In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Beloved
At long (very, very long) last, today is the last day of Ramadan. Tomorrow morning, I plan to - God willing - enjoy my first cup of coffee in the daylight hours since July 19. To say that I am not happy would be lying through my teeth. It's been rough fasting the long days of late July through the middle of August. Indeed, I do enjoy the blessings of the month, as well as the time (since I can't eat) to re-engage with the word of God. Still, the fast took its physical toll.
Yet, as I reflect over the past thirty days of fasting, there is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Yesterday, during my sermon, the first words I uttered were: "We made it." It feels good that I was able to forgo food and drink (even water) during the day for thirty days. And immediately along side that feeling of accomplishment is a tremendous amount of gratitude to the Lord.
It was only through Him and His power that I was able to endure the long summer fast of Ramadan. It is only through His grace that I was given health and strength to be able to fast in the first place. For many Muslims - including some of my very dearest friends - they are physically unable to fast because of illness. It is only through His power and love that I was ready and willing - apprehension and all - to undertake this most difficult of religious rituals (at least for me). It is only because of God that I was able to fast in 2012 and be here to blog about it.
That is the point of the fast: to remember God and increase in consciousness of Him:
O you who have attained to faith! Fasting has been ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God. (2:183)
For all the times that I looked at a piece of cake, or a cookie, or a tall glass of ice cold soda during the day and refrained from indulging myself, I remembered why I couldn't: because my Beloved told me so. For all the times that my mouth was incredibly parched and dry, and I simply sat there until the sun set, I remembered why I had to wait: because my Beloved asked me to. For all the times I had to sit and watch other people eat while I couldn't, I remembered why I had to refrain: because my Beloved wanted me to. And it was only through His grace that I was able to pull such a feat off.
And now, at the end of the month of fasting, I reflect over what the God says about this time:
God wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but [He desires] that you complete the number [of days required], and that you extol God for His having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks [unto Him]. (2:185)
Yes, if we will suffer hardship because of the fast, then we must not fast. But, if we can suck it up, take the pain, and fast for Him, we will have done a great thing - by His grace and guidance - and we will feel immensely thankful for being given the chance to achieve such an accomplishment. You know, so many times, my friends and colleagues have told me, after I mention that I am fasting, "I don't know how you do that."
Truly, if it was up to me - by my weak, human self - there is no way I could have done it. But, because I was blessed with the grace of God, I was able to finish the fast and show that, with God, there is nothing we can't do.