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

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Ramadan Log: Two More Weeks!

A couple days ago was Nisf-Shabaan, which means we are exactly half a month away from the start of Ramadan.

I was seriously considering skipping my Ramadan Logs this year. Last year was especially difficult for me for a variety of reasons, but the main one being that I wasn’t proud of the posts I ended up writing every night. They seemed dry and boring to me, and all you writers know that when you can’t find pride in your writing capabilities, the motivation to continue writing basically disappears.

Recently however, a few people have expressed interest in reading my Ramadan Log for this year. My daily blogging this past April also improved my morale, so I think I’m going to give the Ramadan Log another try this year.

This Ramadan is going to be unlike any other I have experienced so far. For the first time ever, I will be working during Ramadan. Way back in elementary school and middle school, I did fast while at school, but since I started working, Ramadan was always during the summer when I had the days off. Now that I have a “real” job, requiring me to be up and paying attention four days a week, my Ramadan schedule is going to be vastly different than it has been the past couple of years.

I’ve gotten so spoiled by having Ramadan during my summer breaks. I could stay up until Fajr, thriving off of the energy from iftar for blogging, praying, and reading Qur’an. I was able to sleep the next day until noon, and sometimes even as late as 3pm, without consequence. I could afford the time of reading Qur’an for ten minutes following each prayer. If something was bothering me and my patience was dwindling, I could just go to my room and be alone until iftar.

Not this year. I’m going to be working, in an environment that is already testing. My schedule is so packed on Mondays and Wednesdays, I don’t know how I’ll be able to keep up with my Qur’an. I’m going to have to be functional and friendly without any caffeine, and lately I’ve turned into a two cups of coffee a day kind of gal.

And then there are the iftars. Remember how I used to go to Tuesday and Sunday lectures? I don’t know how I’ll be able to make it to those and still be able to enjoy iftar while keeping in mind how early I have to be up for work the next day.

My job also requires a lot of driving during the day, because I work at multiple facilities, and you all know me; I’m blasting that K-pop for the whole car ride. The thought of spending all of that time in the car during Ramadan without my music – because I choose to also fast from music during Ramadan – initially seemed daunting, but I thought of a nice alternative. I always have the afterthought goal of revising my recitation of the 30th juz of the Qur’an, so maybe I could replace my music-driving time with listening to the 30th juz every day and reciting along with it. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get my memorization of those surahs back! Maybe. InshaAllah.

So, my goals for these next two weeks: Try to ween myself off of the caffeine. Finalize which English book I will read (my mom gave me the idea of looking into the 99 names of Allah as my supplementary reading). Re-calculate how much Qur’an I will have to read each day keeping my variant work schedule in mind. Start planning now how my mom and I will balance out iftar duty. Figure out a means of listening to the 30th juz in the car.

At the back of my mind, I can already hear the haunting echo of “I hate being an adult,” but I can’t think that way. As difficult as adulting is, Ramadan was not meant to be more or less difficult depending on what age you are. Ramadan is as much of a test for adults as it is for adolescents. My teenager self got Ramadan down. Now it’s time for my adult self to learn a new kind of Ramadan. And I guess that will be the overall test for this month. Learning how to Ramadan while learning how to adult.

Ramadan Log DAY 20: Battle of the Trench

I cannot believe we are about to embark on our last ten days of Ramadan. It’s going to sound cliche, but these past few days really went by so quickly. I’ll be honest, the first ten days dragged for me. In all of my trying to stay away from my daily time-wasting activities, I was just waiting for the month to be over. However, the second ten days went by so quickly, I feel like day 11 was literally just yesterday. And now we are in those final ten blessed days of Ramadan.

Today I sort of reoriented myself with my goals. Taking into account all of the days that I missed reading Qur’an or read extra to make up for the missing pages, I recalculated how much I have to read. SubhanAllah, I am actually still on track to being able to finish the Qur’an – as long as I don’t get behind anymore. I started Surat Al-Mu’minuun (Chapter 23, The Believers) today. Al-Mu’minuun is one of the first Surahs so far to have the really short ayahs (verses), so I can feel myself starting the final stretch of the Qur’an. It’s exciting. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but this will be my first time ever reading the entire Qur’an in one month, inshaAllah.

