The month of Ramadan comes and goes so fast, it always feels kind of short.
As the moon-gazers and the calculators celebrate Eid on the same day, it is a welcome change. While some would wish we all gather at a single site like the spacious McCormick, to create a dazzling spectacle of faith and unity, the logistics of this seems to have dwindled away with time as the community has grown and spread from the city to the far suburbs.
A call for unity although sounds exciting to make, hardly speaks to the reality on the ground, where we are split in so many ways and communicate so little among ourselves, living in isolation from one another, existing comfortably within the ethnic ghettos of our own creation.
During this whole month as part of Compassionate Care Network’s (CCN’s) mission to promote free enrollments and increase health awareness, some of us have visited most major Islamic Centers in the area to witness this isolation first hand. We have come to realize that far more important than the symbolic show of unity that could be demonstrated from a single congregation, is the need for a whole lot more dialogue and conversation to take place among the leaderships of different centers. If we are to optimize our functions and improve our services to our people, this is no longer an option that can be postponed but a necessity that must be addressed.
For starters it would be nice if we spoke in plain English when in the company of people of other ethnic backgrounds. Language is a powerful medium that not only glues people together but can also tear people apart. We would perhaps do well also to concentrate less on our personal agendas and focus more on the common issues that challenge us as a community.
We need to become relevant in the world we have come to, rather than remain focused on the world we have come from. To be sure there are problems everywhere. We will need to make some painful choices if we are to avoid the perils of hate and marginalization in a society that increasingly questions our patriotism and our trustworthiness. Without compromising our loyalty to our faith we will have to demonstrate our commitment to justice and our love for America. If we are to survive and succeed as a community we will have to move from being perpetual consumers to becoming productive contributors. We cannot remain satisfied with our individual successes. We cannot remain comforted by our increasing numbers in our mosques and our social gatherings. We need to know our accomplishments, emulate our successes and learn from our failures.
If the tragedy of 911 and the unfolding violence that increasingly is becoming more frequent, is showing us, we cannot remain isolated and disengaged. Many of us have shaken hands and spoken a few words, perhaps for the first time, with our neighbors and friends from other faiths who came to our centers during the course of this Ramadan. Our neighbors probably felt just as good as we did to break the ice. This need not be an annual event. We need to go forward and reach out more frequently not only to our neighbors from other faiths but also to our own friends who share our faith. Together we need to explore opportunities to create goodwill, seek common ground and do God’s work.
If the spiritual exercises of the last several weeks have taught us anything it should be that character is built through a life of discipline, that integrity comes from habitual honesty and that trust is built through honoring commitments. The nights of prayers and prostrations are behind us now. The days of deeds and deliberations beckon us. There is so much to do and no stopping the relentless march of time.
Ramadan comes every year as a necessary interlude for the renewal and the revival of our spirit, in our journey to God. Having renewed our weary souls, we are asked to recommit ourselves to the hardships of this journey and to climb this steep hill which will take us to a moral high ground. We are reminded in the Quran to take on that ascent of spiritual growth that increases our capacity for compassion, that inspires us to greater acts of service and sacrifice, and that makes us fearless in the advocacy of truth. Building character that enables us to live a life of integrity, or ‘taqwa’, devoid of double standards, practicing patience in the face of failure, showing humility after achieving success and demonstrating peaceful resistance in the face of prejudice, is really what Ramadan is all about.
Eid Mubarak, may Allah guide us and empower us with wisdom and strength that He alone can give.