Sunday, September 9, 2007

Readying for Ramadan: Prioritizing

Your time on this earth is finite.That's hard to think of! 

The exact number of days you possess is known to God. 

It's not even that difficult for you to figure out a high-end estimate. 

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years. Let's just say that you are blessed with this much time; this much opportunity to do God's work. Now, subtract the age you are. Multiple that by 365 to figure out roughly how many days you would have.

For me? I calculate 14, 140 days. That's a lot. That's a lot of chances to get it right.

On the other hand, I might not live to see tomorrow...or even this afternoon. We don't know how little time we have.

The point is: we do know roughly how much time on average we could have and it's finite. It will NOT last forever.

As we continue to get ready for Ramadan, there is a sense of urgency that builds. Perhaps this Ramadan, at autumn's start, brings more feeling of impending momentum. For some reason, at the start of every Ramadan, I think of two books I read as a child. I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder's series and their preparation for winter. I think of Anne Frank's family building a secret life one step ahead of the Nazis. This time right now also has an immediacy that is real and based in truth.

We must push ourselves into doing what has to get done.

For me, it means doing the heavy work now. I've been organizing my storage room for Fall while I still have energy. I won't later. Yesterday, I did the big shopping trip to the halal market and lugged all the bags from the car. I would be suffering from exhaustion if I did the drive, shopping and the hauling after next week. I did it now because it had to get done while I still had my full strength.

You do feel weak while you fast.

Oh, not right away in the morning! You feel energized by a meal of beans, or eggs, cheese, fruit, whole wheat or oatmeal. You eat it and pray and start your day. While you feel that life force at its fullest, that's when you have to really prioritize again.
You do the important tasks in the early part of the day. You make the phone calls that require your mind. You do the laborious chores that take your muscle power. You use what you have... to do what you have to do.

Later on, you will loose your mind's ability to understand clearly. Your speech will be softer and your thoughts less succinct. Your physical power will diminish and tiredness will set in. The zombie mode will overtake you towards the end. You might even have to lay down or nap. You will not be able to be that bubbly extrovert or that funny go-getter. You have to submit to your limits; your finite abilities under the circumstances.

It's a lot like what happens to us as we age. Our early years hold so much promise. We can do anything we set our minds to. Later, we start to slow down and we aren't able to, "JUST DO IT," anymore. Sure, we can still be active and vibrant, but it is with a better understanding that we better do it now. Time is ticking. We truly begin to feel our age, which isn't all bad. Feeling our age means that we also feel the necessity to submit to The One Who Never Dies.

During Ramadan, we remember to put Allah first, as we should always. That doesn't mean that everything else stops. In fact, I think you'll agree that the fullness of Ramadan is one of the amazing elements. You truly can cram so much into one day and one month! It is because you did the first thing well; you tried to solve the puzzle with the first piece in the right place. Knowing that God is the reason you are alive is the first step really. Knowing that you must live this life as a worship is the next.

Oh, and watching TV? Gossiping on the phone? Complaining about your inlaws? Going through the drive-through? Maxing out your credit card? No. No, you really don't have time for any of that during Ramadan.

You really don't have the time. 

What do you need to get done BEFORE the start of Ramadan? Do it today like the Walnut Grove wind is getting chilly or like the officer's knock on the door could happen at any second. See that you have to do the work of your Lord while you still have full ability. See that in terms of preparing Ramadan and in the context of living a faith-filled, finite life.


John & Anthea Mullis said...

Asalamalaykom Yosra

Thanks so much for your input. it's most helpful, especially for a novice!

I have usually undertaken this sort of journey during the Christian month of Lent which, as you know, is a spring feast so the imagery associated with Ramadan, an autumn feast is so different, and fresh for me. I could write volumes about it

Whenever I've fasted in the past I've found it takes a day(or two) to detox from coffee so usually stop a day or two before and stay off it for as long as I fast.

Jazakallah Khair

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam J&A,

Here's a big, big part about the Muslim calendar: it's lunar, not solar.

Because it's lunar, it moves backwards 11 days every year. Therefore, Ramadan moves back every year. For instance, six years ago I remember that Ramadan was over Thanksgiving.

If you think about it: having a roaming holiday makes you that much more connected to the seasonal differences throughout the year. Ramadan will soon be happening in August. Fasting! With no water! IN AUGUST! WOW!

The same is true with Hajj. Hajj also moves backwards 11 days. I am seriously thinking about how hot Mecca will be in summer.

Planning! It takes planning!

I think that it's good to think of the things that make your life toxic: smoking, drinking alchohol or caffeine, eating pork, eating too much, watching too much TV, being on the internet too much, oggling the opposite sex, yelling or bursting into anger, gossiping, lying, people that bring you down into negativity, things you're addicted to that bring you a kind of high...the list goes on and on.

One beauty of Ramadan is that it is EXACTLY the right amount of time you need to end a habit and inniate new ones.

I hope that you write about your experiences of your first fast and share them on your blog.

I truly wish you well. May Allah be pleased with your efforts.

Safa said...

Masha Allah, Yosra! I just love the tone of your new blog......

dramamama said...

Assalamualaikum Yosra,

A great post. I always think about how I have to tame - my nafs - during Ramadan. And boy, do I have lots of it!

Also, like you, I have also slowly gotten ready for Ramadan. I've planned out food, things I need to get done, errands to run, just so I have more time for the Qur'an and tarawih, insha Allah.

Ramadan Kareem, dear sis!