Unlike many other Muslims, the yearly countdown to Ramadan sends shivers down my spine. It irks and irritates me. While others anticipate the blessings and bounties of Allah this month comes with , I dread the long hours of having to stay without food or water and sex. This year’s is not different save that it came with less controversy surrounding the actual date to commence the Ramadan.
The debate that characterizes the sighting of the new moon at the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan is one that will last as long as the dispute between Palestine and Israel. There are a lot of schools of thought regarding the ruling on sighting the moon. Some say that until the moon is sighted locally, we can reject any international sighting. Others also believe that if it sighted internationally, we are obliged to accept it. I am not an Islamic scholar but I was told that the Islamic calendar is a lunar one. So on the 29th of every month, Muslims look out for the new moon. If it is sighted, then the month ends on the 29th and the next month sets in. however if the eyes fail to see the crescent, the month is completed by the addition of one day to make it 30.
I am a Muslim, I mean what I call “moderate Muslim”. I do not know exactly what that means but it is just a nice way of excusing myself from the core things that makes me Muslim. For instance, I deliberately miss Salat and pray them when I feel like. Sometimes, I go a week without even performing Salat. At work, I feel shy to say I am a Muslim neither am I bold enough to offer Salat even when I have the chance to do so. My Christian colleagues have no problem with me praying but I just want to fit in so I do not pray. I just try to pray zuhur to Isha when I get home and in most cases I don’t. Even though Islam prohibits me from taking alcohol, I take in drinks with at most 5% alcohol rate because I have to fit in and most importantly, “I am a moderate Muslim”. I take in pork indiscriminately and flirt with women. I do most of the things I must not do because I am a “Moderate Muslim”.
Despite all these problems with me, this year’s Ramadan seem to have touched a soft spot in my heart. I have spent the past week anticipating its arrival. I bought a new prayer mat and finally opened the Qur’an my friend, Inusah, gifted me on my 19th birthday. I have, for the first time in many years, offered Salat in the masjid. I have not tasted alcohol after Mawutor’s birthday celebration a fortnight ago. After my last sexual escapade with Ursula on Valentine’s Day, I have not seen the thighs of any other woman. Something has definitely changed about me.
This should be good news to my religious life but one thing frights me. I am afraid to go to the mosque because when I do, they will mock me and tag me as “Ramadan Muslim”. I will become a laughing stock and I doubt if I can take that stigmatization. Mumuni, my former colleague at work, swore not to ever go to the masjid again after he was met with stigmatization last Ramadan when he decided to finally pray in congregation in the mosque.
My resolve to finally go to the mosque was too huge to allow me stay home, so I called Sheikh Dabiiya for advice. That was the best thing I had done in a while. He knew exactly what I need, hope. He referred me to Qur’an chapter 39 verse 53, a part of the Quran I have come to love, “Say: “my servants, you who have transgressed against yourselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Truly Allah forgives all wrong actions. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful””. This verse left me beaming with smiles and hope that indeed this could be my turning point.
It is the first day of Ramadan 2019/1400. I am seated in the first row of the Masjid for the first time in many years. I have said my nawafil prayers, recited portions of the Qur’an and reciting some Azkar as I await the arrival of the Imam. I do not know if what I feel is right but seriously, I don’t care what they say about me. Yes, I am a Ramadan Muslim. I have taken advantage of this holy month hoping that before we get to the end of the month, I would be a changed and better Muslim. Isn’t that the essence of Ramadan? To make us better Muslims?
I assume that is why Allah says in Qur’an 2:185, “The month of Ramadan ( is the month) in which the Qur’an has been sent down as a guidance for mankind containing clear signs which lead (to the straight road) and distinguishing (the truth from falsehood)”.
To those who mock me, I wish they knew the number of souls they have turned away from Allah. Not all of us have strong faith. Some of us are now recovering after years of religious slumber. When we come to the mosque, accept us and let us feel at home. Mocking us might send us back. As for me, nothing will send me back this year. I am here for good In Sha Allah. May this Ramadan be the turning point for me.
The writer, Abdul-Rahim Naa Ninche, is a student of Ghana Institute of Journalism, a reporter for Class FM and a photographer. You can contact him via his phone number, (+233) 201962393, or his email, naaninche@.