It is hard to describe. Something about you changes during this holy month, and it is almost involuntary. It is almost as if I can not help but think about God and how I can become a better believer whenever I am engaged in the fast of Ramadan. Normally, if I have some free time, I would think about writing a blog post, or practicing my golf swing, or even playing the par 3 course near my home (that is, of course, when I am not spending time with my family). During the month of Ramadan, however, given that same free time, I think to myself, "This is a good time during which I can catch up on my reading of the Qur'an."
Even though the days are much longer during this Ramadan (and in subsequent Ramadans for the next 5-10 years, in fact), there is something that is always special about this month. Even though I had a few moments of dread in thinking about how long I would have to wait in order to eat and drink, still, something in my heart made me smile when I realized that Ramadan is here once again.
Why don't I think like that every other month of the year? That is why this month is so very special.
Throughout the rest of the year, I try to make tahajjud and qiyam prayers, but I frequently neglect to do so. In the month of Ramadan, however, it is almost as if an invisible hand pushes me to go to the masjid and pray, or if I can't make it to the mosque for whatever reason, at least to do so at home. Why don't I do this every other month of the year? That is why this month is so special.
When the calendar does not read "Ramadan," fasting is particularly hard for me, except, perhaps, if it is during the winter when sunset is at 4:30 PM in Chicago. Although I try to fast the extra fasts as much as possible, there is a mental barrier that goes up: "This is not Ramadan, so why do I have to fast today?" This barrier is no where to be found during the month of Ramadan. If anything, a little bit of excitement about the fast of Ramadan infuses my heart, despite the fact that I am forced to forgo my daily French-Irish-Vanilla-Choco-Creme coffee/cappuccino drink (all 24 oz of it!) for 30 days. I am usually never excited about fasting, but that is why this month is so special.
Therefore, our motto during this month should be: Carpe Ramadanum. As much as possible, we should seize the opportunity afforded us during this month to polish our hearts, which have been stained and roughened by our sins and weaknesses throughout the entire year. Each one of us should pick a spiritual project and work on it during this month: improving our character, increasing our devotional prayers, training us to fast more often, increasing our reading of the Qur'an, training ourselves to be more generous with our wealth, etc.
And that project should not overwhelm us. It should be something that we can continue to do on a consistent basis, for as our beloved and noble Messenger (pbuh) told us, God loves an act that is done consistently, even if it is small. We should make sure that, at the end of this month, we are better than we were when it started. If the only thing we have lost is weight (and some don't even lose that during Ramadan), and not our bad habits and spiritual shortcomings, then we have lost out on an enormous opportunity that God places before us each and every year.
That is the purpose of the fast of Ramadan: Believers! Fasting has been prescribed upon you – as it was prescribed upon those before you – so that you may become conscious of God. (2:183). The Prophet (pbuh) also said, as reported in the collection of Imam Bukhari, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions [while fasting], God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink." We cannot be angels in Ramadan and devils everywhere else. We must Carpe Ramadanum, and use its enormous blessings to improve year after year after year. There is no other reason that God makes us forgo eating and drinking during the day for one month out of the year. Ramadan is not the "Muslim South Beach Diet."