My respected Chaplains and NASLs,
I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the wonderful weather. This time of the year is a very special time for me personally, along with all Muslims around the world. I would like take this opportunity to share a little about our holy month of Ramadan. I thought, by sharing a little bit about Ramadan and our practice of fasting, it may benefit each of us personally, and/or it may help someone we know.
This year, Ramadan started in mid-May. Due to the fact that Muslims follow a lunar calendar rather than a Gregorian calendar, every year Ramadan begins around 11 days earlier than the previous year.
Fasting is a very special form of worship in our religion, as it is in many other religions and ways of life. Fasting helps us to reach deep inside ourselves allowing us to meditate on the challenges that surround us. It also helps us to appreciate all the blessings that The Almighty has bestowed upon us. Everyone experiences some type of challenge in their life that they may need to deal with in some way. Even those we see as especially successful or gifted will experience their own challenges unique to their situation, while other challenges may be similar to all our experiences. For example, some challenges we all face are the loss of loved ones, family issues, and work stress or work fatigue. These are just some of the challenges that we may face in our everyday life. One of the greatest things that fasting teaches us is to be happy and content with the gifts we have in life and to be willing to face our challenges, big or small, with an open mind and heart.
Fasting can be used as a training tool that helps us become better in our everyday lives. It also helps us fight against bad habits that we may have, and if we are fortunate we may be able to transform them into good habits.
Fasting during this time is not only about giving up food and water from dawn to dusk; but rather, it can become a means to teach us to control our tongue and gain control over our ego. Sometimes we will say hurtful words to someone, maybe in anger or frustration.
Unfortunately, we may never be able to take those hurtful words back. It is for this reason that we should train ourselves to talk less, meditate upon the greatness of our Creator, and focus on those things that truly matter in life.
Ramadan is a time to develop within ourselves the gifts of patience, gratitude, and humility. Fasting is a great way to practice controlling our cravings, so we may eat healthier foods and avoid the foods that are harmful to our bodies, so that we may have healthier diets. It makes us think about all the poor people who go without food sometimes and reminds us of all the blessings we have in our life. Fasting also gently reminds us that we should be grateful and give back to our communities in whatever way we can. I have found that there is no better feeling than helping and giving to the needy and the disadvantaged. In prisons, we are challenged to provide spiritual support to those that have hit rock bottom and are looking for spiritual answers and ways to change their lives. It is an honor to serve in this way and I am grateful to be part of this community who has chosen to do this spiritual work in spite of the challenges we may face. May we find the blessing in serving those who are so spiritually hungry and searching for spiritual answers to life’s most difficult moments.
Imam Sadiq Shoaib
Northern California Youth Correctional Center