Ramadan Notes, Late Evening, Day 22

Kazim Ali
September 12, 2009
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Strictly speaking, after sunset it is the 23rd of Ramadan and not the 22nd.

I’ve always loved that a “day” in the Islamic calendar begins with the setting of the sun and continues through for twenty-four hours.

One begins not at midnight but at the ebb of light, in other words it is the ending of the day and not the beginning that is a more significant event.

I barely functioned today. Late in the month, exhausted by all the work I did yesterday, I managed to rouse myself for a morning run and a meal, then I did not sleep but stayed awake.

I went to a meeting at ten that lasted three hours and I found myself at home with the whole afternoon and evening ahead of me. Unlike other days this month I found myself unable to be productive, or perhaps unwilling to be productive.

I remembered the fasting days of my childhood when we were encouraged to stay inside, watch TV or movies as ways of distracting ourselves, play games or otherwise occupy ourselves. I know now that the point of the fast is not to play diversionary tricks to distract oneself from the actual experience at hand, but at the time I only wanted to make it to the sunset so I could eat once more, rejoin–quite literally–the so-called “land of the living.”

So today I indulged and watched not one but two movies–I shan’t say which, suffice it to say my taste in films tend to the lowbrow.

The fast is starting to feel nearly ordinary now, ordinary in the sense of less difficult, but more importantly ordinary in the sense that every second, every minute isn’t bringing delirious revelation. It’s all just a little “ordinary.”

Do I sound disappointed? I’m actually not. One of the problems I’ve had on my spiritual path is that I am always functioning in crisis. I figure out my path in any given moment, but difficulty of circumstance always seems to be a theme.

I’ve haven’t ever just been at a good place in my life and then practiced. Until now.

My home life, my professional life, my writing, my physical body practice–all of it seems more or less managable, even the difficult parts (my elbow is feeling much better today).

So I’m in the third week of the fast with one week left to go. And it feels, well, ordinary.

At last.

And thank god. I adore the chance to explore “ordinary.”

Tonight of course is anything but ordinary. The 23rd night of the month (in the traditional reckoning) is the actual night the the first verse of the Quran was revealed.

You’ll never guess what the first word of the book was, or maybe you will:


“Read in the name of your Lord who created you.”

“Created you from small clots of blood.”

Keeping in mind that medical science in 6th century Arabia had not advanced yet to being able to desribe the inner workings of the uterus and fallopian tubes, one notes it is blood and not clay our actual bodies are made of.

On the other side of the fast–restraint from food and water–is that it is a practice that helps us to know the body intimately, most particularly through its limitations and weaknesses, though not always. Sometimes the body without food is actually a stronger body, sharper, keener, more in tune with the world around it.

And the body is like the year, the fasting month moving across it, shifting and changing throughout one’s life time. The body is like the fasting month itself, with its own periods of activity and restraint, its own night of revelations.

The body is like a day: it begins with the darkness of evening, ends with the ebbing of light. Contains its own beginning nestled secretly inside.

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