Ramadan Log Day 27: Don’t Compare

Only I would get sick during Ramadan. :/

I’m not sure if this is due to my hectic last couple of days or simply a result of my business this entire month. I felt a tickle in my throat yesterday morning, and since then it has just grown into full on disgustingness inside. I did find one interesting positive though: Despite feeling sick, at least I don’t have an appetite. I didn’t feel hungry at all today. ūüôā

With that being said, I am definitely taking a day tomorrow to let my body rest. It doesn’t feel right, but Allah allowed the sick to be exempt from fasting. I¬†should take the blessing.

This was definitely a month of firsts. It’s my first summer ever working at a “real” job. My first Ramadan while working. The first time since I started blogging that I probably won’t finish the Qur’an (I’m only on the 17th juz. It ain’t happening). My first time getting sick during Ramadan.

Part of me wants to be upset about how this month turned out compared to other Ramadans, but I watched a video yesterday that changed that perspective. Usama Canon has a series on YouTube called “Fast Reminders” which are daily one-minute videos during the month of Ramadan. I splurged and watched all of them yesterday, and in the video titled “Don’t Compare,” I felt like he was talking directly to me.

In this video, he encourages us not to compare this Ramadan to Ramadans of the past, and rather to treat it as its own unique experience. He even says,¬†“Maybe you’re working this Ramadan and you weren’t working last Ramadan.”

That’s ME!

So today, I’m taking the comparisons and shifting the view into blessings I have been given this month:

Rather than dwell on not being able to read as much Qur’an, acknowledge the success of getting to the second half of the Qur’an despite working four days a week.

Rather than complain about not being able to go to iftars because of work the next day, be grateful for having the opportunity to help dozens of people in my nursing homes during the month in which good deeds are multiplied.

Rather than wonder why God made me sick today, thank Him for giving me twenty-six straight days of good health to be able to experience what I did this month.

It’s kind of a fun exercise once you get into it. Don’t compare your current situation to situations of the past. Reflect upon the blessings that have come out of this moment and simple let it be. Lately everyone advises being present and mindful, and I have always struggle with¬†what to do once you’re in the present, however this exercise has helped with that. Rather than just thinking about what is currently going on, it feels much more enriching to think about how what is going on is¬†benefitting me.

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Ramadan Log Day 23: Adapting

It’s hard to tell if the difficulties I’m having this month are actual issues in my life that I need to deal with or if it is just a result of the fasting and after Ramadan things will fizzle down and be bearable again.

Working is really¬†tough for me. Props to all you dads who work full time for years on end without “summer breaks” and you moms who literally never leave your work of raising a child even for a second, and you superhuman beings who somehow do both work and kids and manage not to have a breakdown every five minutes. I only work a maximum of¬†20 hours a week, and I feel like I’m drowning.

But then again, I can’t tell if this is me not digging the whole regular job thing or if it’s just the fasting.

I still have that feeling that I’m not being productive with the time I have in this precious month. I had a scary thought today that this may very well be the last Ramadan I experience in my life, and I feel like I just let the whole month go by. One of the things weighing down on my mind these past few days is that I went the whole month without changing. Yes, I’ve read Qur’an and developed a closer relationship with Allah through reading some of his 99 names, but the amount of ibadah that I have done is much lower than what I have done in previous years. I feel like I’ve gone backwards in a way, and that is not a nice feeling to have as you leave what is supposed to be a transformative month.

At the same time, I also remember a conversation I had with my aunt last week in which she told me how being a wife and a mom has really limited the amount of private worship and prayer that she has been able to do. When I was talking to her, I remembered that Allah is The Just, and he would never put anyone at an unfair advantage than another simply due to responsibilities beyond their control. Moms don’t have time to sit for long periods of time with the Qur’an, but through taking care of their kids and home they are still earning favor from Allah.

With that in mind, I realize that while I may not have the hours in the day to do the same kind of worship I have done in the past, that doesn’t mean I don’t still have the opportunity to worship. Sure, I can’t dedicate the time to read 12 pages of Qur’an after each prayer due to my work schedule, but I can find ways to find God¬†through my work. Maybe I can find ways to give my clients the best, most beneficial service that I can offer them in the time I have with them this week. I can be a more courteous driver while commuting to and from work rather than the impatient driver I have sadly turned into. I can push myself to efficiently do my work in a way that eases the workload of others around me. With the intention to use my abilities to improve the situations of others for the sake of God, maybe I can still have that enriching last ten days.

It still doesn’t feel like enough to me, but this may also be a matter of venturing away from what is familiar and trying to adapt to a new stage in life.

Ramadan Log Day 22: Still Here :)

That awkward moment when you’ve been counting the days wrong for the past week.

