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 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.

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. 🙂

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.