As I sat in our Masjid right after Maghrib (sunset) prayers waiting for my dates, cup of tea and a cookie served by young volunteers to break my fast, the Masjid was resonating with a buzz and prayers. It is during this time for the next 30 days we will ask Allah to guide us back to the graces of heaven and show us the path to avoid the sins that could lead us to hellfire.
A tradition of 1400+ years Muslims during Ramadhan come together and ask the same question to Allah. We gather to seek solace, repent and renew our wows to do better for the coming year. And most of all we come together in Ramadhan to remember the many bounties we have and give thanks for what we have received.
For the past 4 years, the journey for me has been a long, arduous one. Looking back it may seem difficult to see how we can be thankful. For the past 4 years, our country has experienced one of the most difficult times in our history. We seem polarized and truly distraught in where we want to go and what we want to be.
Pundits and Gurus continue to show comparisons to Rome and other empires of the past say that we are going down the same path. And yes there are some striking similarities but there are many contrasts too. I will not bore you with these details but rather write about why I believe this Ramadhan we have many things to celebrate and be optimistic.
As a small business owner I have experienced the "Great Recession". Business is down significantly and the old business models are out the window. "Things just do not work the way they used to..." I look back and think why is it not working, what can I do to make this better or different? History teaches us that during times of great change, turmoil, and distress we come up with the greatest and biggest answers. I know this is true, and this Ramadhan I am thankful that I am living through such a great time of change. For this experience will be the initial sparks to the next sea of changes that will bring decades of prosperity. For these difficult times will give me an opportunity to make a difference in where my humble small boat will float for my family, my friends, my community and my country.
If we raise our view to the national level, we see the recent political, economical and social turmoil and I see numerous opportunities of hope. The Oil Spill in the Gulf was devastating to the local economy and a disaster that will take decades to recover. But it is this very spill that has helped us focus on our endless dependency on depleting and polluting energy source and see what we can do to try to right this endless appetite for oil. I am thankful that as devastating as this Oil Spill has been for our nation, that we will get an opportunity to right the many wrongs that have persisted in this industry. Lives will be changed forever and opportunities for new businesses and ventures will be born. Like any wildfire, yes the brushfire will destroy the old growth but it will also make way for the new. I know we will build and the new will be stronger and better than the old.
Our nation continues to fight two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though I politically disagree with both the wars, but now as we try to exit both theaters, there is great uncertainty of what will happen to these nations and what dangers will be born for our nation. Time will of course tell us, but the reality is that there will always be great opponents of our country and so no war or effort can ever eliminate this threat. We can't win this war in a traditional sense. What has to change is the very social, economical fabric of the Iraqi and Afghani society. This can only be done through time with education and exposure to new thinking.
As nasty and as destructive as the two wars have been, there is a spark for hope. The turmoil once again has brought about a sea of change. The status quo is gone and opportunity to accelerate the growth of new ideas has taken root. Time will tell if those ideas, systems and processes will be positive or not. I am optimistic that the human ingenuity in this great age of information sharing will yield a very different result than what has happened in the past. It will take time and it will be different.
One of the bigger issues of the day has been the Community Center - Cordoba House in Manhattan that is being built by Muslims. It has a Masjid as part of the whole complex. The proximity of this project to the 9/11 site has created massive political repercussions for those that support the project and those that oppose it. I have read and listened to all parties and through this chaos and this Ramadhan I have realized that such a discussion is awesome. This issue has helped do two things. One, it has provided an awesome opportunity for the large American Muslim community to showcase the true aspects of a peaceful Muslim community that are large great contributers of the socio, economic and political landscape of modern America. Two it is showcasing the very beauty of our constitutional system that allows such a discussion to even take place. The very fact that this discussion is occurring is a testament that our system is not broken but rather working and working well. In this information over load age it looks like our disagreements are increasing...but I believe on the contrary. These disagreements have always been there, but through the new age of instant news and communications - things like this very blog - allows these discussions to take place quicker and faster which gives us all an opportunity to practice the fundamentals of the American way better.
So as I sat in the row with my brothers ready to break my first fast of this Ramadhan, a thought crossed my mind that things just cannot get any worse! How can this all be fixed, it just gets worse every day? But then I closed my eyes and as I sipped the hot tea that blended with the juicy date in my mouth after a long 101 degree day, I knew that it can only be good. Just like the Hot Day of August with 101 degree heat and dry fasting mouth can be relieved by the grace of tea and dates, May Allah Ta'ala grant us the bounty of the sweet reward of the great struggles of the men and women of this great nation. I pray that the long fast of this past few years be broken soon with the bountiful flavors of the fruits to come. May he grant us all the Sabr (Patience) to see through these difficult times to realize that the journey will take us to a better place.
Ramadhan Karim, Mubarak to all!