Yes, my past few posts were actually a day off. This skipping a day thing has really been messing me up on my day count. The beginning of the last ten days totally caught me off guard this past weekend.

Tonight is the night of the 23rd, which means it is an odd night and potential night of Laylatul Qadr. That being said, I’ll keep this post short. I really just wanted to check back in with you all and assure you that I have not abandoned this blog. ūüôā

To be honest, I’ve just been having a rough past few days emotionally, which is why I haven’t been blogging. It isn’t anything major. Just a bunch of little things that have been slowly picking away at my optimism,¬†and I don’t want to write a blog post while in an irritated state in case I post something I regret or have not thought out thoroughly enough. While I am trying to show you all as much of my real self as I can, there are some things that are too personal for “the world” to read.

As I said, it is a potential night for Laylatul Qadr, so that’s enough blogging for today. From here on out, I will only be posting on odd-numbered days, so that I can spend the odd nights focusing solely on¬†the connection between myself and Allah. I¬†hope you are all able to do the same.

Ramadan Log Day 17: Nothing Like Family

It is only during Ramadan¬†when I¬†can’t listen to regular music that¬†I simply blast¬†Maher Zain and Sami Yusuf over and over again in the car. I’ve been jamming to Allahi Allah Kiya Karo for the past week, and not once has it gotten old. Even among my regular K-pop and American pop music, that is still one of my all time favorite songs.

Great day, alhamdulillah. No, I haven’t really sorted anything out that I mentioned yesterday. I honestly don’t know when that will happen. I feel like my room will just become more and more of a mess until right before Eid when I decide to clean everything up and get ready for the holiday.

No, I didn’t get things done, but I spent the day with the people I loved. I got a surprise early release from work and spent the majority of the day at my cousins’ house. We played a spontaneous game of soccer – yes, while fasting – and then spent the rest of the evening chilling with board games and DIY spa treatments. In previous years, I have spent many iftars with this side of the family, but today was actually my first time all month seeing them. It was nice; I missed them. A huge part of Ramadan for me is the community aspect of breaking fast with loved ones, and I am so glad I got that tonight.

Because she’s the best, after reading yesterday’s post my aunt made¬†rice for dinner the same¬†the way Grandma used to make it. In any situation where we lose a loved one, a positive that comes out of it is just how much¬†more precious those we still have become.¬†‚̧

Despite the difficulty of being at this age of uncertainty and maturity, I really have been blessed with so many people to help me through it. My family. My aunt, who has the experience of a parent but the youth of a peer. My mom, who always knows exactly what I need before I realize it myself. My cousins, who quite literally get me through each day simply with their presence in my life.

All of these individuals, plus so many more who I simply don’t have the time to list, have all been blessings from Allah. I read his name, “Al-Mujeeb” today. The short translation is “The Respondent,” but like so many of these names, the explanation gives the name so much more depth. “He is the one who responds to all the prayers or needs of His servants… He knows the needs of His creation before they realize them, and gives their satisfaction even before it is needed.”

My loved ones fulfill so many of my needs, similar to what is described in this quote, but it was ultimately God who gave these people to me. Before I was even conceived, He placed these people in my life, knowing that there would be days when my motivation was shot or my responsibilities were overwhelming and I would need someone to catch me as I felt myself falling. I am so blessed to be given the people I have, and I always pray that every individual I encounter has been given one or two or a few people whom they can rely upon to be there for support.

Ramadan Log Day 16: Thinking of Grandma

We’ve¬†gotten to that point in the month where I lose track of everything.

Where I’m supposed to be in the Qur’an and my 99 Names book.¬†I’m approximately halfway through the Qur’an, but I haven’t actually reached the middle which means I’m behind. :/ And I really don’t know where I am in the 99 Names. I should be around #53, but the names aren’t numbered in my book so that doesn’t really help.

Then there is the state of my room. Papers and clothes and random craft tools from unfinished projects¬†are strewn everywhere. Fun fact about me: if I my room is a mess, my mind is a mess. I feel like I can’t breathe or think when I can barely walk around my room without stepping on something.

Even my plans for the week. I accidentally set iftar plans with someone on a night I had planned to attend my precious second lecture of the month. I guess when you have Facebook constantly reminding you about every single event you don’t care about, you end up forgetting the ones you¬†actually want to go to. Whoops.

