Ramadan Log Day 25: The Luxuries

My week off from school was the breath of fresh air I needed during what felt like a month of being pushed and pushed and pushed.

It finally felt like Ramadan. Without the demands of class work, I took the week to get back to projects I had postponed for months.

One of them is actually something I started last Ramadan. During my time of the month last year, I switched from reading Qur’an to going through a dua book my mom lent me for the week. I found so many prayers, for every moment of life you could think of, and decided to write some choice duas on paper decorated with henna-inspired borders and then hang them on my wall. The goal was to fill a whole wall with these dua notes, but I only managed to finish two last year. There are 28 duas in total that I wanted to include. I got eight done last year, and transcribed seven more this week.

It was nice to get something done that served both as a decoration for my room and a way for me to keep prayer more present in my life. I even had a crazy subhanallah moment. I was just getting started on the page dedicated to duas for when it rains and just at that moment, it started thunderstorming for the first time all day.

.سبحان الله

As much as I really wanted to fill the air with music as I worked, I opted for peaceful silence as I carved each Arabic letter into the paper. I’ll admit, while it was nice to have a chill week, I really missed my music and entertainment. For those who are new – in addition to fasting from food, I also take the month to fast from listening to music and watching TV/youtube. I have a couple of exceptions, like Sid and Dina or Trevor Noah, but in general the fast from music-related content is a significant struggle for me. In the past week, the season finale of one of my Korean shows aired and it killed me to see people online talking about it and knowing that I would have to wait a few more weeks to watch it.

.الحمد لله

Alas, my time off is coming to an end with Summer classes picking up this week.  While I am excited to be starting the next stage of my learning, I wish it could have waited just one more week so that I could fully soak up the last five days of Ramadan. I’ve only  gotten to Surah Nisaa’ in the Qur’an (page 77 out of 600), and I probably won’t have time to get much further with class starting.

Sometimes that resentment creeps in towards having to be in school or work and not be able to just stay home and be one with my past Ramadan habits, but then I remember those moms who chase around kids 24/7 or those people who work 12 hours a day just to be able to afford iftar for their families. I had the luxury the past couple years to have basically the entire fasting day to do as I pleased. Most people don’t have that.

I frequently need to remind myself that I am not abandoning remembrance of Allah when I leave the house. I have the ability to bring Him into my work. It’s all just a matter of mindset, and learning to see my work as another way of loving and praising God.

.الله أكبر

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 😉 ) 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. 😉

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.

Ramadan Log Day 7: All of the Victims

It was hard to go though today without feeling sad. I woke up, checked my phone, and one of the very first things I saw was news about the Orlando shooting.

My hurt is manifold. When I first saw the story, I very initially brushed it off. Another shooting. What else is new? I live near Chicago; that happens on the daily.

But when I think about what that nonchalance really means about the society in which I live and how it has permeated my thought-processing and reactions, it makes me sick to my stomach. And that’s not from the fasting.

Then I looked into the story, and learned that it occurred in a club. I saw screenshots of texts the victims sent their moms when the shooter had made himself known. I thought about the death of Christina Grimmie, which happened only yesterday, in which a singer the same age as me was shot to death after one of her concerts as she was signing autographs. I’ve been to concerts before. The people going to a club or concert don’t ever expect to find a gun in their face. They go to enjoy themselves and forget about the serious troubles of the world. So many of them are kids simply trying to find themselves, and use these places as a safe space. It gives me chills just trying to imagine what that whiplash must have felt when the victims went from carefree joy to the gut-wrenching fear of a very real weapon.

My heart just felt so heavy today. So before I sat down to read Qur’an, I had a moment of silence in which I ached for the deceased and prayed for the surviving.

For those moms who continued to call their kids long after they had already been shot. For the parents of the kid who snuck out, not comfortable revealing where he was going that night, and thus didn’t get a single goodbye. For the parents who now have to cope with their surviving kids who lost their best friends and will wake up to nightmares of bullets.

