Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Day of Ramadan

Ramadan came today for me and for you! Alhumdulillah! We are indeed blessed that Our Mighty God gave to us another chance to obtain blessings.

Today is special. It is the first step on a journey. The first step is always the hardest. Because I know that there are many who are experiencing Ramadan for the first time, and many traveling alone, I am going to share my first day of Ramadan with all of you.

I will be telling you of my activities today and be updating frequently so that you feel connected to me and to the rest of the ummah. It is my wish, inshahallah, that my sharing be of some help and encouragement to others.

3:00 AM I couldn't sleep. I went to bed at 11:00 PM, but lay there in bed. Rather than let my thoughts race, I made du'a for all Muslims in the world who were starting Ramadan today.

3:30 AM Got out of bed and prepared myself to pray. If you do wake in the night during Ramadan, go ahead and wash for prayer, then make at least two rakhas. You can pray as much as you wish, doing two rakhas at a time. If you finish your set or sets with one additional prayer it is even better.

3:36 AM My Prayer only took about six minutes. I held, in my hand during the prayer, a print-out of Surat An-Nasr, which I am in the process of memorizing. While I pray, I keep my focus on Allah, but open my eyes onto the paper when I forget the next word. I then close my eyes again and keep my focus. I open them again if I need to. I have found that, once you have the words memorized for the most part, you really have to start using them in prayer to make them stick.

I had my first glass of water in the day.

I then did my usual routine of reading from The Holy Quran. I started reading this Mohamed Asad translation weeks ago, in the hopes of finishing it by the end of Ramadan. It includes Tafsir so it's a little slow going. I am now in An-Nisa/The Women. I read until I cannot take in more. Some days, it's a little and other times a lot.

If you are wanting to go through the entire Quran during Ramadan, be realistic: put together a plan. See how many pages are in your Quran, then divide by 30. The answer you get is the number of pages you will have to read each day, in order to finish. This is harder in the beginning, when all the surahs are very long and take up full pages. It is easier later on, when one surah is only three lines.

4:00 AM Another glass of water. I ate. One goal I have, for Ramadan, is to remember to say, "Bismallah" for everything that passes my lips. There are times I am forgetful, astragferallah.

The day before I had made crepes, which are a really good suhour-- take three eggs, one cup milk (can even be the milk that's gone bad), one cup flour, salt, sugar and vanilla, mix and then pour into oiled frypan. I had two leftover, which I filled with sweet potato and brown sugar. I also grabbed a cheese stick and two chucks of beet. It really is best to cook a number of items ahead of time. I started soaking beans that I'll cook later on today, for use tomorrow. I drank another glass of water.

4:30 AM I started blogging, but kept my eyes two things: my intention to do good and the time. Everything I do this Ramadan has to be a positive action and everything has to keep within the prescribed time.

5:00 AM I stopped to brush my teeth. You cannot let ANYTHING go into your stomach during your fast. That means not only no food or water, but no vitamins, no medicine, no gum, and no breath fresheners. Can you brush your teeth? Scholars say that you can, as long as you don't swallow anything. If you're like me, then sometimes you do accidentally. Wouldn't it be awful to ruin your fast from a little toothpaste? I do not brush my teeth during my fasting. The Prophet Mohamed, pbuh, said

(that Almighty Allah has said) Every act of the son of Adam is for him; every good deed will receive tenfold except fasting. It is [exclusively] meant for me, and I [alone] will reward it. He abandons his food for My sake and abandons drinking for My sake and abandons his pleasure for My sake. When any one of you is fasting he should neither indulge in sex nor use obscene language. If anyone reviles him he should say, "I am fasting." The one who fasts has two [occasions] of joy: one when he breaks the fast and one on the day when he will meet his Lord. And the breath [of a fasting person] is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk.

So, for me...I'd rather care about Allah's perception of my breath than anyone else's.

I do however, recommend brushing AND flossing, then rinsing with something like baking soda or mouth wash. Here are some other tips on your breath during Ramadan.

5:26 AM I kept an eye on the time while I was typing. I snuck in another glass of water. That made three. The azan just went off on my clock. If you don't have an azan clock, I would really encourage you to purchase a high-quality one. I spent about $50 on mine and it is some of the best money I ever spent.

5:38 AM It's time for me to pray. Be careful not to delay the prayers. What I think about is how quick I am to break the fast and pray magrib. I think how I should be so eager to jump up and pray the other ones as timely as I do at twilight.

Once I'm done praying, I will head back to bed, inshahallah. I get to cuddle up next to my two-year-old. If you are sleeping with your spouse, be careful if you return to bed together. It is best to stay very separate; not even touching in anyway. It's a shame to break the fast by something so easily avoidable.

So, anything passing into your stomach breaks the fast, as does sexual activity, as well as something else: angry outbursts. As I leave you, please remember to keep calm in your day. If you feel frustration, turn to Allah for the strength. You simply won't have enough reserves to get through the day alone. You must ask Allah to help you in this The First Day of Ramadan.

6:30 AM I decided to send e-cards before heading to bed. I like the ones from this site. I sent them to everyone I love---even my dad, who is not Muslim.