I’ve also decided to make a pact with myself to try to reduce the amount of TV shows that I watch after Ramadan. All month I have been keeping track of the new episodes of my favorite shows so that I can watch them once the month is over, but my list is starting to get a bit long, and honestly, I don’t want to watch that much TV once I start watching again. Also, in keeping track of all of the shows I’ve been missing, I realized that I watch a lot of shows. I’m not going to be able to live completely without TV/youtube entertainment forever, but when I do bring it back, I cannot let myself push my life aside to keep track of so many meaningless shows.

InshaAllah, even if I don’t stop with the TV and music completely, I’ll be able to at least cut down.

Now I’m just waiting for the Quraysh to give up and leave the Muslims alone in Muhammad. Today I read the Battle of the Trench, which is the last of the big three, much to my relief. Ever since I was little and first learned about this battle in my Islamic Studies class I always thought it was pretty cool. Even though it’s a “battle,” there isn’t really a whole lot of fighting that takes place. The Muslims find out that a ten-thousand man army is coming to attack Medina, so taking the suggestion of a man from Persia, they build a large trench around the entire city, wide enough for the enemy to have difficulty crossing it, but short enough for their archers to still be useful. For a few days, the Muslims and their supporters guarded the trench and the Quraysh’s army attempted to find ways of sneaking across, all attempts resulting in failure. After some very bad weather, the army decided to leave. Yay! 🙂

It sounds simple and easy, but according to what Martin Lings writes, it was very difficult for the Muslims to constantly be on guard. However their unwavering faith and diligence is really admirable:

“The question arose in every mind as to how many more such days could be endured. Food was beginning to run short and the nights were exceptionally cold; and many of the weak in faith, unnerved by hunger and cold and lack of sleep, were almost ready to join the hypocrites, who were passing round the word that it was not possible to continue to resist such an enemy with only a trench between them, and that they should withdraw behind the city walls. But the faith of the true believers was confirmed by the hardship, and they received praise from the Revelation for having said, at the times of greatest stress, when they saw the clans massed together against them: This is that which God and His Messenger did promise us. That which God and His Messenger foretold hath truly come to pass

(Lings 224).

Everyone knew coming into Islam back then that they would face opposition, yet they did not waiver in standing up for the truth. MashaAllah. May we all have even a fraction of their faith.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Kheema Samosas for iftar

Kheema Samosas for iftar

Homemade Macaroni made by my mom

Homemade Macaroni made by my mom

Ramadan Log DAY 13: A Moment of Weakness

I have to be honest with you guys. I caved.

I broke my video fast today. I didn’t plan on it. I didn’t even watch the videos I had been saving for after Ramadan. I was just clicking from one suggested link to the next.

I wish I hadn’t. I wish I didn’t give in to the weakness or laziness or whatever it was that compelled me to break one of my goals, because now it just makes me miss the videos even more. It is so difficult to give up something you love so much.

I’m not perfect. I’m not even close, and I don’t want to appear to be perfect. Usually when I write my posts at the end of the day, I try to give everything a positive or hopeful tone, even when I’m complaining, because I, like most human beings, do not want to appear weak or sinful or immoral.

However, I didn’t make this blog to show off. I made it for myself, as a way to promise myself, with all of you as my witnesses, that I am going to do something meaningful with the blessed time I have been given this month. Sometimes I write to inspire, because that is my dream to be able to write words that inspire people, but this particular set of posts is for me. And I wouldn’t be being honest with myself if I didn’t say that I didn’t feel positive or hopeful today.

I think part of the reason why I just let myself indulge is because I was trying to distract myself. Everything going on in Gaza right now has really gotten to me. I am happy that more people, not just the Muslims, are becoming aware of the appalling injustice and atrocities that are going on in Palestine and Israel, but at the same time, I don’t know how many more images of bloody children on the street or videos of authority figures beating innocent people I can take. It’s great that everyone is getting involved and spreading these stories around, but it is also really turning me off from social media at the moment.

That in and of itself it the most heartbreaking part. The kids in those pictures can’t just turn their computers off and have their problems go away. I beg all of my readers to please pray, deep within your heart, for the violence to end. Just take a moment right now, to pray to God to end the suffering of the victims in Palestine and Israel. From my personal point of view, this crisis is going to need some kind of divine intervention for it to stop.