For the people who went to that club, believing that it was the one place in which they didn’t have to deal with others imposing their beliefs on them, and then found out with horror that the hate followed them there. For the kid who was already out of his comfort zone before the gunman even entered the building. For the people living near by who heard the usual music replaced by gunshot after gunshot.

For the ex-wife of the shooter, who thought she was done with the man who abused her, but is now forced to relive that trauma so publicly, who may feel even the tiniest bit of guilt for cutting herself off from him. For his parents and family members, who may very well have had no idea about his motives, but who will now be known by most as the kin of a killer.

For the innocent immigrants who will now have an even harder time finding refuge from their countries because government officials will ignore the fact that the killer was a US citizen since he happens to have family members who are immigrants. For my fellow Muslims who will be hated even more for absolutely no reason other than another person who has a name with the same linguistic origin as them killed people somewhere. For the young American men who are struggling to balance their faith and life in a healthy way, but are bombarded with headlines saying that they are dangerous people. For the young American women who are thinking about starting to wear Hijab, but are now turned off completely because of all of the newfound backlash against people who outwardly look look Muslims.

For my fellow Americans, who already live in so much fear, and will now be reminded of that ever present fear. My friends in Florida who now feel that nowhere is safe for them. The regular mosque-goers who have to have their happy Ramadan high interrupted by random police investigations. My non-Muslim peers who are conditioned to see a beard and pull their kids a little bit closer.

And for me, the American who watches with horror as more and more of my peers are being inflicted with violence and the Muslim who hurts knowing people think it was the religion that gives me life that inspired these deaths.

I pray and pray that all of these victims can feel a moment of peace and sakina, even if it’s just for tonight.

I learned today that one of God’s names is “Al-Fattaah” or “The Opener.” The description of this quality was actually exactly what I needed to read to ease my heart:

“There are states and problems that are tied in a knot. There are hardened things that one cannot see through and pass through… Allah al-Fattah opens them all.”

The circular debate of either restricting gun laws or “evening out the playing field.” The pull of kids to Islam while American society pushes against any organized religion. This cycle of media attacking a minority and the weak of the minority falling into the character depicted for them. They are all knots that Allah can open, and when we get into that frustrated mindset that nothing is working, we have this quality of God to remind us that only He can truly solve everything.

Ramadan Log Day 6: Chai Time

The difference between a work day and weekend is unreal. Yesterday and today have both been so amazing compared to the first four days of Ramadan.

Today was another home day, and I finally got to sit down and get actual work done. Bank stuff, mosque stuff, grad school stuff, future iftar planning… I know, super exciting things. It may not be the most thrilling activity in the world, but they were all things I had been putting off, and to finally cross things off my to-do list is a joy and accomplishment in and of itself.

I also got to reconnect with a couple of friends today. In the afternoon I was catching up with a friend who had just come back from vacation, and then later I went to another friend’s house for an impromptu iftar and dinner. You’ve all probably gathered by now that I’m a serious introvert, so having actual conversations with my friends isn’t exactly a daily thing. When moments like these do come around where I get to spend some quality time with my best friends, while I may need them in smaller doses than others, I so badly need them. After the long and stressful week I had, I needed this. So I made sure the family was fed and then left for my friend’s house.

I don’t think I’ve never done anything more stereotypical than staying up late with my bestie, drinking tea and talking about our favorite TV show and who of our friends are getting engaged. It was so nice though. That was the girl time that I didn’t realize I had been missing in my running from nursing home to nursing home and preparing iftar and organizing my finances.

So all in all, a pretty good day, alhamdulillah. I even managed to fulfill all of my Qur’an goals for the day.

Today I read about Allah’s name “Al-Wahhaab” or “The Giver.” The author writes a very nice metaphor to show how Allah’s form of giving compares to a human’s form of giving. “Above all, [a man] needs to receive the thing in order to give it. A tree which gives fruit, a goat which gives milk, need care, water, food. Allah needs nothing, so His is the true gift.” The author describes that while humans can adopt a form of generosity, the nature of being human is that we need to be given something in order to give ourselves. Allah simply creates and gives. These qualities of Allah that transcend worldly physics are what make God so awe-inspiring to me.