I sent an e-card to a sister with whom I am estranged. Why? Because mending broken relationships at Ramadan has extra blessings. May Allah facilitate a meeting of the minds.

7:12 AM Got a call from my girl wishing me "Happy Ramadan". You can wish "Ramadan Mubarak" to say the same thing in Arabic. I prefer wishing, "Ramadan Kareem" which is hoping for the person fasting to feel strengthened, rather than happy. I was very happy, however, to get her sweet greeting.

7:45 Baby woke up! So, there goes my plan to return to bed. But the couch looks good... NOPE! I have a routine doctor's appointment scheduled. I think it's best to keep living a normal life during Ramadan. When you do that, rather than taking it easy, you are in better remembrance of those poor and starving, who cannot take it easy. When you feel the weakness, then not only make du'a for them, but send a little money their way. Ideally, you should take the money you are saving by not having lunch, and donate it to a charity.

11:30 AM Back from doctor's and a trip to Burger King. NO! I didn't break my fast this early on. :) I picked up a "hammer an byes" for the little guy at home. I honestly did worry if I would get a Somali employee ready to school me on Ramadan. Then, I started to think how hard it would be to have a job working around food while you were fasting; it's all there, but it is all off-limits. I also remembered my responsibility to show the best of Islam during Ramadan. Being in the drive-thru while in hejab is a little suspect. And YES the little paper sack smelled familiar, but it's best not to let your sense of pleasure start gaining hold over you.

By the way, I was supposed to get blood drawn this morning, but was informed that wasn't a good idea. I'm usually a little faint when blood is drawn, so to do it during fasting is asking to be out cold on the floor.

As for how I feel: alhumdulillah. I'm happy that I've gotten so much done today. That is one of the amazing parts of Ramadan; you do more on less. I am noticing, though, at this point in the day that I am tired and having less patience. I'm headed for a nap. Again, not everyone in the world has this luxury.

1:06 PM Had to be smart on a phone call. Found myself being slow and quiet, which is not at all like me. I had to use extra time to answer questions. I didn't get the jokes right away. Oh, and that hamburger? My little guy complained, "I don't like it," and won't chow it down like I thought he would. Meanwhile, I'm hungry, of course. I have been keeping busy cleaning and orgnanizing. Even though it is tiring to be active, it seems even more dangerous to sit and veg out. When you are busy, time flies and that's exactly what you want it to do while you are fasting. Almost time for duhr and NAP, inshahallah.

2:00 PM I had an IM from one friend and then later a phone call from another. They were both on lunch break from work. May Allah make it easy on them. The first had a very bad headache and that is typical, especially if you don't eat suhour. The second was doing alright but hungry. Some of our hunger is habitual, rather than actual.

2:30 PM I finally finished the portion of today's work: clearing out my closet. I decided to get rid of EVERYTHING in my closet. Everything needed to leave, really, to get me ready for this new chapter in life, starting today. So, no old clothes with old memories; they were all bagged up today and brought to the charity box. I could then do my prayer and take my rest.

4:00 PM When I awoke from a much-needed nap, I could look in my closet and see in amazement all that I got done. I went to check the computer and got IM'd by my friend in Egypt. May Allah bless her and her family. It is indeed uniting to be sharing best wishes for Ramadan. I had called family overseas yesterday and that global-family-feeling is so wonderfully welcome to me.

4:49 PM Time for asr prayer. My mind is clear again. My body is feeling hollow. I had gotten weighed at the doctor's: 167. I'm interested to find out what weight I end up at by Eid. It's funny, but overseas people actually gain weight in Ramadan! The iftar/breaking the fast meals are too extravagant and people pig out with two and three plates. Astragferallah. Not long now before I can break my fast.

My plan is to go to the masjid. I hope, inshahallah, to have enough energy to get me and the toddler there.

6:14 PM With about an hour to go until I leave for masjid, I'm feeling great, Subhanallah! Really, I'm so happily busy hanging up my new clothes that it totally takes my mind off the lack I feel. If I was sitting, I know I'd be thinking of my hunger. I do have beans in the pressure cooker right now and they are creating an odor in the house. I do have to fight the sensation to enjoy it. When my little guy woke from napping, I fixed food for him and it didn't bother me to see him eat. The only thing I thought about was whether or not the food was the right temperature. I have heard that Muslim women cooking are allowed to put the food in their mouth to check the flavor or the temperature IF they aren't doing it to enjoy and they spit it out afterward. For me, I'd rather not risk it.

7:00 PM I was calling my mom to double-check if she wanted to go to the iftar. I was just about to leave. Once I hung up and started out the door, but then remembered the diaper bag wasn't packed. And then I remembered the diapers were in the communal washer downstairs (so I had to grab them too). I was unable to multi-task very well. I was forgetting everything! That's when I thought, "Oh, ya! This is fasting!" You simply can't do it all. It really isn't a normal time.

7:15 PM I left home and headed west. Subhanallah! There was a gorgeous sunset. I was doing OK with the end of my fast. The back of my head was just starting to ache. With the food at the masjid's iftar, I was going to be alright.

