Growing up as three brothers, the dinner table was always a race to the finish – and the iftaar table was no exception.
It’s amazing how the simple act of fasting can teach you obedience and patience; piety and respect. But as the clock ticks down and the inevitable hunger settles, in that moment, those learnings fall slightly to the wayside. Just like every household, eating iftaar together as a family became a ritual. No matter where we were – at school or work – we’d race home in time to help out our mom setting up the table and have iftaar as a family.
During Ramadan, my mother would always make 10 samosas – it was her thing: one each for herself and my father, two for each of us, and another two to sit in the center of the table on an oil-soaked paper towel until any brother dared to reach for it. It was my mother’s way of teaching us how to share, and communicate; ultimately building a stronger bond amongst us siblings.
We sped through our assigned pieces for a shot at the extras – an unsustainable system in a house full of boys. To avoid a brotherly tussle, we decided to either split them three ways or, make a deal: taking turns, each evening, two of us would have the whole treat and one martyr would go without.
It became our thing.
No matter how swift, our actions all led to the same place: laughing and living, enjoying this holy month together as a family
This will be my eighth Ramadan that has a different feel to it – each of the previous seven the same. There is a void in our lives. It seems as if the race has ended, but there’s no real winner.
On December 9, 2013, my older brother passed away. Seven years have gone by, but I live through that day in my head as if it was yesterday. I can tell you exactly what happened, down to the second on that dreaded night. A night where life paused and, at the same time, hit the reset button.
My brother taught me that we should cherish our time with the people we love. That we should give back to charity because we certainly don’t take our belongings with us. That we should pray as if it’s our last prayer. And that we should live each day as honest as possible, because we may not wake up tomorrow. I now know that this could be my last Ramadan, my last taraweeh, or my last Jumu’atul-Wida. In the last twelve months, many individuals have gotten ill or have lost a loved one to Covid-19. The pandemic has cause chaos in more ways than one: those that were giving their Zakat last year are now on the receiving end of our Zakat. Those that were setting up their dinner tables for iftaar are waiting for iftaar to come to them. I ask yourself and myself to have sabr (patience) and tawakul (full trust and reliance on Allah). Most importantly, we should extend our hand to others if we have the means to. If Allah SWT has provided us with the means, we should give this Ramadan to help our brothers and sisters around the world.
As we delve deeper into the month, I’ve learned that life, like iftaar, is hardly a race. It’s meant to be enjoyed, not endured, on a slow, loping trail with eyes focused forward. My brother’s absence every day, especially during Ramadan, has helped me see that.
And if he was here, he could have my samosa too.
Please take a moment to recite Surah Al-Fatihah of our loved ones that have departed from this world.
Moaz Ahmed (June 26, 1984 – December 9, 2013)
Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.
Surely we belong to Allah and to him shall we return.