This is Day 22 of Altmuslim’s #30Days30Writers series for Ramadan 2015.
By Key Ballah
This Ramadan has been an eye opener for me. It is becoming so apparent to me how important it is to have at least one person in your corner during this blessed month.
The past four Ramadans I’ve spent surrounded by non-Muslims, and as a product I was often left full of guilt and regret. It is true that we are the gate keepers to our own selves, that we are responsible for every action and inaction, and what’s more is that we are also responsible for who and what we let influence us. To be honest, I think we often underestimate that power of influence.
Over the past few years I have had grandiose plans for Ramadan, expectations to change myself in leaps and bounds, to surface on the other side refined and spiritually full, ready for the world until (Insha’Allah) I see Ramadan again.
My lists always included:
- No Music
- No Movies/ No TV
- Reading the Quran entirely
- Reading three Islamically themed books.
- Taraweeh every night
- Night Prayer every night
- No Cussing
- Praying All of the Sunnahs
- One complete hour of dhikr everyday
All of this, on top of my job, school and writing, with no significant change in surroundings, friends or self. Each time I would start Ramadan off at a sprint and would be barely holding on by Eid.
At the end I would feel guilty and unfulfilled, praying for the next Ramadan so that I could rectify this one. And, that is how I began playing catch up with my Ramadans.
I wanted Ramadan to change me, as so many of us do. As Muslims, we hear stories of people’s lives doing complete 180’s during his beautiful month, and we fantasize about having that experience.
It rarely happens the way we planned, and we are always left with guilt and dissatisfaction. We are often heavy handed with ourselves.
What I learned this Ramadan has changed my life and my Ramadan experience tenfold.
This year I got married (Alhamdulillah), the day before Ramadan. So, this Ramadan I had a buddy. Living in a world where our friends and family can be both Muslim and non-Muslim, living in homes where we are disconnected from one another and come together often only for Iftar, or for some Muslims (especially converts) not even having anyone to break fast with at all — Ramadan can be a very solitary time.
I found over the past few years that in that solitude is where I often fell off. In my boredom, in my sadness, in my loneliness, I would revert back to things that would make me feel those things less, things that I had told myself I wouldn’t do.
Without a friend/partner going to Tarweed or the masjid at all during Ramadan can feel very isolating.
But having someone there this year made a world of a difference. When a non-Muslim friend would call and invite me for midday smoothies or present me with two tickets that she won to my favorite hip hop band performing in my favorite park in the city, I no longer only had an obligation to myself and to Allah, but there was someone else who I had to consider. That made it easier for me to say no.
I had someone to check in with throughout the day, someone to break fast with, someone to go to Jumaah with, someone to make “deeny” plans with. There was someone who was there as my reminder. And, when things are difficult, being honest about it with someone you trust helps.
The other thing I didn’t do during this Ramadan was make an unattainable list of expectations for myself.
I picked two things and committed to them this month. I shared them with my Ramadan buddy/husband for accountability purposes and decided I was going to put my efforts into these and do them well, solely for the sake of Allah swt.
The years before I was using Ramadan as a way to refine myself. In all of the plans I had, I was doing them to better me, for me. The truth is Ramadan is something we do for Allah and Allah alone. We don’t fast to know how it feels to be poor, or come out on the other side face aglow with piety. We do it for Allah, and if by doing it for Allah we yield these products, then Alhamdulillah
But, we are doing all of this for Al Latif and Him alone. We are giving, starving, praying, reading, loving, asking, learning, trying for Allah. So overwhelming ourselves with expectations that we are unable to fulfill is not beneficial to us in anyway.
Ramadan is a journey with the self. My journey, my experience, my Ramadan is different than yours.
And that is something that I have to accept for myself. I cannot compare your successes to mine, and I cannot belittle my small successes, because nothing we do for Allah is small to Him. All of the things that we feel are so small and insignificant are loved by our creator, and that is what’s big.
So despite temptation from non-Muslim friends and pressure put on myself this Ramadan, having a partner and remembering that this month is for Allah has completely changed Ramadan for me.
Key Ballah is a Toronto-based writer and Hip Hop enthusiast. She is the author of the poetry collection, ‘Preparing My Daughter For Rain‘. She melts faith, love and her experiences of being a woman of color navigating the western world in her writing. She believes in empowering the brown girl to reclaim her selves and her body by connecting and healing collectively, over borders, oceans and time zones, through storytelling and poetry. She is currently working on a new project due out this fall.