feeling myself because it is not my day to make iftar

Ok I am going to try not to cry on this one lol. Here we go.

When I was younger, my brother and I had a tradition. Well, I call it a tradition; he probably doesn’t. Right before iftar, we would go up in his room to listen to the radio. We would patiently wait the end of the day so we could finally eat. We would break our fast with a date, then we would pray, and then we would have dinner. I never did this with my sister though. Just my brother.

Now that he is gone (not dead, just married), I keep the tradition alive. I set up the table, take a date and go upstairs in my room. And I pray. I take the time to talk to God because it is a quiet time. A soft time. A peaceful time. And the first thing I ask God is not protection or guidance or love. No. It is forgiveness. Forgiveness for that I am too attracted to this world. I am. And I wish I wasn’t. 

Islam tells me to live my life as a traveller, as this world isn’t real but the hereafter is. Don’t get too attached, I tell myself. But I can’t. Don’t lose yourself. But I do. And I feel bad about this. 

Islam is the most important to me. The most. