For BuzzFeed Reader, poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib considers how holding on to the observance of Ramadan, despite an adulthood spent veering from other aspects of his faith, has been a grounding force in a busy, thoroughly modern life.
I don’t know why Ramadan is the act of faith which has endured for me. I hardly refer to myself as a practicing Muslim these days, but I am still very invested in the rigor of Ramadan. And I suppose that might be it — the rigor is the act I still chase after. A part of this is routine — even when I stopped praying in my early twenties, I found myself still adhering to the commemoration of the holy month. But a part of it, I imagine, is like the home-run hitter who comes to the plate with the bases loaded and his team down by four, swinging for the fences and trying to get it all back at once.
I know the ways in which I fail in the face of my beliefs, and yet I wish to consider myself forgiven once each year, when I wake up early to pray and have a small meal with the sun breaking over the horizon. When I abstain from food and drink and still take a long run. I suppose it has never stopped being a performance, but when I engage in Ramadan now, I feel closer to my faith than I did before. I am performing it for no one but myself, in most instances. I am often traveling, or secluded during the month. My non-Muslim friends and peers rarely know I’m fasting, or often forget. To go about it in solitude is my preferred mode now, when nothing else matters but the monthlong journey back to some emotional center I’ve thought myself to be lacking. When the month ends, I don’t return to a dedicated spiritual practice, and my life resumes as it normally does all other 11 months of the year. But for as many days as it takes the crescent moon to unsheathe itself, I remember all of the old prayers I skipped. I remind myself how to talk to a holy entity. I don’t eat, sure, but the not eating has become the easy part, particularly as I’ve aged. To find the humility to imagine yourself as small in the face of something larger than you is the hard part, and for me, that has little to do with not eating, and more to do with the knowing that you could eat, at any time. That you have the ability and privilege to fill yourself, and you still choose not to. I do this in the name of a faith that I am uncertain of, and haven’t always felt at home in, and that makes the act both more complicated and more fulfilling.