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?

Me and myself celebrating Eid

This past week when thinking about what I would do for my first Eid, I started to feel a bit disconnected again. Eid is a time for community, family traditions, and celebration with loved ones. I will spend it alone.

But I remembered when I started Ramadan I had the same thought. While I did spend much of it on my own, I was not really alone. Some of the time was spent in a normal day-to-day manner at work. I was also incredibly fortunate to spend some of my time in Dubai where I met wonderful people with whom I hope to develop lasting friendships. And friends checked in on me on nearly a daily basis and stayed up late with me via text messaging on a few occasions.

I admit I also spent a fair amount of time connected to the world via the internet: perusing articles by fantastic bloggers like yourselves, relishing stories of Ramadan experiences around the world, staying caught up on the achievements of Muslim athletes at the Olympics, and reading the news from Burma, Syria, Egypt, the US, etc.

All of this has made me feel inspired, disappointed, energized, horrified, elated, and a little bit scared.

We all know that the depiction of Islam in the mainstream media is imbalanced and overwhelmingly negative, and others have written far more eloquently on this topic than I could — but the question that keeps running through my head is how – in this environment – do I explain to non-Muslim friends and family that I chose to follow Islam because at its core it is about peace and benevolence? And what is my responsibility in all that is happening in the world? Ramadan and Eid are times for charity, which is hugely important, but it is enough?

So, as I think about how I will celebrate Eid, first I will be grateful as I realize I will spend it in a lovely apartment, in a safe neighborhood, and with plenty of food and clean water to drink. Alhamdulilah! I am blessed.

Next I will begin to establish my own Eid traditions. Remembrance of my sister and other loved ones who have passed, perhaps a pancake breakfast followed by a long walk by the river, and calls to friends and family (even if they do not realize they are celebrating Eid with me).

And finally, I will pray for guidance for how best to represent and communicate the beauty of Islam to my non-Muslim friends and family during the next year, and for guidance on how I can be a positive force in the community. (Suggestions are welcome!!!)

What do you think about the happenings in the world during this Ramadan? What is our responsibility as Muslims in all this? How do you think we can shift the negative perception?

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