“Ramadaning Across Three Continents”
By Sofia Chaudhry
Days 1 – 20
This year, I felt like a “regular” again. No longer nursing my toddler (let’s call him ‘A’), I was able to more fully participate in Ramadan (and by “regular,” I mean fasting, praying, going to the masjid almost daily, etc). But having no one else to watch A during the evenings (with his 8-10 pm bedtime) meant praying taraweeh/tahajjud at home, unlike my husband. At first, I felt “jipped.” Having grown up in upstate New York where the masjid was a community center and everyone went (including babies); it seemed like I was missing out. But as the nights went by I never felt more excited about waking up for qiyaam before Fajr at home. The night was mine – and it was the most peaceful I had felt in months. I could sleep for 3-4 hours after Ishaa, wake up and read Qur’an, pray Qiyaam, and eat at my leisure (instead of rushing 10 minutes before Fajr, as was my habit when praying late night taraweeh at the masjid), pray Fajr, read some more until Shurooq, and then sleep for a couple of more hours before A woke up. Although it wasn’t a particularly social Ramadan (yes, we had our regular play dates and an iftaar invite here and there), it was definitely one of the best Ramadans I had experienced and taraweeh/tahajjud at my own pace was one reason why. As my sister-in-law always says, even if it’s just two raka’aat before Fajr, do it, since we always have something to pray for. No one can do without the extra barakah in his/her life.
Another lesson I learned this year was about volunteering and how directly giving to those in need is a lot more profound than simply donating through a charity box (also commendable). I’ve always made du’a to be surrounded by God-fearing, inspirational friends, but this year, despite how “rich” most of them are compared to the average human being on Earth, a few encouraged me to volunteer with them. We gathered donations for widows and orphans, handed out gift bags to cancer patients, and donated money and food to the hungry. It was a reminder of how little we can do to brighten up a person’s day and how much we owe each other. And that there’s no reason to stop doing so outside of Ramadan.
We’ve been living in the Gulf for about four years now, and every Ramadan, I find myself missing home more and more. I didn’t get to frequent the masjids here as much this Ramadan, but I also didn’t experience the isolation of the women’s section, which (although nicely ornamented) is invariably a separate room or even building than the main prayer room, with no visualization of the imam or male side. But hey, at least it has air-conditioning and it’s not a dingy basement. And the Ramadan festivities and decor in every mall and super market always bring a smile to my face.
Day 21 – 23
This was a short business trip that we thought we could try fasting in. But no. May Allah (SWT) make it easy for you, northern European Muslims (2:30 am – 9:30 pm daylight)! We did, however, notice how much of a presence British Muslims have (both in the political and public spheres); we had no problem finding halal food, and most of our taxi drivers were well aware that Muslims were fasting. I even left my wallet at a store once, and a cashier literally ran half a kilometer to make sure I got it back (Mashallah, he ended up being a Muslim). My family and I had an amazing time, but were soon longing to fast and worship at the local masjids again, especially since the last 10 nights had begun!
Days 24 – 30
New York, USA
Back home to New York! The best part: having family around to have suhoor with and breaking fast with my beloved parents. I finally made it to my first taraweeh of the year at the masjid, and got to reunite with family and friends. And it brought home so many lessons: we may not have ornate masjids or Ramadan decorations in the mall in the U.S., but we have a community that we often “break our bread” with, laugh with, give salaams to, worship with. So many of my “aunties” and “uncles” are not actually relatives of mine, yet they saw me grow up in front of them. Their children were like my “cousins” and now I’m an “auntie” to many of their children (I literally met my husband at our hometown masjid). I was lucky enough to grow up in a relatively “progressive” masjid community that valued the voice of women and children, and we didn’t have to pray in a dingy basement or separate room. As a member of a minority group growing up Muslim in the West (and now living in the East), I now realize how much valuable that was, and how much it defines and influences me to this day. There will always be pros and cons to living anywhere, but I truly appreciate where I come from and where I live now. Alhamdulillah, for the journey and I pray we all grow closer to Allah (SWT) every day, no matter where we are or our circumstances.
Eid Mubarak and may Allah (SWT) accept from us and from you!