My routine changes during Ramadan (May 5-June 4), the ninth month of the Islamic calendar: low on food and sleep, high on the Quran (religious text of Islam), salah (worship), and iman (belief in the six articles of faith).
Derived from the Arabic word “Al Ramad” (intense heat), Ramadan is a metaphor for the deep spiritual endeavors of Muslims, in which we abstain from food, negative thoughts, words and actions—from sunrise to sunset.
The heat symbolizes the “burning” of our sins—by controlling our sense organs, doing intense prayers and immersing ourselves in the Quran.
The prophet Muhammad said, “Whoever observes the fast during the month of Ramadan, while believing in Allah and seeking His rewards, will have his past sins forgiven.”
Our practice is driven by taqwa, the Arabic word for respecting God and the fear of the consequences for breaking Islamic disciplines.
Before Ramadan month, my regular routine was to wake up before dawn to prepare for morning prayers. Bringing along my prayer mat, gym clothes and towel, I’d hie off to the gym, after which I’d meet up with clients in BGC and Makati.
Between meetings, I’d go to a quiet place to remember God or Allah. I sleep by 10 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. to start the same routine.
For one year, I’d prepare myself for Ramadan by fasting Mondays and Thursdays during Sha’ban, or the eighth month of the Islamic calendar.
But this year, my body clock made a dramatic turnaround. I’d wake up at 2 a.m. to cleanse my body. I’d take the suhoor (predawn) meal to sustain me throughout the day. It consists of Maranao food—badak (coconut milk soup with jackfruit and dried fish), palapa (a spicy condiment), native chicken and turmeric rice, lots of fruits, and water.
Then I’d go to the mosque in Quiapo for the Fajr (4 a.m. prayer). Morning is the best time to ask blessings from Allah because the atmosphere is pure.
I’d go home to check my e-mail, take a nap, and then proceed to Kerry Sports at Shangri-La at the Fort. The place is convenient because I can use the studios or quiet corners for my midday and evening prayers.
Before saying the prayers, Muslims must perform ablutions in a sequence—washing hands, nose, mouth, arms, and feet. If we excrete, then we wash the whole body. Physical purity is important in purifying the soul.
Following Muhammad’s teachings, I break the fast at sunset with dates and water. I go to the mosque in Makati for the iftar (sunset meal) that ends the fast. I return to BGC for more meetings, after which I work at the gym and leave at midnight. This is how I keep the balance of work, fitness and religious life.
Elements to fasting
These are important elements to fasting: setting the intention for the day and avoiding food and drink between the al-fajr (dawn prayer) and al-magrib (after sunset); avoiding smoking, swearing, lying and physical intimacy.
We continue the routine of praying at dhur (noontime), asr (midafternoon) and al-isha (evening before midnight).
We pay more attention to values and virtues, and perform dua (charities.)
During Ramadan, Muslims who practice fasting are worthy beneficiaries. I ask my coordinators to buy food for poor families, or donate electric fans to the mosque in my hometown, Lanao del Sur.
Fasting is a test of will and patience. I can get irritable from lack of sleep and hunger pangs. But I say this mantra that the mind is more powerful than the body. I choose to stay peaceful, not cranky.
This year’s Ramadan came in the heat of the midterm elections. As a public relations consultant, I had to practice ethics with clients who happened to have run for public office. I turned down a job which required me to open a social media account to attack this candidate’s opponent. It’s against Islamic principles to judge, criticize or create animosity. I believe social media should be a platform for positive information.
I have avoided being used by politicians for their unfair practices like bribery, vote-buying, and defaming their rivals.
What happens after Ramadan? What happens once you’ve completed it? If you’re like most of us, you find yourself slowing down. Some of us come to a complete standstill. And, just like that, the “Ramadan effect” is over.
But what if we did things differently this year? What if we made a conscious decision not to crash and burn, and just to pace ourselves?
What if we see Ramadan itself as the training ground, and the rest of the year as the marathon? What if we see Ramadan as an opportunity for growth, for transformation in the long term?
What I’m suggesting isn’t new. It isn’t radical. We all hope for positive change during Ramadan.
What I started to do this year is take a long-term approach to my ibadah (worship).
I’m now looking beyond Ramadan. Can I build relationships based on service that will continue after Ramadan? Can I do sadaqah jariyyah (charity)? Can I create a realistic plan that will enable me to remain connected to the Quran throughout the year?
In essence, what seeds can I plant in Ramadan that will flourish throughout the year?
During Ramadan, physical intimacy is not allowed. For many years, I’ve been enjoying the single life. I don’t seek companionship because Allah is always in my mind.
Celibacy has brought me power. I’m more focused and I get things done fast. I look at people as my brothers and sisters because we are all children of one God.
As Ramadan draws to a close, I have come to understand the meaning of self-mastery—being in control of my senses, thoughts and words. —CONTRIBUTED