Ramadan 1432 AH : A Method to its ‘Madness’?
Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem,
Ramadan for me is made up of good days and ‘bad’ days, difficult moments, and soaring moments, spiritual moments and physical moments, awkward and funny and touching and heartbreaking moments (and sometimes all of the above).
One of the hardest moments for me this year was seeing my friend’s husband carry his father out of the Mosque here. The father has had Parkinson’s disease for years and has been slowly deteriorating, but recently it’s been very difficult to watch. The father, who was at one time a Dawah pillar of his community, is now extremely emaciated and fragile bone like. His body is bent over and constantly shaking and mentally he comes and goes. The son gently lifted him out of his wheelchair and helped move his father’s shaking feet patiently one by one down the cement stairs. It just brought home the fact to me that all our parents are older now and their time to leave will be soon.
I also had the chance to pray Taraweeh at my old childhood Mosque, which is actually a multi-million dollar center now. It’s quite a different experience from praying in a backroom of a converted house or borrowed gym! The building itself is beautiful with marble floors, double glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the woods. Inside the entire second floor is used for Taraweeh. Even the carpet is this beautiful deep rose color with sprigs of flowers. The whole area could probably fit 1 to 2,000 praying people. There’s no barrier between the men and women, just one of those bank line separator things and there’s still a lot of empty space because it’s so big! They have very organized babysitting services. The a/c and sound system is amazing and the recitor is a Morroccan Hafiz that has a very beautiful professional recitation. It almost feels like the Middle East because everything is just so well done. Praying there I could feel space and time roll back and remembered all the Duas I made in this same place as a teenager and as far back as I can remember! To be able to pray seeing our childhood dreams realized was definitely a soaring moment.
In a coincidence, a few days later at another Mosque I walked in and saw this little girl that looked exactly like an old childhood friend when we were little. The same as probably the day we met when we were like 5 years old. The likeness was so startling, it was again like flashing back in time. So strange how Allah reminds us of the happy times in our lives.
One of my more heartbreaking moments this Ramadan was when my baby nephew was really sick. His face was all flushed and he was listless and crying. (Alhamdulillah he’s much better now and back to his bouncy self!) but in that one moment I just realized how much pain mothers in countries like Somalia must be going through, to see their children sick and dying just because of hunger. And even to have to choose which of their children lives and which dies! How can we live in such a world where this goes on? It’s not right that we let such things go on when in it’s in our ability to at least make some kind of effort even if monetarily.
A touching experience for me was praying behind a boy in our community whose father is in jail. I still remember his little face and big eyes the days after the raid and Alhamdulillah with all the troubles he’s been through, we’ve always been worried he’d end up ‘messed up’. But there he was now 15 and looking like a ‘man’, reciting Surah Qaf (my favorite Surah!). It was really a moment that I wish his father could see and be proud of.
There were also some wonderful spiritual moments with Khutbahs and deep reminders by excellent Imams in this area. One Khateeb talked about the death of one righteous predecessor. Two people went to bury him, covered him and started to leave, and then they saw him praying in his grave! They were so astonished and went to ask his sister ‘what is special about him’ and she told them that he used to pray the night prayers every night for 40 years, and at the end he would ask Allah ‘If there is anyone to whom You allow an Ibadah after death, please allow me to pray to You in my grave’. And Allah granted his Dua, and made two witnesses to it so we could know about it!
One day after reading more bad news about something happening in the Ummah, I came across the Ayah: “If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns; that Allah may know those that believe and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses…Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (in His cause) and remained steadfast?” Sometimes the Quran just talks to you and gives you reassurances about what you’re thinking without you even asking!
From the more funny moments, as a single girl in the community inevitably I get the ‘Why aren’t you married? Don’t you want to get married? I have this nephew/uncle back home in eGypt, etc’ type questions. Sometimes I just want to move somewhere and go to a Mosque where no one knows anything about me! I can’t deny Ramadan also gets lonely as you get older and all your friends and siblings move away. I miss the days we used to have Iftar together or when my friends and I used to go to restaurants for Iftars or meet up for Taraweeh.
