What Ramadhan Means To Me
  Shanaz Mohammed
June 2017

Shanaz Mohammed is a thirty (30) year old manager of a publishing company in Trinidad. She loves nature and animals.

It is said that when God loves a person, he is tested. I did not know this. In fact, I didn’t think much about God.

I was born a Muslim, but did not grow up in an ideally ‘Muslim’ home. My mother reverted to Islam when she married my father. She frequented maktab classes for a short period of time as a way to please my father, even though he did not adhere to the religion. There, she learned the basics and grew to understand what Islam was because coming from a non-Muslim background, it was completely alien to her.

While growing up, religion was there, but not taken too seriously. My parents knew only the rudimentary practices that were taught by the elders, like having a “Reading” once a year to thank God for what we had, or the famous tradition of having a “Neeyaz”. But, as long as I could remember, as each year passed and the Islamic month of Ramadhan came along, my mother abstained from food and drink and she performed salaat five times for the day. It was during this month, I would learn a little each year about salaah and verses from the Qur’an.

However, as life continued, Common Entrance got in the way. Then secondary school (and, being a teen, CXC) and eventually work got in the way. We had a small business and I promised my mother that when I was finished with school, I would work for the family business because I was tired of seeing her tears and frustration with worker after worker.  Being the only child, I felt that it was my duty to ease my parents’ hardships.

I learned what I could and did what I could do about the business. But, eventually, the business took a hold of me, like the way the sea envelops a drowning man. Stress became a natural part of life and there was no way of breaking free as each day brought some new disaster. Understaffed and pressured by the deadlines to deliver jobs, I took it upon myself to operate machinery. It was hard. It was a man’s job. My physical capabilities could only handle so much. I was doing the work of three people; my mind was focused on doing the job because I HAD to. Each day I would wake, dreading the day ahead of me and each night I would go to sleep with the nightmares of facing the following day. The machine breakdowns, the no-show workers, all the debts we had; all of this was happening to me and my family, and God, Almighty Allah, was nowhere in my mind or heart! It was like there was no consciousness of Him. Little did I know that He was beckoning me to call to Him for help...because I was allowing my soul to be bound to this dunya (world).

One day, I said to myself that there must be some mystical way out of this stress. There was a book and dvd that came out and it was a rave with many “lost” people. I had seen it once before and this day I said I will look at it again because it might help me. It was about sending positive thoughts out into the Universe and it will come back to you. STILL, I was not thinking about Allah. This was in 2008. Ramadhan came along and as usual, I was working like a mindless robot, still not conscious that the most blessed month was upon us.

And then it happened: three of my fingers were chopped off, along with piece of my thumb by the machine I was working on.

This, THIS slowed me down. This brought certain people into my life, and however short their contributions were at that point in time, they made a huge impact that finally cracked open that hard wall that was surrounding my mind. While lying in the hospital bed, Dr. O. Ali, whom I had done business with, called me and said, “When I was about your age, I had a test, not like yours, but it was a difficult test.  Allah tests those He loves, and He was testing you.” Only then I realised that I had not thought about Allah in a very long time and I had turned away from him. At home, I was visited by a well-known journalist and CEO of an Islamic TV Station, who said, “Allah gave you those fingers for 24 years and then he decided to take them back. That’s all he took, he didn’t take your life yet, thank Allah for what you have. It could have been worse.” Another person, a businessman whom I never met before, came just to share his story of his test with me and how he came into realisation. After hearing such simple yet mighty words from these people, it finally sank into my heart: Why didn’t I turn to Allah this whole time? Why did I let this dunya control me?  I was losing myself and before it was too late, He called out to me, louder than any time before.

As my hand healed, I started to perform the five daily salaat and made dua (supplication) and thanked Allah for what he took from me so I could finally turn to Him. I thanked Allah for my two feet, my ability to walk, talk, see, hear, feel, and breathe. I heard an Islamic scholar say once, “Allah has given us air to breathe. It is free, yet some of us are in a position where we can’t even take one breath to live without the help of a machine.”

In these seven years, I have learned more about Islam. I’ve learned that there is only One Creator, Nourisher, Sustainer, Provider, Curer and Protector. I am to worship the One who created me and the universe. I turned to Allah and He answered my duas. Allah had shown me mercy and compassion I did not know could exist even though it had existed all along. My mind is clear and all faith and trust is put on Him. No matter what trials I go through now, I ask Allah for the help and I thank Him for the tests.

So, having shared all of this, what does Ramadhan mean to me? Aside from being the most blessed month, the month of which the Holy Qur’an was sent down to the first heaven, the month of forgiveness, the month of compassion and empathy towards the less fortunate, the fast is for Allah. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said that: “Allah said: ‘Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it.”’ This means that I fast for the sake of Allah, it is between Him and me. When I am alone, I still give up the desire for food and drink for the sake of Allah. It is a hidden action and a hidden intention that no one knows except for Allah. One month of the twelve, Allah has asked of us to fast for His sake and to adjust our lives for our own benefit in the Hereafter. Why should we falter when He has given us trees, plants, fruits, vegetables, water, fishes, animals....our life and faculties?

Ramadhan means to me to be thankful for all the mercies and blessings that Allah has given to us. Ramadhan means to me to recharge my Iman (Faith) so that it can last till next Ramadhan, IF I live to see the next Ramadhan. Ramadhan means to me that remembrance of Allah (swt) is the meaning of life.

Ramadhan means to me that Allah tests those He loves. 

By: Shanaz Mohammed | FEATURES | June 2017

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