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 Day 16: Get It Done

Grad school while fasting is not a joke.

I just finished my last week of classes, and my God it was intense. The last couple of weeks are always busy with papers and assignments. Doing all  of that while fasting was an added layer of fatigue, frustration, and just being done with everything. I don’t know how I did this back in middle school and high school when Ramadan was during the school year.

There was a moment on Wednesday afternoon where I was at a crossroads. I had a paper due the next day, but I had just come home from a full day of classes – running on very little sleep – and I could barely keep my eyes open. Did I give in and take a nap, knowing full well that I would not have time to finish my paper, or did I force myself to stay awake and get writing over with?

I opted for sleep. I was able to get the assignment done after suhoor, and it was by no means something I was proud of. But it got done.

That was pretty much my motto for the week. Show up. Get things done. Sleep.

While being physically present in class was awful, it gave me the opportunity to see such sweet and caring sides of my friends.

Every day, multiple people would come up to me and check on how I was doing. I got expressions of sympathy, words of encouragement, and even texts on days we didn’t have class.

It’s been a while since I have been in a setting with so many new non-Muslim friends who are not familiar with Ramadan. I forgot what it was like to have so many people learn about Ramadan for the first time and express their awe at what we do every year.

As endearing as it was hearing their concern for me,  I almost felt like I was deceiving everyone, or that I was falsely leading them to believe that I was constantly in a state of utter suffering . I’ve been fasting for over 15 years. It’s hard, but I’m used to it after so many years of going through it.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have found myself giving all sorts of new descriptions of what fasting is like. I’m hungry and tired, but isn’t this all-consuming thought I constantly have. I feel hungry, and then I sort of just deal with it. My attention span may be shorter. My tolerance for other forms of discomfort such as fatigue or boredom may be lower. But in the end, it’s okay. It’s an okay feeling to have because we’re meant to feel it and we’re doing it for a reason.

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.