Ramadan, Reading, and the Pen

Opening of Surah al-‘Alaq – translates as ‘Read! In the name of…’ (photo credit: islaam.net)

Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, has arrived. As well as being the month when Muslims around the world fast from the break of dawn to the setting of the sun each day, it is the month in which the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred text, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The revelation began when the angel Gabriel, known in Islam as Jibreel, appeared before the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon them both, while he was meditating on Mount Hira and spoke the following words:           

Read! In the name of your Lord who created.

He created man from a clinging form.

Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One

Who taught by the pen;

Who taught man what he did not know.

Surah al-‘Alaq, verses 1-5 (from Qur’an translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford World Classics)

Like the first revelation, Ramadan for me begins with reading and the pen. For the past fourteen years, on a seasonal basis, I have been writing content for a guide to Ramadan produced by a small local outfit called Ramadhan Publications. (The ‘h’ in there is not a typo – when it comes to English renderings of Arabic words, variations in spellings are commonplace.)

A couple of months before the holy one arrives, the director of Ramadan Publications will get in touch with a request for the new year’s content. The email will contain an attachment of the previous year’s pages, and so my Ramadan will begin several weeks in advance with reading and the pen.

My brief is to write an introduction for the book and website, and to give readers an overview of what Ramadan entails. I will read what was written the year before, and then pick up my pen to get writing. With Ramadan regulations and rituals having been in operation for over 1,400 years, however, there isn’t exactly anything new to say about the month. So the challenge is all about finding fresh ways to present the material so that it is engaging and inspiring as well as informative.

Usually, I do this by finding an angle that ties in with what is happening around us, what might be playing on our collective minds. This year, with the ongoing concerns about Covid-19, the emergence of a new conflict on top of all the struggles already going on internationally, and the worries about the sharp rise in the cost of living here at home, the power of faith and prayer to help overcome feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness suggested itself as a theme.

Although the scope of the assignment is somewhat limited by availability of space in the book and the specifics of the subject matter, there is some room for creativity. One year, on the publication’s tenth anniversary, I jettisoned the usual information pages altogether and went all-out literary with a set of poems instead. I often pick up the pen to jot down spiritual musings outside the requirements of this project, a lot of which is expressed in poetic form, so bringing some of that into the mix was a particular joy.

For me, reading, writing, and Ramadan definitely go hand-in-hand. So in that spirit, God Willing, I will be sharing some of my Ramadan musings with you in the coming weeks. This will include both the poems that I wrote for the Ramadan guide and some original material from my notebooks.

I hope you enjoy my humble offerings and I hope, whatever your faith background, that you have a nurturing, enriching, and uplifting month.

Peace and blessings,


2 thoughts on “Ramadan, Reading, and the Pen

  1. Nazira, my friend, you are full of surprises and this is such a beautiful one! I look forward to receiving your Ramadan updates in my inbox and wish you all the best for this wonderful blessed month!
    With love,

    Liked by 1 person

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