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.

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#AtoZChallenge Day 23: Wanting Too Much

W is for Wanting

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Over the past few months, I’ve come to an odd realization:

I don’t think I know how to really want something.

I don’t know if I ever have in my post-puberty life.

Because I’ve learned that I need to be okay with not getting everything I want in this life. I need to be okay with loss and disappointment. I need to detach myself from this world and put more focus on the hereafter.

In the process of training myself to do that, I’ve also trained myself to just not want things very strongly so as to avoid disappointment and overattachment to this world.

Now I feel it has become a problem, because now it’s hard for me to pray for things. How can you sincerely ask God for something when you don’t intensely want it? There’s a fine line between trusting God to give you what you pray for and being okay with not getting it. And in trying to navigate where that line is, my duas have felt fake and insincere.

I noticed this when I was applying for graduate school. I realized last summer that as much as I grumble about continuing school, I did really want to go to grad school. And there was a specific program in a specific school that I had been wanting to get into for virtually all of undergrad.

So this past winter, when it came time to fill out the application and then go for the interview, I had to revisit that idea of really wanting to go to the school. As I visited the campus and talked to some of the current students, I realizes that I really wanted to get in to this program.

When it came time to tell the school why I wanted to go there, and then tell God the same thing in my duas afterwards, I was at such a loss of how much I should allow myself want this. It was my top school, but it was also competitive and I had already been rejected from there once before. If I was really relying on God, I would allow myself to be okay with not getting into the program.

But if I didn’t allow myself to feel that desire, how could I take the interview and my subsequent duas seriously?

So I decided to allow myself to want it. I wanted to get into this program more than anything I have wanted in years. I allowed the feeling of desire and longing to fill my heart so that I could give my all in the interview and shed tears when praying to God to allow the interviewers to see the potential in me.

Alhamdulillah, by the grace of God, I got in. I am finally enrolled in my dream program at my dream school. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.

But I still have my “wanting” problem. What if I hadn’t gotten in? Would it have been worth the disappointment to have wanted it so badly? Or was my wanting it and praying for it a way of relying on God that I hadn’t tried before, and He rewarded me for it?

I still don’t have the answers to these questions. I only have gratitude.

Blogging from A to Z Day 20: Tenacity

T is for Tenacity

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I have worked harder this year than any other time in my life. I made a goal at the beginning of the school year that I was really going to try hard in all of my classes, and that has proven to be tougher than I thought. But not unmanageable.

I wouldn’t say my grades always came easy for me, but in most classes I have been able to get by without putting in hours of work. With a few exceptions, I generally didn’t have to put in as much work as my fellow students to get a good enough grade, and I was able to rely on my previous good grades to make up for the moments when things got extremely difficult. Obviously this method didn’t get me straight As, but like I said, I got the grade that was good enough for me.

Now, however, rather than simply do the minimum and hope for that guaranteed “good enough” grade, I am trying to go above and beyond to make the most of my education: reading the entire article rather than just the intro and conclusion, getting ahead on my papers rather than leave them for the last minute, shoot for the A instead of the A- or the B+.

I’m not learning pointless trigonometry or chemistry anymore. I am learning counseling techniques, how to do real research, and how to speak a language. My classes are useful now for my future career and life, and I am really pushing myself to make the most of them.

It’s tough though. I’m tired, both physically and mentally. But I am proud of myself. Rather than simply try to make it to the next day, I am planning ahead and investing in my future. All of the effort I am putting in my undergrad is good practice for what I will have to do in grad school and eventually when working in the real world.

Finally, I am starting to get better in my work ethic. I’m not all the way there, but I am definitely much better than I was this time last year. Now I just need to get time management down.