Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above.
Tonight might be the last night of the month of Ramadan. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and Muslim jurists rely on different methods by which to determine the start and end of months. Traditionally, most would require the actual seeing of the crescent moon with the naked eye. If the moon was not visible on the 29th night, then the month would extend one more day for a total of 30 days before the new month began. Contemporary opinions have developed that utilize calculations to determine the start and end of the months. Those who follow the latter have set Tuesday as the first of Shawwal, the month that follows Ramadan, as well as Eid-ul Fitr, an Islamic holiday that follows the month of fasting. If you are interested in learning more about it, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a prominent American-born Muslim Scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first Muslim College in the USA, has written an excellent book on the subject entitled "Caesarean Moon Births."
Whether you think it is definitely the last night or potentially the last night, it's important to not only think about it in terms of the month ending. We should also be thinking how this night and the previous 28 nights will effect the way we live every day and night beyond this one. Some would wonder why I would write this on Day 28 instead of Day 29. I think it's more important to think about what I've gained from the month while I am still in it. If I wait until after, the consciousness that my fasting yields me would have already begun to escape me. I want to have a plan so that I don't fall back into the same routine that I was used to before the month started.
One of the things that was great about this Ramadan was I felt more reacquainted with the Quran. Hearing it recited every night and reading it during the day is something that has had a deep impact on me. As a child, I read it a lot more. I think this is because I had a teacher, an elderly South Asian woman named Rukhsana, who I read with that I felt accountable toward. There were also a lot of kids in our community whose parents would throw them a party after they had read the Quran in its entirety for the first time. That made it more motivational for me. It doesn't seem like we allow for too many celebratory moments associated with our religion. I still have the first Quran that I read through that my first teacher gave me as a gift after I had completed a reading with her.
As I got older, I always had my ups and downs in terms of finding time to read the Quran, but Ramadan was always a time that rejuvenated it for me. The verses opened up with so much meaning and as I started to learn Arabic, it became that much more impactful. When I read it, hear it recited, open up commentaries on it, it's always a great experience. But as I sit here in the final nights of this Ramadan, I realize that every year thus far, after the month is over I slowly return to my habit of not reading it as much or as regularly as I can or should. What makes it harder is that I am not accountable really to anyone if I do or don't. The only way I'll change that is by being realistic in how I approach the issue. I need to build a relationship with someone that I will feel accountable toward who will ensure that I am keeping up with what I learned I am capable of doing in these past four weeks. This doesn't have to be a religious scholar or teacher per se, but even just a friend or group of friends that I can rely on to help me stay on track with my goals.
The same logic can be applied to pretty much everything that I'll try to maintain from the month. I want to keep fasting and it'll probably keep me more motivated to do so if I ask people to fast with me and also break fast with me at sunset. Our tradition has a lot of different optional fasts outside of the month of Ramadan, among them the three middle days of the month, also known as the "white days" because of the fullness of the moon, and on Mondays and Thursdays. It's just more realistic that I'll keep doing things if I have someone to do them with.
Tonight I am thinking what I learned from this month of Ramadan and how tomorrow I'll keep it going. My religion doesn't have to lose its sense of privacy by me bringing others in to help me maintain it. Even the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had his companions to rely on. Why then would I rely on only myself to keep on going?