Friday, October 12, 2012

A Recycled Writing to Refresh The Ramadan Spirit :)

This writing was originally featured in the Huffington Post's website last Ramadan. It was a recycled story from my last year's writing in the UK FCO's website (which later also appeared in the UCL's School of Public Policy's newsletter). :P

Well, not a new one, but I will always take a look at this, in every Ramadan that my life will experience. Insya Allah. :)


How That Ramadan In London Inspired Me To Be A Walking Ambassador Of Islam

This Ramadan is much easier than last year. I’m back in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim population, and I only need to fast for 12 hours. It’s different from last year, when I was studying for my master's degree in London, UK. I had to fast for 18 hours, surrounded by few fellow Muslims, with the master thesis deadline approaching.

I’m happy with the current situation, but the ease of fasting in my own country makes me worry that Ramadan this year will become mundane, a rather boring ritual. After all, I’ve been fasting for 22 years, as I’ve started fasting since I was seven years old!

Then, I reflect upon my experience last year, my toughest Ramadan experience so far.

“Every Muslim is a walking ambassador of Islam.”

I heard this from a religious teacher in a Ramadan conference in my university. It reminded me of my reason to come to the UK. In my scholarship application, I said I wanted to communicate the benevolent face of Islam to the world, and learn about multiculturalism from the UK. The intention became stronger as the scholarship interviewers said: “Being British is about being proud of the British multiculturalism.”

The teacher talked about the importance of good character of a Muslim. He mentioned three important characteristics: tolerance and forgiveness; indiscriminate generosity; and self-reflection. He said that the point of Ramadan was to transform ourselves to have good character.

On tolerance and forgiveness, the teacher gave example from when Prophet Muhammad conquered Mecca. As the Prophet arrived, the Meccans were terrified. To everyone's relief, the Prophet said: “No blame upon you and may Allah forgive you as He is the most merciful.” No bloodshed happened.

The advice was special because I heard it in my university, the first secular one in England, and the first to treat people from different religious backgrounds equally.

I recounted every blessing I’ve received as a Muslim in the UK. Unlike what I thought before, living a Muslim life was not difficult. Praying five times a day was easy as the university provided a contemplation room. I’ll never forget that I was allowed to pray in two historic churches in Oxford, when I couldn’t find anywhere else to pray. I found no problem wearing a hijab as there were many hijabis in London. I was also thankful for my classmates’ thoughtfulness. They suggested various ideas in dealing with the 18 hours of fasting. Some of them suggested to “pay it back” another time, some suggested to work at nights and sleep during the daylight. They texted and emailed asking, “How’s Ramadan?” as I isolated myself for the thesis deadline. The experience was a real example of tolerance and generosity.

That Ramadan in London will always reminds me about the transformative aim of Ramadan. It inspires me to accomplish the mission of being a good “walking ambassador of Islam.”

I promise to recall on this note every time I start thinking Ramadan is mundane. It shall always be special.

-- Dyah Widiastuti (@dyahwie) from Jakarta, Indonesia

*picture: The London Central Mosque, located in Regents Park, North London. I did my Eid Al Fitr prayer here in 2011. I will never forget the experience. :)