Spring breathes for the very first time, but do I smell in the garden the scent of two friends who meet each other? – Saadi
While the first half of Ramadan reconnected me with the intimacy of solitude, the second half reminded me of the joy of being with the people you love.
When we hear about Ramadan and its iftars, images of abundantly filled tables with the most delicious dishes, steaming soups, golden brown dates enjoyed by a happy group of family and friends most often come to mind. Yet this is not a reality for everyone. Ramadan is known as a month of solidarity and of togetherness, but one can also experience a growing distance to the surroundings one lives in as the changed rhythm that comes with this month may no longer match with that of many who are not fasting.
There are plenty of people out there who spend a large part of this month by themselves. Some of them are converts, others live far away from their family, or far from Muslim friends, or without the means to travel at night. It could be any reason why they enjoy the moment of Maghreb mostly in privacy.
In the place I call home, I’m the only one who is fasting. The beginning of this month was to me a time of retreat and contemplation. It was a special and beautiful experience for which I’m immensely grateful. But when one does a special thing day after day, night after night, after a while it somehow seems less special.
The signs of routine coming in were subtle yet undeniable. The iftar table that used to be prepared at least five minutes before Maghreb slowly became emptier, the sacrifice of sleep for the sake of prayer simply turned into another biorhythm and tranquillity started to flirt with boredom. I had to consciously remind myself to stay focused on the preciousness of these days. Looking for inspiration one day I came across Maher Zain’s song Ramadan. Watching his video motivated me to do better. I felt like decorating the house, preparing a nice dinner, and lighting some candles as a reminder of the sacredness of the moment. When my sister saw the scene she said: “Oh, how nice! I think I’ll convert…are you having guests?” No. But her question made me realise that I wished I was expecting visitors. It only then dawned on me how much I actually missed being in the company of kindred spirits. I picked up the phone and invited myself for iftar at a friend’s house.
“Were you breaking the fast by yourself?!” – asked my friend. “That should not be allowed!! No one should be alone during Ramadan! Thats like a bad dua you’d only make for your worst enemy when you tell him: “May you….be alone during Ramadan!!” Those words marked the beginning of a period of reunion with friends.
Yes, it involved travelling at night and lesser sleep. But I was fueled by the presence of good company. It’s such a blessing to be in the company of your beloved. To be with those who realign you with the best of you. Those who inspire. Who cast light towards your shadow to make you go on. To be able to share moments of joy and to help each other during times of hardship.
Last night I spent iftar with my musical family. A young man said: “Breaking the fast together with friends -like we do now- strengthens the iftar. And the iftar, when shared, strenghtens bonds of friendship. Indeed, Ramadan is a time of purification. But how can one purify oneself without reflection?” He took his violin and started to tune the strings. Some other brothers did the same thing. Everybody was closely listening to his own instrument and working on it. Then they listened to each other, to hear how they sounded together, if they were attuned as a group. “A little bit higher, yes that’s it”. They started to play. One melody led to another. Notes combined created new meaning. I sang. At moments when my verse was finished somebody else took the lead and a song came into existence.
Seeing this made me think of moments of Ramadan, of elements of life: the process of purification, attuning to oneself, connecting with others, from solitude to solidarity, alternating between the personal and the collective. Just like music, it’s so important to listen to one’s own voice, to hear one’s own melody. But when melodies come together, they have the chance to become beautiful harmonies.