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Fasting during Ramadan is one of the easiest duties for me as a Muslim. Even though I’ve struggled with my faith and with praying five times daily, I always maintain my fast, and passionately too. This year I started fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, according to Sunnah, after considering it for a while. My mother and elders encouraged me to by telling me of the benefits I would enjoy by fasting outside Ramadan, and on my part I quite liked the prospect of saving up on lunch money, as eating out in Abuja can be ridiculously expensive.
Because I am completely comfortable with fasting, I constantly aim to pray more, doing more nafla and dedicating time to duas and meditation during this month. Now that is a struggle for me; most times I fail. Working a 8:30am-5:30pm job, I am always in a hurry to go back to bed after waking up for sahoor and catching up on the one and a half hours of sleep before having to wake up and get ready for work. I am always a latecomer, but during Ramadan I get to work even later. Yet last week as I tossed and turned in bed unable to return to sleep after waking up for sahoor, I thought to myself that the time spent tossing around could as well be used for some extra prayers. So I got up, wiped the dust off my Ramadan prayer book and settled on my mat.
As I read through the prescribed prayer for that particular day of Ramadan, I suddenly remembered why I had let dust collect on the prayer book in the first place. I cannot identify with majority of the prayers that are contained in that book. Prayers against my “enemies,” and for my wealth to be sustained, are not what I am looking for in terms of my spiritual growth. I have also noted that all the Quranic verses that are suggested as points of daily reflection that I have read so far are the ones that stress worship of Allah while eschewing idols. They are the verses that proclaim that Allah has no son and remind us about the punishment in the hereafter, which can get repetitive for me, especially as I believe that the driving force behind worship should be love rather than fear of hellfire.
The Ramadan prayer book I own was written and printed in Nigeria, and with this in mind I can understand the climate in which these prayers were crafted and the Quranic verses chosen for daily reflection. A prayer that emphasises Allah not taking away your wealth can be seen as a Muslim take on the prosperity doctrine, which is extremely popular in Nigeria. In a country where it is not uncommon for Muslims to engage in traditional spiritual systems, attending and actively participating in festivals of several prominent deities, it makes sense that the Quranic verses highlighted would be those that remind Muslims to worship Allah alone.
However, those are not my realities. I would rather pray for clarity in comprehending daily occurrences and for patience in dealing with the drama that erupts weekly at my workplace. Yet, at this moment in time I am not in a position to sit down and write a prayer book covering all the days of Ramadan. So I have to make do with what I have right now. I have considered jotting down little prayers when I am inspired but I have come to realise that the ability to pray eloquently may just be a gift. When I pray after salat it is always for those of my relatives who have passed away and not much else. This Ramadan, I want to try creating prayers that are specific to me and to my situation right now so that next year I do not have to rely on a generic prayer book.
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.