The end of Ramadan dawns upon us as a moment of bittersweet realization. Many of us enter the holy month with the recognition of its miraculous and blessed nature, hoping to pave a path of refinement through the alleys of abstinence and consciousness of the divine. And in many ways, the end of this month is strikingly similar to its beginning.
Owing to the cyclical nature of Ramadan – matching the quintessential lunar behavior – the end of Ramadan is in some ways a déjà vu of its beginning. Almost one month ago, worshippers in the mosque gathered beyond the usual evening prayer hours to hear of moon criers bringing news of the Ramadan moon. Heads of the house reminded us of groceries that we were too lazy to purchase, while some relied on the luxury of memories related to spending the month with family. The mood was joyous, a transformation of sorts that welcomed the moment as the much needed pit stop in a dizzying race.
As the moon flickers into distant darkness, the Muslim world is preparing to bid adieu to a month that gave so much and asked for little. Muslims across the globe will stand at the crossroads of jubilant celebration and pronounced poignance. They will stand at the intersection of welcoming Eid-Al-Fitr and parting away with Ramadan. The blessings of this month were more generous than usual, the opportunity to do good more than ever. In times of excessive intake and consumerist fairytales, it was moment of empathy towards those who live the realities of hunger and poverty. While the eleven months are consumed by debates on haves and have-nots, this month was a reminder of our own frailty, and the ability to overcome weakness with faith and charity before food.
I, for one, am often left confused about how we draw the curtains on this month. We could express overt sadness, but isn’t this in violation of Eid bringing in its joyous gifts for those who observed the month with awareness? There’s always a framework on how we prepare to enter Ramadan, but what about exiting this month in a way that does it justice?
Perhaps in this state of ambivalence lies the spirit of Ramadan. Our spiritual tradition relies, in addition to collective understanding, on our individual experiences and learning curves. The open-ended conclusion to Ramadan allows for our individual commitment to carry forward the essence of Ramadan. It’s a month that radiates the corners of darkness, the darkness that shadows our spirit at several testing points in life.
A month when the lights of a mosque are on for longest at the night is a month that inspires illumination for the days that follow. It’s the month that gave us the Book, a guidance that is ‘Light upon Light’, so that we may resist the darkness of our anxieties with the optimism of faith.
As the elders in the mosque stand poised once again to hear the moon crier, and our mothers remind us of the groceries that we still haven’t bought, the end of Ramadan will remind us of how exactly it all began. The nights will be lit with firecrackers, the streets with attractive sweets and toys, and families with glittering new clothes. But amidst all that shines, there will be a light that illuminates the brightest, the revealed light of faith and the acquired light of its inspiring benefits. And, just as we began Ramadan, we pray to be empowered by this light, and hold it against all that conspires towards darkness around us.
This article is written by Rehmatullah Sheikh