Is it Me

…or is this year’s Ramadan kicking a lot of people’s butts? Is it the heat? I mean, I fasted in 115 degree Fahrenheit. But that doesn’t count, I was doing that with a much more relaxed pace while I was in Kuwait. We had lots of air conditioning too. I was excited that I’d spend a few days of Ramadan in Egypt. But I had I had no idea what I was in for during those first few days. I first moved across town in Cairo, then across the world. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff you collect in 7 months. I got rid of most of my stuff and some of the stuff was apartment stuff that I hope helped my roommate settle in comfortably in the new pad. Then I headed off hauling a giant dufflebag and broken suitcase thousands of miles. Within hours of arriving in California, I was working. I hit the ground running, school, work, catching up, and of course, Ramadaning. I fasted on top of the most extreme case of jet lag and ridiculous sleeping schedule. Then there was the culture shock. No Ramadan lights and no special Ramadan hours (well those can be annoying if you need to get anything done because everything is closed). Nothing slows down for us during Ramadan in the U.S.

Sometimes it is hard to feel the magic in the US when the people you love aren’t sharing the hunger and anticipation of eating with you. I have one of those grueling schedules that makes it near impossible to go iftar hopping, go to taraweh prayers at the mosque, go to any talks, let alone increase worship and self reflection. I guess for me it was hard because I felt the loneliness of being a Muslim convert, especially one that has not been embraced by a community. I’m not saying I don’t have friends, I have lots of them. But we are all now pretty dispersed and immersed in our own lives. My roommate threw a welcome back dinner during my first weekend back, and two of my Muslim friends showed up. But the tone of the event wasn’t very iftar-like. With transportation issues, I didn’t get to break fast with Muslims until dang near the last ten days. It made me kind of sad. I even teared up a bit, wondering where was the Ramadan spirit. This wasn’t just the Grinch who stole Ramadan! I landed in Who-ville where if you say Muslim, they’ll say, “Who?”

Ramadan during the heat was kind of hard. In San Jose, it was 106 the first weekend I got back. I thought I left Cairo’s heat behind. After the first week, Ramadan began to slowly run me down. It was that waking up at 4 for suhoor, the long parched days with your throat feeling like sandpaper, stomach gnawing itself into knots. I get light headed, forgetful, short tempered, fatigued… I spend all day walking around like a zombie, only to become comatose after eating. And then the indigestion! But still through all that, I realize I have it good. There are people who have nothing, they are breaking fast on some on contaminated water, on stale moldy bread, no meat for days…No I don’t think I should be complaining at all. People are really suffering and I’ve seen it, I walked past it, trying to numb myself to my own guilt, my inability or unwillingness to do something to help someone poor and begging, my own inadequacies.

As this Ramadan comes to a close, I have a bunch of resolutions brought on by some serious self reflection over this past long year. If all the shayatin are locked up, all we have is ourselves. We are exposed raw, to the shortcomings we have, our own frailties, our own foibles, our own limitations. As Ramadan comes to a close I am always filled with regret, wishing I had done more, hoping that Allah will accept my meager attempts at stepping up. This is such a pitiful offer, my days of hunger and thirst, in exchange for His bounty. Ramadan this year has not been easy for me, but there are many blessings, many lessons, many self discoveries. I wish I was much stronger to take it all on and knock at all those extra sunnah prayers, all those make-up prayers, all those readings, all that dhikr, all those hours in the masjid, etc. Instead, I feel like I’ve been given a good roughing up this Ramadan. But I can’t really look back with regret about how I fail short or look to the future with too much worry wondering if I will fall short. I hope next Ramadan I will have the strength to offer more to serve my Lord and His creation much better than I have done in the past. I know I have a long way to go, but I keep looking at each step in front of me. For me, that is the best way to travel down this road. I’m in no place to feel like I have anything on lock. No self righteousness here. Ramadan kicked my butt and handed me a big serving of humble pie. And that checking of the ego, no doubt, is a good thing.

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8 thoughts on “Is it Me

  1. Its not just you, its been tough for all of us.

    This is one of the first Ramadan’s where I’m living alone. In the past, at least I had my family around, even if they weren’t fasting, my mom would prepare meals for me. Ramadan in a Muslim environment (even if its just family) is a little more enjoyable than on your own 😦

    These days, I gotta cope with work, and although my work hours are flexible, the occasional early mornings, after going to bed way too late (my own fault for watching too much TV), and having to wake up for breakfast at 5:30, really kicks my butt. The first couple of weeks was a little easier, but as Ramadan has been passing, even preparing dinner has become too much of a chore so I’ve been going down to Stanford. I prefer not eating out too often, but on the upside I get to hang out with the community.

    As I get older, although the physical aspect still isn’t too much of a burden (although that feeling of hunger when you wake up in the morning, and your stomach feels like its eating itself), the emotional/spiritual aspect is becoming more prominent.

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  2. No, sister, it’s NOT just you. 🙂

    Masha’Allah, nice post. It’s been tough here in Memphis because of fluctuating weather conditions (rain from hurricane Gustav, extreme heat, irregular cold temps, etc., but that’s Memphis, anyway). And for me, same as you, being in school full-time, working full-time, not getting to go to the masjid, no real iftar-hopping either. I just pray that next Ramadhan will be better for me, insha’Allah, and for all of us. And may Allah (swt) bless those whose conditions may be worse than our own.

