19 September 2009
Listening to the celebratory noise around me- guns, firecrackers, fireworks, shouting and what have you, I can't help but feel sad. The end of the Holy Month of Ramadhan has come. While the Eid'l Fitr is one of the two biggest and most important days that are celebrated in the Islamic world and every Muslim family the world over is happy and excited, there is still that feeling of sadness as we say goodbye to another Ramadhan. Along with all our prayers for peace, for our loved-ones, for our family and friends, for the world, for humanity, and for ourselves, we also vehemently pray that we'd still be around when the next Ramadhan comes. After all, no one can really tell. There is, of course, the thankfulness and gratefulness to God for giving us the Month of Mercy and Blessings. There is the hope that all our sacrifices and good deeds would be accepted by the One for whose service and praise we are doing everything.
Ramadhan, like I always say, is the best teacher for us, Muslims. It isn't just about abstaining from food and drink. It isn't just about abstaining from sex and smoking. It isn't just about abstaining from acts or words that might hurt others or ruin things for others. It is a month full of learning, unlearning and re-learning. It is during this month that we learn discipline, sacrifice, compassion and complete faith. It is during this month that we are made to appreciate and share what we have no matter how humble or meager. It is during this month that we are taught to love and care for others unconditionally. It is during this month that we learn and strive to be the best Muslims we can be and continue to be that after.
I remember the very first time I ever fasted. I was an excited 9-year-old. Actually, before that, I would always wake up and eat with my family for sahur (the meal we take at dawn or before we start fasting, usually around 3:30-4:00 in the morning), but I never really completed a day of fasting. I would usually have to break my fasting because I couldn't take the hunger any longer. But, that day, I decided to really complete the whole day of fasting no matter what. It was so funny because by 4:00 in the afternoon, I didn't have any energy at all, I couldn't even speak, so my dad told me to just sleep it off. I did just that and by 6:00 in the evening (time to break fasting), they were waking me up to get me to eat, but as it turned out, I'd fainted! Haha!:) And, when I woke up, I didn't want to eat anything as I thought it wasn't time to eat yet. My dad had to show me that he was eating just so I'd eat something. And, after that day, I couldn't fast the next few days because I got sick that same night. The next time I fasted was after some days, but it turned out to be easier. After that funny first time experience, I sort of got the hang of it.
I think every Muslim has a funny Ramadhan anecdote and it's always interesting to share and exchange stories. Each of us is trained for Ramadhan at a very young age and we are told and taught of the importance of the Holy Month and the blessings that it brings. Through our training in Ramadhan, we are also trained for life. We are made better persons. We keep the lessons of Ramadhan in our hearts forever and every passing of this holiest of months brings new lessons to learn and remember. The thing is, Ramadhan doesn't end with the opening of the new month, Shawwal. Ramadhan doesn't end with the Eid'l Fitr. Ramadhan lasts a whole lifetime. The lessons and good deeds (should) stay with us for as long as we live. As Muslims, it is mandatory that we make every day of our lives a day of Ramadhan. And, that, I think is the most important thing to remember during this month as well as the greatest challenge for us, Muslims.
HAPPY EID'L FITR AL-MUBARAK to everyone! May Allah grant us our wishes and prayers and may the blessings that this month brings be upon all of us! :)
07 September 2009
How important is reading in my life?
Very. Very important. Reading has not only made me the person that I am or always provided me information I need. Reading has saved me not just once, but so many times in so many ways. Reading is like breathing to me. I cannot live without books. I cannot let a day pass without reading. Reading is as important to me as the sun is to plants and the soul is to the body. So, yes, reading is very important to me. It is my key to survival!
I think I have written about reading and my affair with books a number of times on this blog. I grew up with books around me. My parents both love reading and they've influenced me a great deal to be the kind of reader that I am. Ever since I was a child, reading has always been a huge part of my life, something that has always been automatic in my system. Happy, sad, lonely, excited, angry, confused, lost, problematic, grateful... whatever my state of mind or emotional state is, I read, read and read.
Reading has never failed me. It has always kept me going. I've always been inspired by books whenever I need inspiration the most. With the help of books, I've always realized the best thing to do whenever I'm in a dilemma or in conflict with some people. Books have even taught me how to act and what to do in situations I may have never imagined I would be in. Books have helped me walk through life with grace and courage, with confidence and security. Through books, I've experienced things and I've gone to places I can only imagine and I came to understand people and life in general.
And, now, reading is once again proving its worth and serving its purpose in my life. When my father passed away, I didn't think I could handle the pain nor could I ever get over the loss and the emptiness. I know that I will forever be changed and I will never be the same with him not being around anymore. But, one of the most important gifts he gave me, the love for reading, is keeping me where I'm supposed to be at. It has been, these days, like all other days, keeping me together, helping me deal with the loss and making me see things in a way clearer than I ever thought I could.
I thank God for books. I thank the authors for their writing. I thank my parents for the gift of reading. I thank my teachers for teaching how to read. With reading and all the books that are available for all of us, Alhamdulillah (God be praised), it is such a blessed world! :)
Let me share with you something that I always tell my students in the hope of promoting the love for reading:
"Books are my best friends. They really are the best friends one could have. And, the library or the bookstore is my happy place."
And, here's a quote that I've always loved:
"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors,
and the most patient of teachers."
--Charles W. Eliot