I'm writing to you on my Kindle as I continue my stay in America. Alhumdullilah for both the ability to be here and for the chance to write to all of you. How is your Ramadan going?
We tend to think of Ramadan as a lump-sum THING but really it's a series of events. Some days of Ramadan are very easy (don't tell the Non-Muslims) while others are very difficult. Recently, I had one of those difficult days and it made me reflect: what have been my hardest days of fasting?
First day of Ramadan, 2001
The First Fast is the Deepest
Actually, one of my hardest days was one of my first. I was a love sick single mom who missed her Muslim boyfriend (an oxymoron if there ever was one)
to the point of distraction. Although that man would be away from me, I decided that I could get clser to him if I fasted. I reasoned that knowing more about his faith and performing a ritual meaningful to him would help me to understand him (and another one billion people). I often had embraced cultural rituals and I had fasted before so I made that commitment within myself---the man I would later marry didn't know as we were incommunicado while he was back in Egypt. I didn' tell anyone except for a Muslim co-orker.
When he corrected my misconception of the fast I was about to start, I was dumb-founded. I had understood the no food part but...NO WATER?! With more trepidation than ever, I began my fast for many wrong reasons and with many wrong actions but I attempted it. Day One and Day Two went by easily as Ramadan was starting in November and the days werew short. I envisioned the whole month under my belt and me proudly welcoming home my honey with the news that I had fasted all of Ramadan.
Then that third day came. I was at work, it was getting dark but I still had work to do. I looked out the window and saw the new snow falling was starting to clog up rush hour. I reasoned that I didn't want to get caught up in it so I stayed late. Sure, I was hungry but I wanted to wait until I got home so I could cook that shrimp and pasta I'd been craving. I remember walking to the vending machine at one point and dismissing every possibility as nauseatingly over-processed junk food. If you've ever fasted then you know that your body and mind desire healthy food after a fast.
So I waited. I waited until rush hour was done. I drove home in the snow lstening to the radio play Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" I turned it up and began to sing along; then I began to bawl. I was suffering from low blood sugar but didn't realize it. I only knew that I was alone REALLY alone and nobody knew where I was and nobody cared.
Through the Grace of God, I made it home. I began cooking dinner. I started to not feel too well. I could feel a headache start to creep over me. I told myself that I would feel better once I ate. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and I couln't eat more than a few bites before the pounding migraine set in.
I crawled into bed. I was scared at how badly I felt and stupid that I had done it to myself. I hadn't realized the importance of breaking the fast on time. I literally cried myself to sleep all the while vowing that I would not fast again until I knew what I was doing.
That was 13 Ramadans ago for me. Needless to say, I stopped fasting to prove or improve my connection to a man. I also learned to make the fast the most important part of my day in order to plan around it (not add it in as an after thought). Now, I do respect that breaking of the fast on time and with a date first before eating anything else. What's more, I've come to understand that I'm simply not strong enough to fast---without Allah. Prayer during a fast gives so much strength. Really? Giving up food and water alone does not a Ramadan make.
On the plus side, I am proud of my innitiative to start the process. It was flawed for sure but it was an attempt I made towards understanding. I embrace that "me" who really strived alone in the Ramadan wilderness.
That glimpse into my past took longer than expected! The sun is already up. I'll have to get some sleep. I promise to come back and share more of those difficult fasting days.
First day of Ramadan, 2002
Being Alone Had Its Advantages
A day in November, 2004
A day in January, 2008
Making up Days
February 17, 2009
The Worst Day
Sixth day of Ramadan, 2009
First Day in Giza
First day of Ramadan, 2010
A day in Ramadan, 2011
Several days in Ramadan, 2012
After the Miscarriage
A day in Ramadan, 2014
Like many Ramadan fasting days, the story really begins the night before. I couldn't get the two of us tired transplants to sleep. We were staying with my mom; lying there on our air mattresses. We just couldn't close our eyes and drift off.
I did what I usually do, which is to use my mobile phone to play some Quran or quiet music. I decided on Quran (afterall, it was Ramadan). What I didn't realize is that the surahs would keep playing one after the other the whole night. I hadn't had a lot of batter power to begin with and it zapped what was left. That meant no alarm (and of course no azan).
I woke up at 5:00 AM which was time enough to pray fajr but well past the time for suhour. I couldn't believe my situation. Already, the fast was going to be a challenge but now it was verging on extreme. I would be fasting---not 16 hours but 23 hours. Subhanallah.
El-Kid wasn't going to do much better. Although I had him fasting only 12 hours each day, that was with a full meal in the morning. This would now be 14 hours for him.
I was worried my Non-Muslim mom would be very upset if she realized how much of a hardship this really was for me so I downplayed it. I did my stiff upper lip and persevered. I did what I usually do on really hard fasting days: I kept busy to keep my mind off of it.
Subhanallah, I believe I got more done that day than on days I'm fully fed. That's one of the miracles of Ramadan. You put yourself up to the challenge for Allah and God helps you through. It's all about intentions.
Physically, I was OK. I didn't get any severe headaches from this day. I remember my legs starting to cramp up. Certainly, I rested mid-day.
At the end of those 23 hours, I ate a lot of healthy food. Really, each healthy iftars made the next day go well. Viewing Ramadan by separate days isn't a true vision of the month because each is so connected to the previous day and the following day. It's part of a continuum.
Thankfully, I never had another long day like that during my visit to the States. I created a playlist for a medium-length surahs so the phone wouldn't run down my battery. I also made sure to keep my battery charged.
"Keeping my battery charged" is a good metaphor for Ramadan, isn't it?