Ramadan Diaries 2021
Personal Reflections on Days 1-14
The holy month of Ramadan started on the eve of Monday April 12, 2021. Some Muslims observed the first day of Ramadan on Tuesday and some on Wednesday. Why the discrepancy? Ramadan follows the Islamic lunar calendar. The advent of a new moon means the beginning of a new month. Some Muslims believe that the moon should be looked at visibly in the sky while others believe that technology is sufficient to let them know when the lunar month has started. Regardless of this difference, Muslims are encouraged to follow their local Mosque. Growing up, I thought this was a nuisance. Why can’t we all unite and celebrate starting on the same day? Now, I have grown to appreciate it. It shows there are so many varying opinions and it helps us respect and appreciate each other’s difference of opinion.
Ramadan is a month of unity and just like how there’s an appreciation of difference of opinion of when it starts, there are so many different ways it is observed across the world. There are some similarities that bind us together. It is believed that the Quran, the word of God, was revealed in the month of Ramadan and so Muslims try their best to re-establish and go deeper with their personal relationship with the Quran. It is believed that Satan and the devils are chained in this blessed month. The doors of heaven are wide open and the doors of hell are closed. You know that character who whispers in your ear to commit wrongdoings? He’s gone for the month, so if you end up committing something evil, it’s all on you. That’s not to say that you are scot free in all the other months.
It’s an opportunity to cut back on the excessive in the physical realm and dive deeper into the spiritual.
I’ll be sharing my brief reflections for the month of Ramadan that has passed so far.
Day 1: Started in excitement. Drank too much water before sunrise and ate too much thinking it will help me last long. This resulted in me running to the bathroom every half hour till noon. Had caffeine withdrawal symptoms. The last hour before sunset was brutal. My husband and I prepared some simple food together and broke the fast at sunset. I was hesitant to eat more than I could manage because I didn’t want my body to go into a food shock.
Day 2: Prayed for help and a better fasting day. Ate and drank like a reasonable human before sunrise. No headaches and less trips to the bathroom. Helped kids with homework and kids helped me make a lavish feast for breaking the fast, which consisted of: Pakora (potato fritters), Spring rolls, Fruit Salad, Chicken club sandwiches, rice and lentils. If you think that’s a lot of food, you are right. I ate too much and then regretted it. I read a note from school informing me that my daughter Rania might have been exposed to strep, since someone in her class had it. I think I may have read the note out loud and said a few things like, “Oh I hope Rania doesn’t get it.” Rookie Mom move.
Day 3: Woke up and ate moderately. The day was going well till Rania informed me her throat and ears hurt. I dropped off Rihab to school and notified the school nurse about Rania. She got a day off and I tried to set up an appointment with the Doctor. Meanwhile, I panicked and started thinking of ways to not have the strep make rounds in the household. Went to the Doctor and Rania’s covid and strep throat results were negative. Thank God! This made me wonder if she pulled a fast one on me because she was extremely happy the whole day. Picked up Rihab from school and came back home. Ordered food for breaking the fast because I was beat and just wanted to rest. Rania later revealed that she did indeed pull a fast one on me because she wanted to spend a day with me.
Day 4: The first Friday of Ramadan. Friday is a holy day of the week and Ramadan is a holy month. It’s two jackpots in one. I made sure to read Quran. I noticed that my body had finally started adjusting to the rhythm of waking up early and having breakfast. Not having food and water throughout the day. Breaking fast at sunset. I noticed a slight energy peak throughout the day and finally falling in line the rhythms of my body adjusting to the fast. After I broke my fast, I got my period, which meant that I’d be excused from fasting for the next couple of days.
Day 5: Not fasting. I thought that since I had such a nice routine going, I should lay off the caffeine and not eat as much as I usually do. I ended up making a wonderful feast for the family since I didn’t have to fast or pray. The family really appreciated it.
Day 6: I was feeling sort of irritated because even though I’m not fasting, I somehow self-imposed fasting rules upon me. Everyone started expecting lavish meals at iftar and I followed suit. I told my husband that I’d like to run away and get a hotel somewhere to be alone by myself. When I shared this with a few friends, they told me about cultures around the world in which when the women are menstruating, they leave the family and go off to live in a house with other menstruating women. I was intrigued. I need that break.
