Every year, since I was little, I looked forward to Ramadan. Now that I look back, I can tell you I had no idea what Ramadan meant. I had no goals. I wasn't striving for anything, but to make it through fasting and eating. As I grew older, I learned more and more about Islam. It was like I was just coming into this religion that I had no idea about. Everything was so new to me. Everything I read, I never heard about before. I never read the Quran fully until I was done with university, until I came back home to an emptiness in my life. I felt like I learned Islam so late in life. Being born into Islam, I had to strive for it. I had to take that initial step to learn. The journey that I took to get to Islam is something I will never regret. It has taught me so much about what I truly believe. It has helped me have an open mind without any cultural influences. It helped me shaped who I am today.
Every Ramadan everyone always talks about and looks down upon "Ramadan Muslim" It really just brings a smile to my face because I know what it felt like to really go through being a "Ramadan Muslim" It's a feeling of being lost and in between places. Other than my family, I never grew up with Muslims. I lived so far from the Masjid. I would attend Sunday Islamic school, but it was not inviting. Sometimes I was the only student and my teacher didn't show up. It's this feeling of I want to do better but I have no idea what I'm doing. I felt more insecure with my own family about Islam than with any stranger in this world. Ramadan was a time for me to really practice Islam without hesitations. It allowed me to be free, to pray and to study. After Ramadan was over the insecurities took over. The emptiness. The loneliness. Islam was still there no matter how far away from Islam I got I knew I could always go back.
To hold on to the ropes of Allah it was like a thread. I always felt like Islam was apart of my life but it wasn't the forefront. I. It was always there but it's not practiced. I don't blame anyone, but myself for not striving for more. I knew growing up there was an emptiness that I didn't know how to fill. I tried to fill it with people. I tried to fill it with a career. I tried to fill it with just being busy. Nothing worked.
As I started studying about Islam. Reading and opening my heart, I began to find this Peace. I found that nothing else matter people, money, career. I found that no one really understood me because that was what everyone around me was striving for. I didn't want my life to be about that. I wanted more. I started becoming more closed in. Not depending on anyone but myself. I began to find this solitude. without distractions. I was able to be learn and grow individually. I developed this feeling of peace. Something I never felt before. I discovered it when everyone was gone and I had no connection with others. We were too different. I didn't feel like anyone understood me. So I pushed everyone away and I found the peace in Islam. I'm so thankful for my journey. My struggles. It really set me up to have Islam be absurd into my blood stream.
This year I've been alone during Ramadan. Not exactly by choice. My husband has been around for a few days. I haven't gone out for any iftars. Being alone with a toddler during most of Ramadan as taught me that only Allah can guide me and I only need Allah. To be fortunate enough to have this time to myself is a blessing. I have no accountability, I have to push myself now like I had push myself before to learn and grow. To strive to be better than who I was before Ramadan came in. To develop habits to use outside of Ramadan. Staying focus. The best time, I learned was in solitude. I feel like I have the same opportunity this year. I'm thankful for it. I appreciate the time. During Ramadan we feel like we need to go out and be with friend and family. Break iftar together. But really I always found that peace in the middle of the night by myself. Where I am able to reflect and be in my own mind. Where I can clearly think and reflect. It like a version of Itikaf*. When we feel alone from Ramadan, it could also be a blessing from Allah to help us grow. Giving us time that we need to be able to worship Allah, to study ourselves and rely only on Allah.
**Itikaf is performed during the last 10 days of Ramadan. It's a seclusion from the worldly life. Where we can focus on praying, studying, and seeking knowledge.
Hazrat Abu Huraira (RA) reports:
“Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) used to perform Itikaf for ten days every Ramadan, then when it was the year in which he was taken (died), he performed Itikaf for twenty days.”(Bukhari)
In the end of that day we are all Ramadan Muslim. If we have goals and giving ourselves time to change, to develop and improve ourselves. That's what Ramadan is for. To slow down and reset our priorities. Striving to better ourselves during Ramadan. To learn more and implement what we learn is the goal. Find that solitude and peace in yourself to push yourself forward. Don't allow set backs and insecurities to hold you back. Allah test you with the same thing over and over again until you get. Allah is patient and forgiving even when we are not to ourselves. Allah allows us to learn at our own pace and never leaves us. It is our own self that is so hard on ourselves that we feel unworthy. When we change that mindset and be comfortable in our shortcomings then we will be able to open our minds and expand ourselves to those around us. In the sense of continuing to seek knowledge, learn and grow makes us all Ramadan Muslims.