Written for Daily Hive by Golzar Ejadi, a Canadian volunteer with the non-profit organization MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, She is also currently a graduate student in the field of Clinical Psychology.
Ramadan is one of my favourite times of the year. It is a month I look forward to, which may be surprising to those who know how difficult it is to go hours without eating.
However, over the past few years, I have felt that it is a period of time in my life during which I have learned the most about myself.
When the month began, I shared with some friends that I would be fasting from sunrise to sunset. In sharing this practice with them, I learned that many are curious about this practice that I hold so dear.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a month in the lunar Islamic calendar and it is also a month in which practicing Muslims abstain from food and drinks from sunrise (Emsâk) to after sunset (Eftâr). It is also the month in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed by God to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Therefore, this month’s significance for Muslims is closely tied to remembrance and devotion to God; it is a month of purification and self-discipline.
What is the significance of Fasting?
Fasting is not specific to Islam; it is a practice observed in many faiths. Fasting is one of the many spiritual practices prescribed by the Holy Qur’an and is one of the pillars of Islam. As a student of M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, I have learned that in addition to abstaining from food and drinks, there are deeper aspects to this practice.
With the goal of regaining balance in all aspects of our life, I have learned to include the purification of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. On a physical level, fasting involves awareness of how much or when we eat/drink, the amount of time we sleep, and time spent socializing. We must also pay attention to our senses, including limiting what we
choose to take in with our eyes and ears and truly reflecting before speaking.
On a mental and emotional level, instead of leading a life where our decisions and actions are reflections of our wants and desires, we can practice awareness of our emotions and how we respond to them. This way, we practice self-control and self-discipline as opposed to simply reacting.
In my daily life, I find that my senses pull me away from the remembrance of the innate knowledge that exists within me. In contrast, during the month of Ramadan, I’ve observed an interesting shift where my senses, for example, a rumbling stomach, remind me of my spiritual journey.
We mark the end of a month of immense reflection by celebrating Eid al-Fitr, or the feast of breaking the fast. This day has both an outward and inward significance; in addition to celebrating with family, friends, and the larger community, it is a point for the individual to reflect on the growth that has occurred and what they hope to continue working on moving forward. Ramadan is not something that we restart each year, but a part of the journey toward self-cognition and God.
Around the world, communities come together to give back through charitable activities. This goes hand-in-hand with the Sufi practice of “Khedmat,” which means to be of service. At the social level, it refers to providing charity to those in need to help bring balance into their lives.
At the spiritual level, providing service to oneself means letting go of all attachments and boundaries and experiencing balance and harmony.
Under the supervision and guidance of Professor Nader Angha, MTO Shahmaghsoudi is continuing this practice, and taking the opportunity to celebrate this holy occasion by partnering with local organizations and charities in over 50 cities and nine countries to distribute non-perishable food items and other essentials to those in need.
Across Canada, donations are being made in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto.
This year was especially heartwarming to many, as it was the first time since COVID-19 that we were able to gather with such large numbers in person, to celebrate and do donations together.
To learn more about the organization, click here.
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