Ahmad from Pakistan

Ahmad smiling

Ahmad loved the Bismillah party his family held for him when he was four years, four months and four days old.  He was excited about learning the Arabic letters, and he loved the idea of being old enough to learn how to read Quran. Ahmad loved putting on his fancy clothes, prayer cap and praying next to Abu. He loved going with Abu to the Friday prayer and giving coins to the beggars lined up outside the masjid and then buying fruit and sweets together on the way home. But Ahmad did not love Ramadan.
Ramadan meant no family breakfast and sometimes he had to nag his sisters to make him a sandwich at noon, unless he was lucky and had a samosa left over from iftar.  Ramadan meant everyone was busy working, cooking, reading Quran and no one had time to play with him or take him to see his cousins. Ramadan meant there was at least one person asleep at all times and that meant he was always being told, “Don’t shout,”  “Play quietly,” and “Not now! It’s Ramadan.”
It was no fun being the youngest and the only boy. Basketball practice had closed down for the month of fasting, there was no school and all his sisters were acting mean. “Jaan, don’t eat in front of me.” “Ahmad, stop riding that creaky tricycle.” “The TV is too loud, love.” And on and on. It was no fun being too young to fast and not being allowed to do his regular activities, either.
Every day was the same: Aisha was memorizing Quran in all her spare time, Amina helped Mama with the cooking and was trying to complete two khatems, and Sarah and Asra were preparing packages of food and clothes for the poor. That looked like fun – piles and piles of dresses and pants and shirts. Big containers of lentils, rice and sugar. Bags to be filled and boxes to hold each family’s portions.
“Can I help pour?” “Can I fold?” “Can I hold the bag while you pour?”
His sisters let him help for awhile, then they got upset because he put two bags of sugar in one box and no rice. “What if they drink a lot of tea and they need extra sugar?” he exclaimed. “Who cares about rice anyway?”
On the tenth day of Ramadan, Ahmad went with his father to Friday prayer. It was hot and he was thirsty but he remembered it is not polite to drink in front of those who are fasting. He listened to the Imam saying that Ramadan was the best month of the whole year. Then the Imam began to explain that fasting did not mean stopping from eating and drinking all day. He said that everyone’s eyes, tongue, hands and feet should fast, too. He said that the eyes, tongue, hands and feet should fast, even if the person were too old, young or sick to fast from food and drink. Ahmad almost laughed. He looked up at Abu. Abu was not smiling. He did not think it was funny. Ahmad imagined a mouth on his hands and feet. He imagined his eyes saying, “Sorry, we are fasting, we can’t eat!”
Outside, as they put on their shoes, Ahmad asked, “Abu why did the Imam say that our hands, feet, eyes and tongue should fast? My hand doesn’t have a mouth!” he held up his hand to Abu and giggled. “What do eyes eat, Abu? Eye food?” Abu laughed.
“Fasting is about much more than just not eating and drinking,” he explained. “Your eyes should fast from looking at anything they should not look at. Your tongue should fast from saying anything you shouldn’t say. That is why Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
When it is the fasting day of one of you, let him not shout or be rude, and if someone says bad words to him let him answer, ‘I am fasting’.
So what do you think your hands should not do?,” Abu asked.
Ahmad said, “They shouldn’t hit or push or pinch. And my feet shouldn’t kick, right?”
“Right,” said Abu.
The next day, Latifa Aunty, her husband and children came over for iftar. Ahmad was excited about drinking Rooh afza at iftar, while he played with his favorite cousin, eight year-old Ali. When the older boys began to tease them and take away the ball they were playing with, Ali got ready to fight.
“No, Ali, don’t!” cried Ahmad, “just tell them you are fasting and walk away. Come, I know a better place to play.”
“But Ahmad, I am not fasting today, I only fasted the first day,” said Ali.
“Yes, from food and drink, but I’m talking about fasting from bad words and hitting or kicking. That is the fasting all of us should do and not break.”
Ali was such a good friend. He listened to Ahmad and did not laugh or make fun of him. Ahmad felt good about doing something special in Ramadan. It was a type of fasting and he no longer felt left out.