This reflection was originally published in Ramadan 2018. To read reflections from the 2021 series click here.
By Kelly Izdihar Crosby
In reflecting about Juz’ 24 (39:32–41:46), I must first reflect on my love for the Holy Month. In short, I love Ramadan!
It always comes with its myriad of blessings and opportunities to remember our Lord. Worship becomes easier. And, despite the rigors of fasting while doing our jobs or taking care of our families, my spirit always feels strengthened. The days are consumed with prayers, dhikr and sharing iftar with my friends and community. For those who don’t fast as a part of their faith tradition, it’s hard for me to explain how I can feel physically tired but spiritually energized,
I guess that’s why I refer to the Holy Month as a spiritual reboot. There is always some spiritual improvements to be made — some polishing of rust off the heart and shrinking of the ego.
I consider Ramadan to be a radical shock to our nafs — a monthly bootcamp to remind us of why we are really here. And, in our busy lives, reminders certainly benefit the believers. One of those well-needed and much appreciated reality checks comes first in Juz’ 23 in Az-Zumar:
And when adversity touches man, he calls upon his Lord, turning to Him [alone]; then when He bestows on him a favor from Himself, he forgets Him whom he called upon before, and he attributes to Allah equals to mislead [people] from His way. Say, “Enjoy your disbelief for a little; indeed, you are of the companions of the Fire.” — 39:8
I must thank [Allah] in times of ease and ask for His strength during times of difficulty.
This thread of ease and adversity is woven throughout Juz’ 24. What is it about ease and comfort that can easily allow us to forget Allah ta ‘ala? It is no wonder that pious scholars say that the trial of ease can be more difficult than the trial of hardship. Allah subhana wa ta’ala repeats later in Juz’ 24 (39:32–41:46) in Az-Zumar,
And when adversity touches man, he calls upon Us; then when We bestow on him a favor from Us, he says, ‘I have only been given it because of [my] knowledge.’ Rather, it is a trial, but most of them do not know. — 39:49
I don’t think I ever relied upon Allah so much as during the time I was dealing with a seemingly endless succession of calamities. A job loss, a broken heart, fair-weather friends and a relocation to another city left my self-esteem and faith shattered. Little did I know that I was suffering from a mild form of depression. The process of healing was quite painful, but I still called upon Allah, even when my faith was as small as a mustard seed.
I consider Ramadan to be a radical shock to our nafs — a monthly bootcamp to remind us of why we are really here.
Fast forward to today. I look at my life and I see an abundance of blessings. I have a job that I love, a new sense of self-worth and a budding career as an artist and writer. I take joy in having a loving family and in being a part of a community of Muslims who are committed to community development and social justice. Sometimes I have to convince myself that just a few years ago, I was burdened with such levels of sadness and despair that I never thought I would experience joy or hope again. Even in these times of happiness and contentment, I remind myself to call upon Allah. I must thank Him in times of ease and ask for His strength during times of difficulty.
So this Ramadan, let’s reset or “reboot” our relationship with the Creator. Let’s ask ourselves, “are we only thinking of Allah when there is a crisis?” Or, do we infuse our days and nights with His remembrance? Our Alhamdulillahs, Subhan’Allahs, and Allahu Akbars should be said and reflected upon during the emotional highs and lows, during our sadness and grief; our happiness and euphoria.
Reflecting on the juz’, I was inspired to create this piece titled “Al Hadi” (The Guide). May Allah make us people of profuse dhikr and reflection. May we be counted amongst the grateful to our Lord. Ameen.
Kelly Izdihar Crosby is an Atlanta-based multimedia visual artist who has been making her career as an artist for over a decade. Born and raised in New Orleans, La., Kelly studied art professionally at the University of New Orleans, earning a Bachelor of Arts, then a Master in Arts Administration in 2007. Her work has been featured in art shows across the United States, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. In 2018, she was an IMAN Sacred Cypher resident artist and had her first solo exhibition at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. We spoke with Kelly recently to learn about her creative process, career building and challenges and triumphs of being a Black Muslim woman artist.