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Monday, January 16, 2006

A day in the life of a Muslim: During Ramadan

By Mohammed Zaoud

A wise old man once told me "You need to sacrifice to achieve great things". Ramadan to me, is a reiteration of this same saying.

When the month of Ramadan approaches, the world witnesses mixed reactions. Some people are very arrogant, they see fasting as a burden upon them. They see this month as a time of grief, a month that can't pass quickly enough. For many other people like myself, Ramadan is a month that is a mercy from almighty God. It is not a burden at all. I mean, I have to admit that there can be times when a person may wish this month had never come, like having to face the smell of "bad" breath from sunrise to sunset; but generally, the advantages and beauties of Ramadan in a Muslim's life certainly rise above the disadvantages.

It all starts at 3am. I wake up at three in the morning everyday. The whole street is quiet enough that I could hear the leaves moving on the trees. While the average Joe is nice and comfortable in his warm bed, I wake up to wash and have breakfast. Yes breakfast. This is probably the most interesting part of the day. Every morning, the question is posed in my head… 'To eat or not to eat?' Do I eat cheese? Do I drink tea? Are these foods going to make me thirsty during the day? Do I die wondering? Do I stuff myself with chocolate? Nine out of ten times, I lose the battle. I always end up eating as though it is the last time I am ever going to do so. I eat the left overs from the night before. Not only do I stuff myself with chocolate, but I eat all the ice cream to settle the stomach.

After the question is answered, I wait patiently for Fajr [dawn prayer] to arrive. As soon as this time elapses, this is the signal for all Muslims to start their fast. Furthermore, this is also the time when all Muslims offer two units of prayer to God. After doing so, many Muslims choose to resume their sleep whilst others choose to make the most of the month by staying up to remain in the remembrance of God by reading the Quran etc. I usually fall to the arms of sleepiness.

Upon waking up to go to school, I try to get used to not having normal breakfast just before leaving home. But then again, it's all about sacrifice. The first few hours of the day, are simply normal. The real test comes during time of recess or lunch at school. I get asked many questions from my non-Muslim friends such as "Are you sure you don't want a bite of this pizza? I promise I won't tell God" or "Can't you eat McDonald's? It's not really food" or "You have your exam on today. Are you sure you don't want a drink?". The most common question I get from my non-Muslim peers is "So why fast anyway?" I hope to answer this question later on in this article.

I feel great when Ramadan comes. I feel great when I know that whilst everyone else is busy in their daily activities, I am sacrificing my desires for the sake of God. I feel great when I see one of my friends, who bases his life on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll; take a 'chill pill'. I feel great when he goes through the whole day without a cigarette. I feel great when I see my other friend, who chooses to base his vocabulary on every four letter word in the colloquial dictionary; stop and look back at his mistakes, and at the end of the month become a changed person. It's a great feeling.

In Australia, Ramadan for the past decade or so, has been in summer. On a 40 degree day, whilst my mates from school are planning a beach trip for the weekend, all I can think of is water and food. But then again "You need to sacrifice to achieve great things". The hardest things come during these 40 degree days, when I am walking home from sport and my tongue is longing for water. I get home, only to remember, that there is four or five hours left for sunset.

I have to admit, time goes really slowly when I wait for the clock to make its next move; but after completing whatever it is that I might have to do, whether it is my homework, or simply catching up on some relaxing time [its usually relaxing], time goes by.

And then…the highlight of the day. The moment I have been waiting for all day…and night. The first sip of water is generally the best. The food is scrumptious. It seems to be everlasting. My taste buds start to dance inside my mouth. It happens to me every night of the month. Once I eat, I reflect on the day, and say to myself that it was all worth while. I say that with every bit of sincerity. It always seems that I have achieved something that day.

The day is yet to be over. After eating my way to the toilet, and after having prayed the fourth prayer of the day, I get myself ready to go to the mosque to perform the last prayer of the day, alongside the optional congregational prayers which occur only during the Holy month. The mosque is generally overflowing with people during the month of Ramadan. For some reason, everyone seems to feel just that little bit holier. The prayers usually take about one hour and really emphasise, or top up the sacrificial day. At the end of the day, my personal satisfaction simply skyrockets. As I go to sleep, I reflect on the day, and wait patiently for tomorrow to arrive, for dawn to extinguish night.

Going back to the question "Why do I fast?" or "What keeps me going?" the answer is very simple. I ask you now, how many times do you turn on the TV or flick through the newspaper, and find yourself drenched with the fact that a large proportion of the earth's population lives in famine. How many cases do you hear about people who die from hunger in Sudan, or Ethiopia, or ….the list goes on. These people wake up every morning to the notion that they may not live to see the night. These people fast because they have no choice, they simple have no food to eat, or no water to drink. When I fast, I do it out of my own choice, no one puts a gun to my head. What keeps me going are the faces of those innocent youngsters in the countries such as Sudan who fast the whole of the Gregorian.

"You need to sacrifice to achieve great things"
By Mohammed Zaoud.

Mohammed Zaoud is Sixteen years of age and heading into his final year at Homebush Boys High School in Western Sydney.

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