Today’s quote of the day comes from the Hijra section of Martin Lings’s Muhammad. Muhammad (S) has done all that he can to spread the word of Islam to the people of Mecca, and after the Quraysh devise a plan to have Muhammad killed, Muhammad secretly flees with Abu Bakr. On their migration to Medina, Abu Bakr offers a camel for Muhammad to ride, but Muhammad insists on paying for the camel, saying “I will not ride a camel that is not mine own.” Lings provides an explanation for this, and I’m not totally sure if it is just his own speculation or part of what he gathered in his research, but the explanation is interesting:

“Nor did Abu Bakr insist further on making it a gift, although the Prophet had accepted many gifts from him in the past, for this occasion was a solemn one. It was the Prophet’s Hijrah, his cutting off of all ties of home and homeland for the sake of God. His offering, the act of emigration, must be entirely his, not shared by another in any respect. The mount on which the act was accomplished must therefore be his own, since it was part of his offering”

(Lings 119-120).

Muhammad gave up his entire life for the sake of spreading God’s message: his home, his wealth, and his people. By leaving Mecca and migrating to Medina, Muhammad (S) was completing an act of service to God, so even the camel on which he rode he wanted to be of his own sacrifice. Again, I’m not sure if this was ordered by God or if it is just Lings’s own rationalization, but I like it. It’s very noble in my opinion.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Leftover Chicken and Kabab from last night

Leftover Chicken and Kabab from last night

Ramadan Log DAY 10: Amenakin

Alhamdulillah, we have completed the first third of the month! It’s hard to believe that the first ten days are already gone. While I have made many strides in improving my own daily habits, I haven’t felt anything really change on the inside yet. InshaAllah, there are still 20 more days, but I’m so afraid of going through this whole month completely unchanged. Ramadan is a month of self-improvement, and while I have changed a lot about what I do during the day, I don’t know if these are habits I will be able to keep up after Ramadan is over. I hope and pray that these next 20 days instill these habits in my routine so that I won’t be able to abandon them once we all start eating again.

Today I watched a really interesting video by a Muslim YouTuber, Amena. I actually discovered her, coincidentally, last Ramadan. She makes a whole range of videos, from Hijab and makeup tutorials to words of wisdom to travel vlogs. SubhanAllah and mashaAllah, she has such a way with words. She isn’t a scholar of Islam, but she is a practicing Muslim and mother, who just has such a beautiful outlook on life and her religion. Her eloquence allows her to put into words things that I always think about, but never knew how to explain properly.

The video I watched today was actually her Ramadan Preparation video that she uploaded a couple of weeks ago, but I only just got around to watching it today. In the video, she gives a really nice introduction of what Ramadan and fasting means in Islam. As I said before, she has a way of saying things so eloquently, mashaAllah, and in this video describes perfectly why I create so many goals for myself during Ramadan.

Every time I complain about how difficult it is to read so much Qur’an or fast or abstain from watching K-pop videos, and you wonder why I’m diligently putting myself through so much struggle, think of Amena’s following words:

“On the surface, everybody can abstain from food and sexual relations. That’s probably the most basic thing that you can do. The second level of fasting is truly fasting; with your eyes to make sure you’re not looking at something that you’re not supposed to be looking at…to fast with your ears, to be aware of what you’re actually listening to, what you’re exposing your ears to; to be fasting with our hands: what are we doing with them during the day….As we’re fasting fully thorough our physical being, that has a direct impact on our spiritual state.” -Amenakin

I encourage everyone to watch her video and really listen to what she has to say. Again, she isn’t a scholar or teacher, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have very useful, practical advice about why Ramadan is so important to us and how to take full advantage of this month.

MashaAllah, she is one of my biggest role models.

I can’t leave you without discussing Muhammad! Many more people are converting to Islam. One of the things that Martin Lings highlights in this book that I just love is how Muhammad’s words affected the people around him. While the leaders of his community challenged him, ridiculed him, demanded miracles from him, and then refused to listen to what he had to say, the other people in the community watched all of this taking place. Every time Muhammad proved that he was speaking words of a Messenger of God, and the leaders of the Quraysh blatantly ignored his signs, the silent onlookers saw Muhammad for who he truly was and made their conversions to Islam. This reminds me a lot of the situation of Islam in America today. There are so many people on the news who very loudly bash Islam and try to twist our religion into something it’s not. It is shocking how opposite the violent portrayals of Islam in the media are from what Islam really is. The only thing that keeps my mind at peace with all of this is that history has a tendency of repeating itself. While the majority of “famous” people in the media may be anti-Islam, the more silent majority will see what actual, real-life Muslims are like, and they will understand that Islam really is the “middle way,” of logic, moderation, and peace.

