OPINION: Reflecting on Ramadan

The month of Ramadan has arrived. More than a billion Muslims around the world will abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex from dawn to dusk for a whole month.

Fasting is one of the five tenets of the religion of Islam, and one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. Abstinence from earthly pleasures and curbing evil intentions and desires is regarded as an act of obedience and submission to God.

Ramadan has always been special to me. Save for my dear mother making every savoury listed in the Indian Delights cookbook, I've learned to appreciate the plight of the less fortunate on a daily basis.

As kids, my brothers and I used to wait for the call of prayer so we could break our fasts. Plates were lined with dates, samoosas, pies and China fruit that we used to drool over during the day at the school tuck shop.

When we took that first sip of water and downed a date, it was heavenly. Fasting makes you appreciate what you have, puts you in the shoes of the 'have nots' and makes you dig deep in your pockets to assist those who go hungry every day, to feel what they feel, and appreciate what you have.

But, the month of Ramadan is also more than just fasting. It's about sacrifice, it's the month when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it's about being more spiritual by going for the night prayer, reading the Quran and being charitable.

Ramadan is a chance to reap spiritual ecstasy - a morphing of self to become a more spiritual person and to carry the change for the rest of the year.

The month of Ramadan does, however, have its lighter moments, and some more controversial ones if you can call it that.

An incident which happened a few years back during the month of Ramadan always make me chuckle. It goes something like this:"Die fast kry baie vir Faizie" (the fast gets Faizie a lot) chortled my aunt as we sat around the kitchen table with my family. I tried to make sense of what she was saying and reminisced about the day's events. What made her reach that perception of me? Was I really grumpy and did the fast really get to me?

It began with a trip to Fruit & Veg City. I was driving my little jalopy with my family in tow until we almost had the wind knocked out of us. A Mercedes Benz C63 AMG drove with such speed that our little vehicle shuddered. My five-year-old daughter thought I was pulling a stunt and retorted with, "Daddy stop driving like Schumacher!"

However, it was at Fruit & Veg City that I was left speechless. After we got the necessary healthy stuff, I came across two aunties arguing over a bunch of carrots. I overheard the one aunty say to the other "I saw them first, they are mine!" yelling with a commanding voice.

Intrigued, I approached them to find out if there was something special about the bunch of carrots they were tugging like a rope between them. Apparently, it was nothing special and it's just that both grabbed the carrots at the same time. I said, "Why are you arguing? There is a whole shelf of carrots, just grab another one." They looked at me with contempt and stormed off to continue shopping.

A non-Muslim friend once asked me, "Faya, ek se bru, why are Muslims in such a hurry in Ramzaan?" All I could muster up to say was they had to get home and prepare, lots of things to do.

Another incident that comes to mind is in Ramadan mosques get so full that carpets have to be placed outside for extra people who come pray that sometimes even the one who calls people to prayer doesn't get a place. There's also the careless and inconsiderate people who park their cars blocking people's driveways.

It's little nuisances like this throughout the day that may exacerbate or change the mood of person while he or she is fasting, but that is no excuse as this is a month of sacrifice and tolerance.

I am sure that what we really need is patience to get us through the days of this month. However, it seems that some people lack this beautiful quality.

So when I finally did get home after the day's escapades, I was sad, solemn and even agitated. The fast had nothing to do with my demeanour. In Ramadan, things move at breakneck speed, and I guess we all want to 'seize the day' because we don't know if we will live to see another Ramadan.

Let's take a moment to resolve and embrace this beautiful and auspicious month and reap the rewards, but most of all reflect and consider the feelings of others, be more tolerant towards others, Muslims or not.

_Faizel Patel is a freelance reporter for _ Eyewitness News . Follow him on Twitter: @Faizie143