Day 7: I noticed that I became even more tired than when I was fasting. Since, I was still not eating lunch or getting my usual amounts of caffeine, I was annoyed. Making food at iftar time and cleaning up after made me more annoyed. I felt like I just went really far from the spirit of Ramadan by concentrating on the lavish meals that my family will break fast with. I wasn’t honoring my body’s need to eat and rest like I would on a non-fasting day.
Day 8: I decided not to get up for the sunrise meal and asked my husband to prepare food himself. If God gave me a break, I’ll take it. I drank lots of water through out the day and also got my caffeine in. Why let my body going through menstruation suffer if I’m not meant to fast during this time? I rejoiced in being on a regular schedule and supported Shakil with fasting by making him a simple iftari to break fast with.
Day 9: I continued with my non fasting days and took care of myself. I kept iftari simple for the day and took this opportunity to catch up on chores and errands that I might not have energy for once I start fasting.
Day 10: According to my usual cycle, I knew this would be the last day for my periods, so I’d have to start fasting again tomorrow. Regardless of that, I drank water and just mentally prepared to go back to fasting.
Day 11: Got up and fasted with Shakil. We ate just the right amount instead of stocking ourselves up. From day 1, I learned that stocking myself up only leads to emptying myself out just as fast. I read the Quran right after the morning prayer. I read it out loud, which I never usually do. It felt so soothing. The day went on smoothly. I felt a slight headache towards the end. After I broke my fast, I felt at ease. After breaking my fast, I realized I still have my period, which was very strange. I felt very disappointed as if the day would not count.
Day 12: Did not fast this day as I was still trying to wait out my period. I made haleem, which is a meat and lentil stew that takes about 3 hours to make. During this time, Shakil took the girls out and I was able to have some alone time for myself, which was very much appreciated. Shakil broke the fast with haleem and we all enjoyed time together as a family.
Day 13: I was not able to wake up for the pre-dawn meal. I realized that my periods were over and that I had to keep the fast. I was a bit scared for not having had my pre-dawn meal. I decided to make the intention and take it easy for the day to let my body fast. This meant that I didn’t do any sort of writing work or any work in the kitchen. It was raining the whole day, which also helped me to rest. I got a nap in and rested. Shakil had plans of iftaari with a friend, so I thought that I’ll just eat leftovers. To my surprise, one of my neighbors sent over a whole five course meal for iftaari. It was a special moment for me as I realized the overflowing love of Allah. I was just going to have leftovers, but Allah inspired my neighbor to share their iftaari with me. I thanked the neighbors and ate moderately when it was time to break my fast. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I read Quran with my daughters and it was fun to listen to each other recite. We kept the portions small up to 10 verses. The focus is on small and consistent reading, so that we can build a relationship and some memories of huddling together to hear each other recite.
Day 14: Shakil and I were able to wake up for the pre-dawn meal and I was gifted with Shakil making the meal. We ate and prayed. I was not able to recite as much Quran as I had liked. I got the kids ready for school and caught up on my writing work. It was a wonderful day to get some writing done. I was in some sort of flow. When I felt tired, I took a nap that hit the sweet spot. I woke up refreshed. The rest of the day went smooth. I warmed up leftovers for the iftaari, which helped me to concentrate on worshipping and praying more.
As I gaze up at the sky and find a bright full moon, I know that it’s the midway point of Ramadan. Some reflections at the midpoint of Ramadan are:
- Take it in stride and don’t stock up on food. The body will not cooperate. You can never stock up enough. Simply prepare in a moderate way and then go about your day trusting that it will work out.
- Be in tune with your body. If your body needs rest, then give it some rest. Don’t push through. You’ll crash later.
- If you have been given a break from fasting (whether the reason may be illness, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding or traveling) then take the break and don’t try to place strict rules upon yourself.
- Focus on making small long-term incremental shifts in spirituality rather than starting up something new and trying to gobble it all up in one go. It most likely will not last.