Before I end this, I have to share this bit of the story that I read. I read the story of Umar’s conversion, one of the leaders of Islam after the death of the Prophet (S), and I just love what he does right after he converts. Some context: before embracing Islam, “Umar was one of the most violent and unrestrained in carrying out [Abu Jahl’s] instructions” (Abu Jahl was one of Islam’s greatest enemies) (Lings 85). After Umar finally decides to abandon the idol-worshiping Quraysh and become a Muslim,

[Umar speaking] “When I entered Islam that night, I thought to myself: Which of the people in Mecca is the most violent in enmity against God’s messenger, that I may go to him and tell him I have become a Muslim? My answer was: Abu Jahl. So the next morning I went and knocked at his door, and Abu Jahl came out and said: ‘The best of welcomes to my sister’s son! What hath brought thee here?’ I answered: ‘I came to tell thee that I believe in God and in His Messenger Muhammad; and I testify to the truth of that which he hath brought.’ ‘God curse thee!’ he said, ‘and may His curse be on the tidings thou hast brought!’ Then he slammed the door in my face”

(Lings 87).

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Umar or Muhammad (S) or Lings when I say this, but BAM! Take that Abu Jahl! One of his most loyal followers, GONE.

🙂

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Afghani Rice, Chicken, and Kabab, and Salad (We had iftar at the Da'wah Center today)

Afghani Rice, Chicken, and Kabab, and Salad (We had iftar at the Da’wah Center today)

Starbuck Green Tea Latte (It's been far too long since I've had a Starbucks.)

Starbucks Green Tea Latte (It’s been far too long since I’ve had a Starbucks. I know, how “Basic White Girl” of me.)

Ramadan Log DAY 4: Strange Cravings

What is the most random thing you have craved while fasting? For me, all day today I was dreaming of a Thai iced tea. I’ve only ever had them in actual Thai restaurants, and they are so good! The taste is like a mix between Indian Chai and a Starbucks Frappucino. Once Ramadan is over, I need to get me some Thai food.

Iftar being so late has actually been limiting me in a lot of unexpected ways. My family members are all early sleepers, so going to a restaurant at all this month is out of the question considering that it is around 9:30 p.m. by the time we actually eat dinner. I also haven’t been eating any ice cream, which is a big deal for me. Normally, I eat ice cream nearly every day as a late night snack, but with dinner being so late, there isn’t really any time for me to get hungry again before I go to sleep.

And I’ve really been craving some ice cream. Yesterday while we were out, we passed by a Baskin Robbins and since then I’ve been craving Baskin Robbins’ Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. Yummm….

Unfortunately I still haven’t gotten around to cooking anything myself. I personally love cooking while fasting because it just builds my excitement for iftar at the end of the day so much more. I did finally consolidate the recipes I found from various books and websites and make somewhat of a plan for the next week or so. Now it’s just a matter of going to the grocery store and buying the right ingredients.

It’s only the fourth day, but it feels like it’s been a week. It feels like we are so far into Ramadan and I haven’t been productive at all. I haven’t cooked anything. I haven’t really made a whole lot of progress on the finding-other-things-to-do-besides-watch-kpop-videos goal.

I also still haven’t figured out what Islamic book I’m going to read in English. The book of Hadith didn’t really work out the way I wanted it to. I did read the first few pages of the English Qur’an, but I don’t want to just repeat exactly what I did last year. Currently, my new idea is reading a history of the Prophet (S) book. I found when I was reading the English Qur’an last year that I really liked reading stories of past prophets. Lately, every lecture I hear about stories of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the Sahaba (his first followers) I always find extremely interesting.

So, goals for tomorrow:

(1) Go grocery shopping.

(2) Make the first recipe on my list.

(3) Figure out which book to read.

I feel bad that I’ve gone three whole days without giving you all a quote or something interesting to read! Today, I’ll share one of the verses that I read a couple of days ago in the English translation of the Qur’an. It is from Surat Al-Baqara (Chapter 2, “The Cow”), verse 185, which is actually a perfect verse to start with this month:

“The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, [a Book of] clear proofs of guidance and the criterion [distinguishing right from wrong]. Therefore whoever of you is present in that month let him fast; but he who is ill or on a journey shall fast [a same] number of days later on. God desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and [He desires] that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify God for giving you His guidance, and that perhaps you will be thankful.”

God wants us to complete this month. He does not want to hinder us. What more encouragement could we ask for?