Even though my mind should have been on catching up on my reading and cleaning my room and figuring out a solid plan for the rest of Ramadan, I found myself lingering in the past this week. I have been thinking about my Grandma a lot these past couple of days. The whole tasbeeh project that I was doing was actually started by her. She used to be the designated tasbeeh-maker, so when she passed away three years ago I adopted the tradition. Then I was asked to speak about an organization that she helped start at an event last night, another one that I joined once she was gone. Finally, and totally by coincidence, during a therapy session at work we were talking about lessons we learned from our elders and I had the constant mantra in my head of Grandma saying “God¬†never gives you a test that you can’t pass” as she battled¬†leukemia during her final months.

I somehow turned this blog into a place where I bring you these deep insights I’ve made, but this time there is no profound realization I have to share. I just miss her. I miss her hugs and her rice and her presents on Eid and¬†her random sewing tips that I never understood and her many trinkets in her room. The vulnerability that the hunger brings threw all of these emotions at me and now I’m left to remember just how much I miss her. I know a huge part of my so called maturity is partially a result of¬†me being forced to do things without her, but I still wish she could be here experiencing these things with me.

In these days of wasting time and lingering in the past, I read a very appropriate name today: Allah’s name of “Al-Haseeb” or “The One Who Takes Account.” My quote for today:

“Know that every minute that passes without benefit – every hour you are not working for Allah’s sake… – is a loss. You have no hope to ever regain that loss; you cannot buy back yesterday, even if you spend the rest of your life. Know the value of your life. Don’t squander it in laziness, in heedlessness and in dreams. Make your calculations now before you have to present your accounting to Allah al-Hasib.”

If that isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.

Ramadan Log Day 13: Gratitude and Awe

Long time no see, eh? Last time we met, we had just completed the first ten days of Ramadan, and now we’re already nearing the halfway point. I figured that Ramadan would go by a lot faster this year due to my schedule being busier, but I’m surprised just how much that expectation is turning into reality. My family is already starting to¬†figure out our Eid plans.

I didn’t intend to skip days when I started the Ramadan Log this year, but I came to a realization a couple of days ago. It was starting to get to the point where I was sacrificing sleep or extra praying just so that I would be able to make my post for the night, and that isn’t right. I write these for you all to enjoy and for people to see a day to day example of what Ramadan can be like for an actual Muslim, but none of that is¬†more important than my own spiritual and physical health. (No offense ūüėČ ) So from here on out, I still plan to post every night, but if it gets to be too late or I’m being pulled to do something else, I may skip a night of blogging. Priorities, right?

Even if I didn’t have time to blog, I had a really nice day yesterday. I spent the majority of the day with one of my best friends, one whom I hadn’t seen in weeks. We spent a large portion of the day making tasbeehs together. For the past few years I have made tasbeehs during Ramadan as a contribution to care packages that a friend of mine collects for donation to Muslim families in need. Usually my tasbeeh-making sessions are done in solitude, and I often enjoy the quietness and relaxation that comes with it. However, it was a very nice change to have company this year. It was an easy and productive way to bond with my friend, and we ended up getting the tasbeehs done much faster than I had expected.

In the evening my family and I attended an iftar at my future graduate school. It was nice to be on the campus and meet new people, many of whom I hope to stay connected with once I am a student there as well. After iftar we heard some words from a speaker which sparked two unexpectedly strong emotions in me:

One. I miss Ramadan lectures. Last year, I feel like I was attending a lecture three times a week. I realized with disappointment that last night had been the first lecture I attended this entire month, and the month is nearly half over. A huge part of my Ramadan experience is spiritual revival and¬†taking in new¬†knowledge, and that is something I have been sorely lacking this year. The weekly programs that I used to attend in previous years have since been cancelled, and the other programs ¬†that I know about take place¬†too far for me to regularly drive to. I hope I can figure something out while I still have a significant portion of the month left because my mind is so hungry for more words of wisdom. I know there are online videos galore, but it isn’t the same as hearing a speech in person.

Second. As I was sitting in a room on my future campus, listening to a speaker talk about how we are all honored and blessed by God to be his khalifas on this earth, I was overcome with such a sense of gratitude. I am Muslim, American, pretty well-off compared to others, which are already blessings in and of themselves, but inshaAllah I will also be graduating from my dream program at my dream school in just a few years. I won’t go into the details of my journey to this grad program, as I already did so in one of my April posts, but I need to share again just how much this means to me. I was reminded last night how incredibly grateful I am to have been accepted into this program. Not many people get what they want, and I personally know a few people who had been hoping for acceptance to this school who didn’t get it, and I am forever grateful for it and humbled by the fact that the admissions team chose me. I hope this doesn’t come off as boastful, because this isn’t about me. Getting into this program wasn’t me. It was all Him, and I pray that I never lose sight of that, of just how gracious God can be¬†and how undeserving we are of his love and blessings.

