Ramadan, a time and tradition many Muslims anticipate
Tracey Sharrieff is one of many Muslims in Bermuda observing Ramadan at this time.
Ramadan began with the sighting of the new moon on April 13 and will last until May 12. This is considered the holiest season in the Islamic year and is a time where Muslims will participate in fasting, increased prayer and reading of the Koran.
“Ramadan is the month in which the Koran was sent down, as a guide to mankind,” Ms Sharrieff explained. “We are obligated to practise self-restraint, self-denial; and encouraged to increase our prayers and knowledge. If you are unable to fast, you are encouraged to feed someone in need.”
Fasting is a sacred act of worship for Muslims and all who are healthy and able-bodied are required to do it during this time. Those who do not fast give to charity instead.
Fasting during daylight hours is no easy feat, but Ms Sharrieff believes the benefits of the spiritual exercise are worth the sacrifice.
“If Ramadan falls during the summer months, it can be difficult with the heat and thirst for water,” she said. “The adjustment of eating earlier and later also takes some getting used to – you [have to] keep the end goal in mind.
“Allah is merciful and knows your intentions. The benefits of fasting far exceed any difficulties, and with this, I stay motivated.”
Aside from the spiritual benefits of Ramadan, fasting has been associated with other physiological benefits. It has been proven to lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure and it is also beneficial to mental health as it is said to improve brain function and cognitive ability.
Ms Sharrieff has been a part of the Islamic faith for many years and considers Islam a “lifetime practice”.
“Being raised by both my parents and grandmother in a loving environment of unity, prayer, worship and good habits, afforded me wonderful childhood experiences,” she said. “Family, friends and community played and continue to play a huge role in my faith, Islam. I remember from young being part of movements that fought against oppression and racism, growing up in a time when the nation of Islam taught us basic fundamentals that are still practised today – faith, cleanliness, sobriety and good eating, among other principles.”
Muslim families spent long hours together at the Masjid, learning the Koran, she added.
“These garnered lifetime friendships in faith. Poverty was real, and still is for most. But as long as we were all together – friends, cousins and neighbours – we considered our lives rich. It didn't matter much that we didn't have material things.”
Having participated in Ramadan for several years, it has become a time and tradition she anticipates.
“I look forward to this time of growth every year with the health and spiritual benefits. It is like you get the chance to start all over again to get it right – truly a gift.
“The most rewarding part of Ramadan is that you are pleasing your maker, with the hope of attaining paradise in the hereafter. The Koran speaks to all of this and provides answers to every question, for every person, nation and time.”
Things are still very different in the world because of Covid-19; places of worship remain closed and large gatherings are still prohibited by governments. As a result the traditional nightly Taraweeh meetings won’t be held this year however it will not greatly impact the way Ramadan will be observed. Muslims will continue with their fasting and reciting of the Qur’an and prayers within their households.
“Covid has affected the community prayers during these times,” Ms Sharrieff said. “But Muslims have clear instructions on how to conduct themselves during a pandemic. And we must trust the infinite wisdom of Allah. Nothing happens without Him knowing and for every disease is a cure.”
She hopes that this period of restriction will be used by people of faith to develop stronger relationships with God and learn to trust His will in our lives.
“We quickly call for the help of Almighty God when we find ourselves in difficulty but when we are doing fine, we often forget Him. I have learnt that life is a little easier when we come to understand the order and perfection of our Creator, our will and purpose on this earth and the heaven and the paradise hereafter we all aim for.
“I continue to pray for our communities here and abroad and look forward to a time when we sober up, become conscious and knowledgeable and recognise our strength in unity.”