Our much-anticipated annual guest – Ramadan – is visiting us again. It’s difficult to describe how much this blessed month envelops me with tranquility and contentment. Globally, Ramadan is usually associated with refraining from eating and drinking, but that’s an incorrect notion. Ramadan is particularly remarkable because the Quran was revealed during this period. Undoubtedly, there is a copy of the Quran in every Muslim household, but unfortunately, this book is barely read for guidance. Ramadan is an annual reminder for Muslims to reconnect with the scripture and read it with extra contemplation.
I have only experienced fasting in my native UAE, but this year will be different. I’ve started my Ramadan at home in Abu Dhabi, but will spend a few days of it in Canberra, Australia, and then I’ll be off to Indonesia for my first university field trip on Sumba Island.
For most of my life, my Ramadan practice has been fairly low-key – sleeping, extra worshipping and helping my mum in the kitchen. Ramadan is not only about enriching our spirituality, but also enriching our productivity. Lamentably, I have not yet mastered the latter.
However, I hope to use my month-long programme in Indonesia to compensate for my lack of productivity. One of the highlights is that all students will be staying with a host family in different villages, where people predominately follow Christianity.
I embrace all religions and I will be breaking my two weeks of fast in a different setting with different people. I’ve been counting down the days and nights until I get acquainted with my new family and neighbourhood. My parents used to tell me that if you want to see someone’s “true self”, live with them. I will be in this situation soon. I will have to be mindful of my new family’s lifestyle and be cautious about my own.
I’m particularly intrigued about having the opportunity to lead a simple life. The pages in my book of life until now have been full of family, friends and having a good time, but I am willing to accept the challenge to elevate myself. I want to add new chapters of differences rather than sameness. I want to include chapters of fasting in a strange land with new people; pages of joy in my new household; and finally, pages of struggle and triumph.
The concept of this programme is to study the area, familiarise ourselves with local knowledge and tackle local concerns. We have been studying the Bahasa language for four weeks. As an ethnographer, my role will be to be reflective and consult the community about issues that affect them, and as a team, try to come up with suitable solutions.
So, this Ramadan will be my most productive yet. This year, I want to unveil a new version of myself – spiritually, physically and socially. The field trip will be a golden opportunity to test my limits. I can’t wait.
Asmaa Al Hameli is a former features writer for The National; she is currently studying in Australia.
Source: art & life