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 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 T-1: Bismillah

I feel like I’m looking outwards at several video projections of all of the different scenes of myself during past Ramadans. All of the tears. All of the “ah-ha” moments. The serenity. The fatigue. The longing for entertainment. The constant question of “who am I doing this for?”

Is it possible to simultaneously feel both overwhelmed at completely at peace?

I’ve spent weeks talking to friends, supervisors, and family members about how nervous I felt about Ramadan starting. I spent three years experiencing Ramadan without any school or  work responsibilities. Then I had a Ramadan while I was working part-time. Now for the first time, I will be experiencing both grad school as well as working while fasting. All with no coffee. No water. No food. And very disrupted sleep.

And yet, I feel at peace.

It’s so hard to explain, but I guess this is what happens when super stressed meets super excited.

I also believe that this is the power of Ramadan being upon us. I have spent the last several months so busy with school and things happening in my personal life; I haven’t taken any time to actively reflect and work on myself as a Muslim. My life felt like it was moving in fast-forward all year. So much has changed in my life, and within myself.

Now with the return of Ramadan, one of the few constants in my life, I feel centered. I feel back at home. Sure, I’m getting closer and closer to that formidable territory of adulthood, but I’m still me. I’m still a Muslim. I have given up a lot of my old self since entering the grad school arena, but I still have Ramadan. And that is such a calming feeling.

If I learned one thing last Ramadan, it was to stop comparing my current self to my self of the past. It doesn’t matter that I blogged every day of Ramadan for three years in a row.  It doesn’t matter that I was inconsistent with it last year. It doesn’t matter that I read the entire Qur’an during past Ramadans. Right now, all that matters is that I am here, alhamdulillah, and I am going to do the best that I can each moment to make the most out of this month.

Bismillah.

#AtoZChallenge Day 3: Cultural Identities

C is for Cultural Identities.

C

I was once on a six hour road trip with just me and my dad. To pass the time, we came up with a little game. What are the best and worst parts about your different cultural identities?

Here is what I came up with.

Muslim

Best Part: I have a guidebook, and a Being always looking out for me. I don’t have to wonder about my purpose or why things are the way that they are because God is taking care of that, which is so reassuring.

Worst Part: Because this religion is a way of life, with self-improvement always on the mind, there isn’t really any room to plateau or take a break. I have to constantly watch myself and make sure I’m making use of each moment, which is tiring and does make me a little superficially envious at times of those who don’t follow a religion.

American

Best Part: The shared culture. Thanksgiving dinners. The universal smell of barebeques on Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The holiday season that I look forward to even when I don’t actually celebrate any of those holidays.

Worst Part: That we are all slaves to money and capitalism. Everything, everything, is driven by money in this country.

Muslim-American

Best Part: I have the freedom to take control of how I learn about and interpret my religion. Because I don’t live in a theocracy, where the practice of Islam is governed by those in power, I have the freedom to learn and use my intellect to be critical of my sources and strive to find the most appropriate way of implementing the words of God in my own life.

Worst Part: My government is on a mission to paint the narrative of Islam as having some violent agenda.  I’m caught in the middle of pledging allegiance to this country and sitting by while it defames my very way of life.

Indian

Best Part: From the food to the clothes to the weddings, we just do it better.  Food has more taste, clothes are more festive, and weddings are just so much more fun than American weddings.

Worst Part: The colorism and racism is so painfully strong in this culture, which makes no sense when you consider the bigger picture.

Indian-American

Best Part: I get to enjoy the benefits of being American while having a lot of accessibility to very Indian things, like food or Mehndi or other Indian people.

Worst Part: Growing up and feeling left out of a lot of “American” experiences because our family is too conservative. Sleepovers. Going out with friends. Not having to report back to your parents on the hour every hour.

Indian-Muslim

Best part: Within Muslims in the Midwest, I’m part of the cultural majority, which is a pretty comfortable place to be. The majority of our community looks like me.

Worst part: Indians are so attached to their cultural practices, and that can get tricky when your culture has very strong ties to Hinduism.  There are so many practices that Indian Muslims have to unlearn because they don’t coexist well with Islam.

White

Best Part: Feeling connected to the racial majority in this country. I feel comfortable around White people because they too are my people.

Worst Part: Carrying the baggage of all of the truly terrible things that White people have done to non-White people throughout the centuries.

White-American

Best Part: I can claim roots in this country farther back than most non-White Americans I have encountered, which for some reason appears to be an advantage in terms of how legitimately “American” people consider you.

Worst Part: The overwhelming guilt and disgust at the name White Americans are making for themselves right now.  I have never wanted to distance myself more from this title than I have in the past year.

White-Muslim

Best Part: People, both Muslim and non-Muslim, seem to take you more seriously as a spokesperson for Muslims if you’re White.

Worst Part: Feeling invisible in the sense that Muslims often use “White” as a synonym for “Non-Muslim.”

Mixed-Race

Best Part: I get to experience the goodness of two cultures and attempt to shed the badness from each culture.  I love experiencing Indian culture in terms of the food, dress, language and social fun, while being able to replace the patriarchal culture with the White culture of female independence.

Worst Part: I. Don’t. Know. What. The. Heck. To. Call. Myself.

