Peaches and Cream
Early this past Saturday morning I woke up, alone in my hotel room, to have my suhur, the meal before sunrise that Muslims partake of during the month of Ramadan. In the pre-dawn darkness, I ate a small package of peaches and drank down a pint of milk, a meal which no doubt would seem quite measly to the rest of my family who tend to have rice and stew leftover from the night before for their breakfasts. Peaches and milk, however, is one of my favorite suhurs.
Aside from the fact that the sweet, goodness of peaches goes beautifully with milk, the simple meal brought back a flood of memories from my first Ramadan, twenty years ago. Of course, that Ramadan took place in the spring, as the lunar calendar is some 12 days shorter than the solar one, but all Ramadans, no matter what season they arrive in, are timeless and seasonless, connected to one another by spiritual threads stronger than any season could ever be.
Twenty lunar years ago, I was in China and I woke up and ate alone every day of the month. Alone in a cold, dark common room, just me, a can of peaches, a soft, white roll, a bottle of milk, and Allah. I felt God's presence every morning that year, as clearly as if He was sitting beside me, sharing my food.
In later years, responsibilities to prepare food for family members, or exhaustion from staying up too late studying or writing, have limited the spirituality of my suhurs. But that year, it was like feasting at God's table every morning.
The strength of those emotions remain with me, some twenty years later, and still have the power to raise goosebumps on my arms. They have the power to reassure me about my decision to become Muslim on the days when I seem furthest from the community, when Islamophobia and Ameri-phobia seem to be competing for the greatest number of adherents, and when I despair of a hopeful future for either the Muslim world or the Western one.