Ramadan Reflections 2015

Ramadan Reflections 2015

Assalamu Alaikum

Apologies to readers for I have again taken a long time to write something new and have been neglecting responding to new comments. I really am most grateful to all of you.

I had been thinking about a new post for Ramadan this year, and had thoughts about what I would write but am only now coming to the page.

My hesitation was that I felt a bit like I was back to where I was for my first Ramadan and Eid – alone in Switzerland. Had I really made so little progress in the past four years?

Never the less, I decided if I was going to be alone I would turn it into a sort of spiritual retreat.

I was off work for holiday the last two weeks of Ramadan. I did not travel anywhere as I had just flown to California for my niece’s graduation, so was tapped out financially.

My plan was to spend my days in prayer, reciting and reading the Quran, trying to learn Arabic and read some Islamic history, and meditate on Allah (swt), life, etc.

Well, I did some of that, but mostly I was really hot, tired and thirsty. We had a major heat wave during the whole month of Ramadan and I just could never get cool.

By the end of Ramadan I must admit that I was going a little stir crazy and was quite lonely.

I suppose I imagined my spiritual retreat to be a week of calm and insight – and maybe that is not how it works. It was valuable though. I did come to a few conclusions / decisions about where I wanted to take my life. And, as always, I reminded myself how much I have to be grateful for.

However, the biggest surprise was afterwards. I logged onto my blog after several months of absence, and I saw huge activity the days before and on Eid, and specifically the blog viewed was my first Eid blog and the search terms to find it were relating to spending Eid alone.

I realised that there must be so many others out there like myself who spend Ramadan and Eid alone.

So, here’s the thing — I enjoyed my Ramadan and Eid, and I am very grateful for the tremendous blessings Allah (swt) brings me every day – but it is hard to be without family for these holidays.

I think about the holidays I grew up with and, in a way, I value them even more now – especially Christmas. Not because of the religious tradition – but because of the tradition I shared with my family. Now, I don’t come from some perfect idealised family. We drive each other crazy and being cramped together during Christmas at whoever’s house we are staying at is stressful. But we love each other and have memories, customs, and familiarity.

If I had a husband and family of my own I am sure I would be learning and sharing Ramadan and Eid traditions with them. But I don’t. I won’t feel sorry for myself because I have too much in life to whine about what I don’t have.

For everyone out there who spent Ramadan and Eid alone (or at least you felt alone because you could not share it with those around you) – I get it. I understand. It’s hard. It’s lonely.

But that does not mean there are not moments to enjoy.

For me, I would go on walks each morning and each evening – before and after the worst of the heat. I sometimes listened to my favourite podcasts or just let my mind wander. During one of the podcasts a man was equating the tests given to us by Allah (swt) as the process of being chiselled into beautiful sculpture. We would all like to have things easy in life but then we would remain some amorphous blob – the tests turn us into something beautiful. It is a beautiful reminder for me when I am feeling stressed, anxious or upset.

Finally, though I probably should not admit this, I thoroughly enjoyed my first cup of coffee the morning of Eid.

What were your best moments this past Ramadan and Eid?

Blessed and Happy

Assalamu alaikum

As you can see, I have not written in quite a while. Mostly because I have been getting on with life and haven’t felt I had much to say.

Since my last post I have – with mixed emotions – moved back to Switzerland. But that is a whole other story and probably not one for this blog.

I am coming back to this blog because I realised in the past months that I reached my three-year mark – three years since I said my shahada. In fact, it has now been nearly three and a half years and I still remember everything about that night.

When I first I reverted, I often read that a large number of reverts leave within three years. In an early blog I asked the question of why this was and how to stop it. 

When I first wrote that blog I hoped that by this time I would have a large Muslim community surrounding me, and I feared that I would be part of that statistic of those who left.

In truth, it is neither. I have a couple Muslim friends as well as a few non-Muslim friends from my ‘old’ life. There are many friends and family who know of my conversion and others that don’t – sometimes because it simply has not come up and sometimes because I still fear how it may impact them.

In the first couple of years sometimes it all felt very alien to me. It was awkward going to pray at the Mosque. I did not recognise myself when I was wearing hijab. I missed some of the fun I used to have – not enough to really tempt me, but I missed just how easy it used to be to let go and escape from the pressures and stress of the day-to-day with a glass of prosecco. In work meetings I wanted to stand up and tell them I was Muslim – for no real reason other than to make it real for me.

As noted in several earlier blogs, I didn’t know how exactly I would fit in to the Muslim community being white, American, middle-aged, and unmarried with no children. How would I relate and what could I contribute?

Though my Muslim friends would look at me with impatience when I told them this, because the things I struggled with were the same things with which they struggled, ultimately is was just time (and prayer!) that helped me to adjust. I learned to breathe again and just be me.

I continue to struggle with always completing all my daily prayers, finding the right clothes, and continuing my studies – I’ve learned tajweed but still know little to no Arabic.

I also struggle with everything that is going on in the news. I feel like the craziness is escalating and I don’t know what to do. I am outraged and worried about the discrimination and the violence. However, there are so many others who write more eloquently on these topics than myself.

There is no question that there are key people who have anchored and supported me in the past years, and being in London – a more Muslim friendly environment than Switzerland – helped me to explore Islam and simply ‘be’ Muslim.

However, I have never forgotten that ultimately this is between me and Allah (swt), regardless of where I was or who I was with.

While I still have so much to learn and understand, and I still feel awkward and unsure among large groups of those who grew up Muslim, I am blessed and happy to be Muslim. It is still simply who I am.

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