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Ramadan: We carry what we cannot let go

Ramadan is an opportunity for me to bond with the rest of the Muslims in the world, cleanse ourselves of hatred and remorse, and then return to our center, which is our undying faith in the Creator. Ramadan will promise us that patience, peace, and tolerance can be part of our daily lives, only if we have faith in and fear of Allah.

Taqwa —that conscious feeling that Allah is always present and one should always live a life that pleases the Creator through good deeds and intentions -- is heightened during Ramadan. It is also one of the two essential qualities of an ardent believer of Islam. The other, imaan, is simply ‘faith’ and has the same principle with other faiths.

Taqwa and imaan are my guiding forces for this month-long celebration on how to be a good Muslim, to be closer to Allah, and to embrace a renewed life afterwards.

PRAYER. The observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Photo by Rob Reyes / Rappler

PRAYER. The observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Photo by Rob Reyes / Rappler

In Filipino there is a word for it: banyuhay or metamorphosis. A contraction of 3 words – bagong anyo ng buhay (new form of life) – banyuhay is the most perfect word to describe myself after Ramadan. After a month of prayers and fasting, my life will take a new form, and for some Muslims who are very lucky or pious, their lives For me, Ramadan is always a kind of finality, the completion of a new cycle so I can move on to the next level.

But the process of metamorphosis is never an easy road, nor is it a promise to be blindly made. There are several challenges along the way: stop-overs, wrong directions and interim destinations. Banyuhay is a road that not all of us are comfortable to tread. It is always marred by slow, violent but beautiful movements, and when one finally reaches one’s destination: change—or for me, a renewed life and faith.

For almost a month, I went through the hurdles of juggling work and fasting, of re-arranging my work and personal schedules for the tarawi, waking up early morning for the suhoor, a meal to prepare for a day-long abstention from food and water. During Ramadan, every day, every hour, I thought of taqwa and my imaan as I waded through the banality of life as a young professional working in a city.

Since I am based now in Cotabato City, I am also a witness of how Muslim communities in this city and neighboring provinces adapt to change, for a communal banyuhay after the Ramadan.

Streets are prepared for the Eid al-Fitr, families and friends spend the night together in a masjid for prayers. On the level of personal engagements, I observed people are conscious of their words and deeds; some even temporarily closed their social media accounts to keep themselves away from spending time ogling food, bodies, gossip, and violence that is not filtered by the internet.

Abstain from worldly affairs, we are told.

However, it was still easier for me this year’s Ramadan to upgrade my imaan and keep my hold to taqwa intact. I was surrounded by a community that was willing to move forward, to embrace change, and let go of things that aren’t necessary for living a quiet Muslim life guided by Islam and its teachings.

To bloom in full potential is beautiful if you are in the right place, I was told when I was young. But bloom also wherever you are planted because the Creator is with you everywhere, for as long as you can find quibla, the direction of your prayer. Ramadan will always pull you back to places and circles of brethren so you will be together with brothers and sisters who are willing to embrace change or be that change. Life, like Ramadan, is also about movements toward the right direction: to continuously change for survival.

Muslims here are Muslims everywhere—this is the usual stereotype imposed by media on Muslims. Heightened Islamophobia is everywhere these days. Donald Trump uses it as an excuse to boost his campaign for the US presidency. It was this xenophobia also that pushed Britain to leave the European Union. Britons are now moving towards expelling migrants and refugees from their country.

The growing Islamophobia in the US, and Brexit, marred what was supposed to be a quiet month for Muslims. Some people just cannot let go of their hatred and xenophobia. Maybe they think their lives will be easier in stagnation, and moving on to banyuhay is something that they cannot comprehend, the way they fear their own life and its beautiful transformations.

As the week closed, the Muslim world encountered yet another setback, an act of violence in the middle of our prayers and fasting. The contradiction leaves me at a loss, still aghast by the reality that there are those who profess they are ‘Muslims’ as they murder 41, maybe more, people in Turkey, mostly Muslims observing the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Terrorist attacks in recent years have been devastating for Muslims around the world. The recent attack at the airport in Istanbul last Tuesday had me thinking, what kind of world will my children inherit? A world where Islam and innocent, god-fearing Muslims are targeted by terrorists who profess the same religion as my brethren?

I prayed for the families of those who perished in the attacks and for many others with whom I stand in solidarity, united in prayer as we seek justice for the victims. This collective struggle only strengthens the faith we share as Muslims, bound by hope that peace will soon reign for us who suffer the most.

That Allah will protect us from terrorists who murder Muslims who live by the faith which stands for peace, from terrorists who kill without fear and hesitation in the most holy month where we find refuge in Allah and his blessings.

What these terrorists lack is the ability to see that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, and unity, and its faith in its purest form. These terrorists carry what they cannot let go, the burden that they consider redemption: a hatred of life and its never-ending banyuhay – so they destroy it.

As this Ramadan is about to close, I will put my knees together in exhaustion, close my eyes to shut this world from my senses even just for several minutes of peace, utter His name in a whisper loud enough so my fellow Muslims elsewhere can hear my prayers, I will slowly bow down as a gesture that I will accept all these hardships in life.

And lastly, to rest my forehead on the same ground beneath my feet as a gesture of surrender, that I am Muslim and I will bloom like life itself wherever I am planted. –

Amir Mawallil, 27, is a member of the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), the country's biggest organization of Muslim professionals.