Mixed-American

Best Part: I am able to feel connected to both the cultural majority and minority of this country and relate to both experiences.

Worst Part: Feeling invisible in any of the discussions on race and culture.

Mixed-Muslim

Best Part: I think it is easier for me and my family to separate what is cultural from what is religious compared to other Muslim families who come from only one ethnic background.

Worst Part: There are very few people who understand why I live my life the way that I do, because in one way or another I separate myself from each culture due to my inclusion in the other culture.


*Note: I wrote the majority of this post about a year ago.

**I know, A to Z is over, but I still want to post the topics I missed over the course of the next few weeks.

#AtoZChallenge Day 13: Misidentification

M is for Misidentification

M

I used to work in a nursing home. One of the residents there talked about coping with the death of two of her cousins. They were in Israel, and according to her, they were killed “by some Arabs.”

Then she turned to me and said, “I know you’re Muslim, so I mean no disrespect.”

Um.

 

Okay.

First, “Muslim” does not equal “Arab”.

Second, even if I was Arab, I am still in no way sympathetic toward the people who killed your cousins.

Obviously, that’s not what I said. I didn’t say anything because the incident simply left me speechless.

She is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. She had dementia, and so I could never take personally any of the negatives she had to say because I had to reintroduce who I was to her every single day. On the days that she wasn’t refusing to associate with me because I was Muslim, she would tell me how beautiful she thought my scarf was or what a lovely girl I was for pushing her wheelchair to wherever she needed to go. She would point out to me all of her favorite staff members in the facility and ask each of them how their kids were doing as she did so. She encouraged her fellow residents to stay cheerful and hopeful, even when she had no clue how they got to be her neighbors.

It wasn’t her. It was the idea she had been primed with before her disease took away her ability to remember her context.

I wore a scarf on my head. And so she identified me as a potential sympathizer to the killers of her relatives.

 

#AtoZChallenge Day 2: Bright Side

B is for Bright Side

B

There are a lot of reasons to support the perception that this is a particularly low point for Muslim in the United States. We had a person show in several ways an extreme dislike of Muslims (and pretty much anyone different from him), and 63 million people used their right to vote to choose him as our president. He has since exercised his power to target Muslims around the country and world, and the rise in hate crimes against Muslims has increased, which means it’s not just the politicians who hate us. We’re hated by our very own people.

Things are pretty terrible, and with no end in sight.

And yet.

I have never seen so much support for Muslims in my life. The day after the election, I didn’t just hear distant stories of non-Muslims holding protective hands around mosques; I felt within my bones solidarity from my non-Muslim American peers. I watched girls from the ethnic majority shed tears for what I and those like me will be going through for the next few years. I had people around the world tweeting words of sympathy and encouragement to me because they knew that I was a Muslim in America facing a Trump era.

To this day, after I go to sleep crying after reading about another step closer the government has taken towards removing my safety, I wake up the next morning and discuss with my classmates how disgusting they see the racism in our country. I see others, who have no need to be invested in this struggle, getting just as riled up as I am when we talk about the double standard mainstream media has in reporting crimes by ethnic minorities and majorities.

The conversations that I, for my whole life, have only been exposed to in the echo chamber of the Muslim community are now taking place right before my eyes in groups in which I am the only American Muslim present.

People are talking about Muslims with love and support. 

I was in elementary school when 9/11 happened. All I’ve ever known is people in power preaching fear of Muslims and Islam. This year’s unwavering support of us goes against everything I ever thought to be a norm in this country.

It was meant to be a joke, but Hassan Minhaj’s piece about being Muslim in this era is so spot on. Things are terrible, but things are also surprisingly beautiful and, frankly, refreshing.

#AtoZChallenge Day 1: Awkward Moments

A is for Awkward Moments

A

Being asked “How do they do this in your culture?”  (uhm, which one? Muslim? Indian? American?)

.

The imam makes a mistake in recitation but you don’t want to correct it because suddenly you’re questioning every ayah you ever knew.  (it starts with “qul huwallahu ahad,” right?)

.

You eat non-zabiha meat and realize the person you’re eating with doesn’t (or vice versa).  (Frantically tries to recall all of the meat products I’ve ever eaten in the presence of this person)

.

He asks why you’re not praying.  (you might as well be overt and ask if she’s on her period.)

.

She assumes you’re not going to wear Hijab at your wedding.  (I wear Hijab every other day of my life; why would I stop on that single day?)

.

Your friends/coworkers make endless references to drinking, not realizing that you’ve lived a pretty decent life without a dose of alcohol in you.  (seriously, I don’t get it.)

.

Being asked “How do they say it in your language?” (Honey, you and I speak the same language.)

.

They complain about not being represented enough in mainstream entertainment when you’re still waiting on that fictional Hijabi character to show up. (never once been represented accurately and still living)

.

He’s Muslim and offers to shake your hand. (can I even use a religious excuse with this one?)

.

You accidentally let a “salaam” or “inshaallah” slip when talking to a non-Muslim. (I’m genuinely trying to figure out whether I can just let this one slide. It’s no different from Jewish people saying “mazeltov” or Latinos referencing their “abuela,” right?)

.


(Disclaimer: I’m not saying any of these are “good” or “bad” things to do. They’re just moments in life that make me laugh.)