Every Ramadan has a different feel based on what I read. A couple years ago, I bonded with the Prophet (S) in a way I didn’t think was possible through reading his biography. This year, through reading the 99 names, I have become so in awe of God. Today I read about the name “Al-Khabir,” and this name alone gives me this yearning to be closer to God. The author describes this name as the following:

“He is the one who is aware of the hidden inner¬†occurrences¬†in everything. He is the one whose cognizance¬†reaches the deepest, darkest, hidden corners of His kingdom, where neither human intelligence not His angels can penetrate. Everywhere in the universe, an infinite number of things are happening, some universal, some minute, above and under, inside and outside each other. He is aware of all these from their very beginning until their end, with infinite detail.¬†Occurrences¬†which are not yet¬†actualized, but in a state of formation or being planned and hidden, like secrets within secrets, are manifest to Him.”

If the universe is a novel, God is the writer. As someone who aspires to be a writer, that alone almost brings me to tears. There are all of these subplots and connections and background stories that make up our reality, and God not only is aware of it all, but he is orchestrating it. That idea is more incredible than words can describe. If I inshaAllah by the will of God make it to Heaven, and I am able to ask Allah my questions, I would love to see just a glimpse of what was really happening while we were all living our self-absorbed lives on this earth. May we all be forgiven and granted the opportunity to be in the presence of God in Heaven. Ameen.

Ramadan Log Day 10: Growing Up Is Weird

I hope I did okay at work today because everything seemed like one long, exhausting blur. I went to sleep late last night…again, and so my fatigue from the morning never fully went away; the sleepiness in my eyes simply morphed into bodily exhaustion and one killer of a headache by the end of the day. After coming home from work, I simply sat in bed and watched Dina Tokio videos until iftar. She’s Muslim, so her videos are my exception to the media fast. ūüėČ

Little known fact about me: I really enjoy watching makeup tutorials. I don’t even wear all that much makeup, but I just find the whole process mesmerizing to watch. These women literally create art on their face. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine “putting on a face” like that every day. On one hand, I admire the diligence and patience these ladies have, but I also feel sorry that they force themselves to go through all of that every day. It must be an exhausting habit to maintain.

So now I guess I owe you an explanation of why I skipped a post last night. I was actually up and working from noon to 10pm yesterday. After my regular work,¬†I went straight to the masjid to volunteer for an interfaith community iftar. You’d think I’d be nearly passed out after all of that work, but volunteering gives me this weird adrenaline rush. I may feel like collapsing once everything is finished, but during these events I just keep going. There is always something to set up or people to greet that I have no time to notice¬†my diminishing strength.

And wow, for the first time ever I actually felt embarrassingly old at this event. I’m not that old, and I get so angry when people older than me complain about being “old,” but something came over me last night as I was talking to the other volunteers. I realized that I was older than all of them, by at least three years.

I was talking to these kids who I grew up with, kids who were all literally¬†little kids as I was going through middle school and high school. Now they are all graduating high school and getting jobs and applying to college and I’m sitting here as a post-graduate adult talking to them about what the working world is like. I met a girl who was nineteen and automatically gravitated toward her as someone my age, but then I realized that she was actually¬†closer in age to¬†those I considered “the kids.”

This is weird. Growing up is weird. It’s amazing to see how beautifully my younger peers are growing, but it’s weird. It’s like we’re all kids¬†playing dress up in these adult roles, but this time it’s reality. I remember so vividly what it was like being a teenager and feeling as though adults just couldn’t understand me and I am so afraid of losing that as I get older and turning into one of the¬†adults who misunderstands.

Going along with this idea of growing, the name of Allah I read today was “Al-Mu’izz” meaning “the One Who Honors.” This chapter focused not only on God’s ability to bring someone up, but also the nature of humans to be both humble and arrogant. The author writes, “Knowledge of oneself leads one to one’s Lord. But imagining oneself to be other than one’s real self leads one to the Devil.”

This reminds me of something I was actually talking about just today with my dad: the difference between confidence and arrogance. I have always had both confident and extremely self-conscious sides to my personality, depending on the company I am with. As I have grown, the confidence side of me has become stronger, alhamdulillah, but at the same time my fear of becoming arrogant has also grown. Bringing this quote into the picture, in some ways I recognize the gifts that God has honored me with¬†and felt empowered by them to go out and make a place for myself in the world. However, often times I worry that I may get a big head or trick myself into believe that I am more capable or worthy than I actually am, which would make me arrogant. It is such a fine line, but this name has put some perspective into it. I should acknowledge the qualities God has given me with gratitude, but also understand that I am who I am, which is an imperfect being with limited capabilities, and not try to pretend to be anything more than that. It’s a work in progress, but that’s where I’m at now.