7:31 PM It was time to break my fast, yet I hadn't brought a date or drink along with me. That was dumb. I have to do that if I'm driving to iftar next time. You MUST break your fast on time without delay. I kept thinking I was going to make it to the masjid soon, but the red lights were getting in my way. I received a nice message of "Ramadan Kareem. Happy iftar" and that made me smile.

7:45 PM There were no parking spots at the masjid. I parked down the street and walked in and up the stairs, now carrying the toddler. I was able to break the fast with a delicious date, alhumdulillah. It felt wonderful. The little guy ate the "candy" too. OK, I lied, but it's all in the marketing! I drank a little milk.

Then, I went to pray with my son in my arms. The woman's room in this particular masjid isn't safe for him to be on his own. I prayed the first rakha and was down on the carpet when I heard a voice next to me and a presence take my son from the floor. I felt peace. I prayed the other two rakhas with tears in my eyes. Alhumdulillah, the sisterhood in Islam is soooo wonderful. I could completely be with Allah in my prayers knowing that my son was taken care of. When I finished, I saw him sitting with a little old lady. It was this woman who had picked him up from the floor. I kissed her cheeks.

I talked with women I knew and looked for the food. There was no food. NO FOOD! Apparently, they had announced this somewhere, somehow, and we had all missed this information. All of us were hungry and tired and yet we had to leave and go to a different masjid nearby.

8:12 PM I arrive at the next masjid. FOOD! Alhumdulillah. More sisters I know and a place to sit and eat. Alhumdulillah. Rice, meat, vegetables and salad. I was so relieved.

One sister had suffered a lot trying to fast while breastfeeding. She had actually thought she was dying from a migraine during the day. I DO NOT recommend fasting while breastfeeding. Your baby's needs are more important than your own. You owe the baby his or her time. If you do not take in adequate liquid, you will dehydrate and lose your milk...which isn't really your belongs to your baby. Allah is merciful and would not want a baby to suffer needlessly.

My little guy got to run around at this masjid. He had so much fun. I could relax. Alhumdulillah, I'll be there tomorrow inshahallah.

I prayed isha and left.

10:00 PM I came home and ate that hamburger. Ate a popscicle and drank two glasses of water. I'll drink another before bed, inshahallah.

10:30 PM I'm going to pray a couple more rakhas before going to sleep. Alhumdulillah, it's been a great start to Ramadan; a fresh start. Thank you for sharing it with me.


Sara said...

Let's all inspire each other throughout Ramadan to do our best inshaa Allah...

I'll keep everyone posted too inshaa Allah :)

John & Anthea Mullis said...

Assalamu Alaikum Yosra

Thank you for making such an effort to involve those of us who are new to this.

May Allah bless you for your kindness.

Jazakallah Khair

Yosra said...

Ramadan Kareem Sara,

Wonderful to hear from you :)

It's a little hard for me to be fasting alone this year...until I remember that I'm not alone at all. I have one billion people with me! And, of course, I have Allah. :) Alhumdulillah.

I'll stop by and see what you're up to!

Wa Alaykom Asalam & Ramadan Kareem J&A,

I appreciate your thanks. Yes, I'm thinking of you and many others today that I know both personally and many others that don't know at all.

I truly wish you well---all of you.

Ramadan Kareem to Anyone & Everyone Who Reads but Doesn't Leave a Comment! :) I hope your day and your month goes well. May we leave this month feeling like it was well spent.

Mia said...

Excellent blog.. thank you for sharing.

I am not Muslim, and live in the United States, but after being in Egypt last year for Ramadan, I admire the strength and kindness of the people during that time and I knew I would participate in the fast this year. And I am! (although it was MUCH easier in Egypt since there wasn't so much food easily available during the day!) The renewal of spirit as well as the fasting is good for us all as far as I'm concerned.

Ramadan Kareem, thank you for sharing your day!

John & Anthea Mullis said...

Ramadan Kareem Yosra

Thanks again for so much background and information - you had a busy day! It helps make my Ramadan experience so much deeper.

I noticed when reading the Quran last night two references to the Holy Spirit ( Baqarah 11: 2:87 and 2:253) could you please tell my how Islam would understand the Holy Spirit?

There are several references to the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures, which I believe is simply understood as the abiding spirit or presence of God and in Christian theology is understood similarly (but also considered as part of the Trinity). Would be very interested in your thoughts.

Jazakallah Khair

Sara said...

It's true that Muslim women are allowed to taste their food on the tip of their tongues to check the salt, then they wash their mouth with water after spitting it out and it's completely Halal as stated by our Egypt's Azhar Al-Shareef...

But I dont risk it either.

Yosra said...

Asalamalaykom Mia,

So nice of you to stop by AND with such positive comments. Yay!

I do think that a lot of people who choose Islam do so after coming in contact with a Muslim community. Please keep coming back!

Asalamalaykom J&A,

This is a big question and I'm going to address it in a posting all its own.

Thanks for asking. It's so nice that you are sharing your journey with all of us.

Asalamalaykom Sara,

Thanks for adding that info! Ya, you'll have to pipe up when I need some back up. :)