On one of the days I made the mistake of getting in the middle of a shouting match between two women about the kids in Taraweeh. One Egyptian tante was yelling the kids were making too much noise and should be with their parents. Then one of the African mothers started yelling back that they have to bring their kids and where were they supposed to put them! Alhamdulillah it didn’t get too ugly, unlike at Iftar time where unless there are strict rules in place the women would probably come to blows! I try to explain it away to myself by saying this is just their culture and they don’t know any better, but I mean it’s not! It hurts for me to see people treat the Mosque like a garbage dump, not teaching their kids any manners or etiquette at all, pushing their cultural back home mentality on others or being completely defiant about things even when they know it’s wrong. We should be working to change these things in our Mosques. If Mosques have to implement strict rules and Imams have to talk about basic etiquette every of the 30 days, so be it. If we can’t use this month to improve ourselves as people, and as an Ummah, then what really is the point?
At a Halaqah one day the Shaikh asked us about the Ayah: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” First, he pointed out that this is a personal responsibility for each of us, not a collective one. Then he asked what does “in themselves” mean? It means everything that is inside of us in our hearts: Inclinations, intentions, desires, feelings, objectives, plans, direction, attitudes, characteristics. We have to ask ourselves what we are inside, what we harbor and move our hearts forward towards Allah by attaining different characteristics that Allah loves – like moving from being angry to being calm; from being impatient to patient; from being miserly to being generous; from being vulgar to having Haya; from being greedy to being selfless; from feeling sovereignty to being humble; from being agitated to being composed. We should be adorning our hearts with these beautiful characteristics so that before we die we’ve attained a pool of characteristics that are “divine like” (because the Divine likes them), so we are worthy of being with the Divine. Is this not a true expression of the whole purpose of Ramadan?
Lastly, the scariest moments for me this Ramadan was post-the earthquake we had here. During the earthquake you’re just immobile, almost enthralled as realization dawns on you that this really is an earthquake. It’s actually fascinating how everything that is solid moves… the floor, the desk, the walls. For some seconds you’re just amazed, almost as if the matrix that holds our world together is blipping on the disk and the mirage of Dunya bends. Then it comes back together and is gone. That’s when you feel fear, of what could have been. That small shaking could easily have been huge shaking bringing down the entire house and everything in it like paper. They said 12 million people felt this quake. Definitely a reminder from Allah showing us that this Dunya is indeed illusory.
In the end, I think I realized that Ramadan isn’t meant to be easy for us. I think it can be a difficult month to kind of make us go through a trial by fire and come out cleansed at the end. It can almost be Hajj like in its intensity with all the Ramadan crowds, the annoyances, the screaming kids, the amount of work, the long days, the physical hardships of just being tired, hungry and thirsty. Sometimes it can be really lonely for single people, converts, or those without big families. We often have to deal with other wack Muslims, cultural ideas and even judgmental aunties!
I can understand why some people would want to just stay home, but I believe that they would be missing out on many of the blessings of the community and being together. Like when someone shares food with you or you help cleanup together or when everyone cries when Surah Rahman is read in Salah or you meet someone you haven’t seen in a long while or someone new. When you hear something that enlightens you spiritually or someone brings a whole bowl of jasmine flowers picked from her garden just for you because she thinks you’re sweet. (Yeah I raised my eyebrows too ;D) Despite all the problems in our world, we can pray to Allah side by side and say Ameen to a beautiful Dua at Witr together.
I think when we are patient and turn back to Allah in these turbulent times of riots and earthquakes, when we swallow our anger, or forgive, or do Ibadah even when we’re tired or hungry, each of us becomes a better person, closer to Allah and that, that is worth all the madness!!
May Allah bless you all. I ask Allah to reward everyone who went through some hardship, sadness or loneliness this Ramadan. May Allah grant respite to those suffering through drought in Africa, and those living under oppression in Shaam, Libya and Gaza, and those under enormous difficulties, individual and collective, in other places in the world. O Giver of refuge for those who seek refuge, Beloved of those who love, Hope of those who are cut off and the One who is with broken hearts; Ya Allah.
Rabbighfirlana, Taqabbal Minna wa Astajeeb Duaana.
P.S. Please, please make a Dua for me in one of these last few days of Ramadan left. I could really use them for the coming year ahead. Jazaks!