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by Unknown14 July, 2013

I pull out my hand and grab the alarm clock on my nightstand and bring it closer to my eyes as I lay back in bed. A little after 3 am, just in time to read a portion of the holy Qur’an for Fajr prayer. I slowly get out of bed while picking up the Qur’an from the drawer of my nightstand.

Before prayer, I go down to the kitchen and find my family already at the table for the pre-dawn meal.

“Habibti”, mom reaches out to me and brings me closer. I smile and help lay out the plates on the kitchen table. My family hadn’t gotten to bed yet so they laugh at my sleepy state as I move around the kitchen.

Waking up for Suhoor is not easy, I must admit. However, this morning meal is generally recognized as the single most important meal of the day. For that reason, it has many benefits and rewards. Making sure not to over-eat, my family and I focus on taking in foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. I drink my glasses of water and chew on my whole-grain toast topped with an egg. My brother hands me a cracker with peanut butter generously spread on top as he knowingly smiles. Peanut butter is my ultimate weakness, I can eat it straight out of a jar!

I head back to bed and sleep till my alarm starts sounding like crazy at 9 am. During this time of the year, I try to get involved in charity work and help organize community iftars and taraweeh. Contrary to the events I organize during the rest of the year, these events are focused on connecting with other people and reaching out, making sure to invite people who tend to get overlooked. The aim is not networking and PR, but rather strengthening ties among humanity. Of course, I also plan ahead, and make arrangements to give Zakaat al –Fitr on time, which can be done anytime before the Eid prayer.

During the day, I try to get a little shut-eye. Even a 20 minute power nap helps, leaving me energized and refreshed. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life and forget that this moth is essentially about renewing one’s personal connection with God. For that, I make it my utmost priority during the day to pray as much as is easy for me. The holy Qu’ran says (the translation of which means): “When you are free from affairs, then turn to your Lord.” I usually choose a week-end during the month, where I stay in seclusion (I’tikaf) and dedicate my time to prayer. This quality time I have with Allah soothes my mind and spirit.

Besides my one-on-one time with Allah, I focus on my relationships with others. I squeeze out the kindness I have in me, making sure to be nice to others, controlling my temper, counting to 10 if I’m having a bad day, and biting my tongue before lashing out. A major aspect of Ramadan is being nice and charitable to others, and to accomplish that I vow to be patient.  Moreover, Ramadan is the time of giving. Whether it’s a smile to a neighbor, or a 100 riyals to a homeless derelict, it’s the season to give Sadaqah. Ramadan is about bringing people together, and giving generously and selflessly.

“Mama!”, I call out to my mother as I walk into the kitchen. One of my most enjoyable parts of the day is also helping mama and my aunts prepare for iftar. I learned all my cooking skills from this period of the year! Making sure to bake and broil everything instead of frying, we try to keep our meals as healthy and tasty as possible. When we break fast at iftar time, it’s important to start with dates and liquid like water, juice or shorba. I eat sparingly and save my main meal for later in the night. Again, I drink lots of water between iftar and suhoor to combat dehydration. Although I live off of Diet Pepsi during the rest of the year, I abstain as much as possible from any fizzy drinks or sodas, and go for herbal teas and natural juices instead.

At iftar time, my grandma always reminds us of the Night of Power, the single night in Ramadan which is considered better than a 1000 months, by virtue of the blessings that descend in it. My eyes light up as I think of this powerful night, and plan with all my heart to seek it in the last ten days of the month.

Happy Iftar!