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  3. Salaam Alaikum & Ramadan Mubarak!

    It’s not just you sister Margari! If I’m not mistaken in the U.S. it was like a 14 hour stretch between break-fast.
    I worked full time the first week of Ramadan and am now off until October 6th in’sha’Allah. I’m just extremely grateful that Allah granted me a work situation that accomodates my religous practices! Ma’sha’Allah.
    Although I’m sick like a dog, I’ve really appreciated this time of introspection, and drawing closer to Allah.
    One of the biggest “perks” for me is that I’m able to be a full time mama during this time. I’m dreading the thought of returning to work again–but gotta pay my bills!

    Sister Seeking

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  4. The run-and-gun, solitary existence has been not just hard this Ramadan, but has been indicative of my experience as a Muslim for most of my experience in Islam. Having not come from a Muslim family, let alone country, much of my experience has been a sole proprietorship, so to speak. Heat, cold and the like have had less of an affect on me than constantly being on the go. I break fast with a bag of Fritos, sip some fruit punch, 3 raka’ats and I’m out the door to class or to teach. But this pace isn’t restricted to Ramadan – it’s one of the realities of Modernity. Having spoken with a friend of mine who’s faculty at Temple University, he too is doing more with less and on less. By on less, I mean sleep and rest of course. And for him and his wife, who is also a professor at Temple, they are struggling to produce the workload required of full-time academics while trying to raise a new born child.

    May Allah make the path easy for us.

    فإن مع العسر يسرى
    إن مع العسر يسرى

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  5. I guess it is something going around. I am just not feeling Raman this year. I had it for a few days and then….POOF it was gone. Here in a MUslim country, there are no lights, I can not hear the prayers at night, I barely hear the athan. This I think has had the worse affect on me. I have been in Egyp and UAe before and Man in Egypt you feel Ramadan. Even though I dislike Egypt I love LOVE, LOVED Ramadan there. But here in the Gulf I am sad to say I see more Christmas decorations than I did Ramadan. This year I didnt have anyone over to break fast nor was I invited anywhere. I just moved here so I didnt know anyone. But this made it very hard to feel the Ramadan Sprit. Even my kids say it does nto feel the same without breaking fast with friends at least on the weekends. Then to top it off not many Women sections. That is something I dislike but you deal with over here but In Egypt and in UAE even I could at least hear the prayers but nothing here.
    I think I had better Ramadans in the states. Go figure I go way accross the world to be with Muslims and feel Islam to find I get more of it in a non Muslim country.

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  6. Yeah this Ramadan really put things in perspective for me too. Not only did it start the day before school but the days were much longer and hotter than its ever been in North America. I’ve been going through many transitions myself this Ramadan as well, from settling in to my new place, new job, new semester, literally no money to my name…just ALOT. And at first I found myself preoccupied with life and tried to get a grip of everything instead of Ramadan, even found myself complaining about it at times too, but walahi, it couldnt have come at a better time. But the more taraweeh I prayed, lectures I listened to(online), the less i thought about the fact that my loans havnt even come in, YET, among many other impending issues. Alhamdullilah, my iman is at an alltime high, but still not nearly where it should be. During some of the most stressful times of our lives, it forced us to really get our priorities in check, and become more grateful than ever to Allah, and strive to do better and become better Muslims. Sorry about the rant lol, but i loved your topic…
    Insha Allah, you’ll find more Muslim friends in your area, give it time, I know how it important it is to surround yourself with Muslims as a convert, even being Muslim my whole Im starting to realize the importance of it and do more of that myslef……

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  7. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    The first part of this Ramadan – the first week at least – was my hardest fasting period ever, largely because of the long time – the heat wasn’t much of an issue here, but in the beginning it was 4am to nearly 8pm. (At the moment, it’s about 5am to just before 7pm). I had the benefit of a few days off work to get used to it, and usually made sure to get up for suhoor (except the first day, when I slept through it). I found that I was much more short tempered, particularly on the day when I missed suhoor because I was told that I was going on a long run in the truck, and it turned out I was just going down the road. But, it’s got much easier since the first week ma sha Allah.

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  8. You are definitely not alone! (I am glad you provided a space for us to vent :))

    Like Marc, I feel like I have been experiencing much of this Ramadan alone. My family is Muslim however, I still feel like I am experiencing Ramadan completely alone. Like K-Dude this is my first time living alone. On top of living alone, and starting a new job, I have not had a real break since school ended. I feel physically and mentally exhausted. Like you Margari, I pray that Allah (swt) takes my meager offering and allows me to have another Ramadan. I work from 7am-6/7pm M-F along with student phone calls and grading into the night. Like Marc, I break fast quickly, make Maghrib quickly and then on to another task. Modernity has forced us all to painfully compartmentalize our lives to the extent that it is near impossible to balance professional commitments with Ramadan. And it is even sad that we have to even think about “balancing.” I know that Allah (swt) knows all of our hearts and accepts our intentions. However, there are days when I wish my intention to finish that juz or get more du’a in actually materialize.

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