This also reminds me of something my grandma used to say all the time while she was battling leukemia: “God never gives us a test that we can’t pass.” She was actually quoting the Qur’an, Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 286. “God does not charge a soul with more than it can bare.”

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 4.1

Chocolate Chip Cookie and Raspberry Danish for iftar

"Seven Layer Taco Dip That's Actually Only Five Layers" for dinner

Seven Layer Taco Dip (That Is Actually Only Five Layers) for dinner (store-bought)

Ramadan Log DAY 2: It’s Like Training for a 5K

What is it about rain that completely captivates so many people? It is storming right now outside my house and I’m finding myself completely enthralled.The lightning and thunder that used to terrify me now pull me in, making me crave more of the show they put on outside my window. During storms like these I find myself unable to look away from the window, feeling a rush of both fear and awe.

SubhanAllah. Glory be to God.

Like a true introvert, I had a really good day spending time in the quiet and comfort of my own home. I did some mosque-related work on the computer, watched the Germany vs. Algeria game (Algeria lost 😦 ) and listened to a quick online lecture while helping my mom with some paperwork. Simple bliss.

I also spent a huge chunk of my day reading Qur’an. I calculated it last night and it looks like I’m going to have to read eight pages of the Arabic Qur’an after every prayer (except Maghrib) to be able to finish the whole thing by the end of the month. I thought, “Eight pages. No big deal. I’m a pretty fast reader; it’ll be easy,” but then I started reading.

Eight pages is long! It took me around 20 minutes after each prayer to read that much! Spending 20 minutes reciting Qur’an is tough. By the 6th and 7th page, I was stuttering and making mistakes like no other. As I was reading, my confidence in completing my goal was diminishing. It is just so much reading and takes so much time and attention (that I already don’t have a lot of), and I wonder if making mistakes in recitation is even worth the extra pages.

I wanted to change my goal and just read maybe five or six pages a day, in return not being able to complete the whole Qur’an, but then a thought popped into my head.

This is just like training.

Last year I ran a 5k. It was the longest distance I had ever run in my life until that point. Until only a couple of months leading up to the race, I had only been able to run a mile or two at a time, and the five kilometers would be over three miles. But I wanted to push myself and see if I could really do it, so I trained twice a week, running a mile, then a mile and a half, then two miles, and so on until I was able to make it to 3.1 miles in time for the 5k. Since then, I’ve been increasing my distance even more to four miles, alhamdulillah (praise be to God). Now, one mile seems like a piece of cake and barely even a workout for me.

I realized today that reading Qur’an is a similar process. I’m used to reading two to four pages at a time. Compared to that, it’s no wonder why eight seems so overwhelming to me. But this struggle is exactly how I felt when I increased my running distance from one mile to two miles. It was super difficult at first, but I knew that in order to get to 5k, I would have to just rough it out for a couple of days while my body got adjusted to the increased length. So if I just keep going at it and read all eight pages after each prayer, eventually it won’t seem so long.

That is why I refuse to lower my goal, no matter how much I want to. Just as much as my body needs to adjust to physical training, my tongue and attention span need to adjust to reading more Qur’an.

Coincidentally, earlier today one of my friends shared a quote from Anse Tamara Gray which goes along perfectly with this line of thinking: “If you are feeling tired and sluggish on this first day of fasting, remember that eleven months out of the year we ignore the sluggish and tired heart and soul and focus on our bodies. This month is for our spirit.

So just as much as running trains and strengthens my body, I pray that this Qur’an reading may train and strengthen my mind, spirit, and soul. Ameen.

And subhanAllah, watching myself reach the 3rd juz on only my second day of reading is an incredible and encouraging feeling (The Qur’an is divided into 30 equal parts, called juz). InshaAllah I think I’m going to finish Surat Al-Baqara (Chapter 2, “The Cow”) tonight. Al-Baqara is the longest chapter in the Qur’an, and I have never read through it this quickly before.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 2

Southwest Chicken Salad (made by my mom)

Cheesecake Brownies (made by yours truly) and Oreos

Cheesecake Brownies (made by yours truly) and Oreos

Okay, I have to be honest. I ate the brownies and cookies as my iftar, not dessert. I got the recipe for the Cheesecake Brownies online if anyone is interested. They’re really good! The recipe is actually for Oreo Cheesecake Brownies, but I skipped the Oreo topping and just ate the cookies whole. 😛