy sharing iftar with my closest friends—people who are as close as siblings to me—and we have gotten into the habit of praying together.
I work away from my family and these good people have become my surrogate family. We eat suhur together, and buy food for iftar together. Sometimes, I find myself buying food for and enjoying iftar with my officemates.
This year’s Ramadan is a bit different. Many things have changed. My closest friends are not with me now—some have gone on to pursue their studies, or pursue other opportunities and I am happy they have been so blessed. Many changes in our community’s political and social infrastructure have changed the nature of my workload—and my prayers—as well.
All these changes also underscore how we, as Muslims, can view Ramadan. We may have to deal with new challenges. We may have to deal with more bad times than good ones, but Ramadan reminds us that life is a constant struggle, one where you can and should choose what is good over what is easy.
Yes, we sacrifice during the daylight hours—we must endure hunger, thirst and retain a positive, prayerful and kind mindset throughout the fasting. It is just as true that we have iftar at sunset to remind us how beautiful and abundant life is despite the struggles we must overcome before the sunset.
This sacrifice and prayer helps us build the strength of mind and heart we need to face the challenges of a world where much remains to be done so Muslims can live in peace and prosperity.
Ramadan gives us the strength of synergy in a community that refreshes the lessons of kindness, charity, rectitude, prayer and reflection each year in a solidarity that gives us strength and purpose. We know we are not alone and that is the font of our strength even as we deny ourselves during this holiest month.
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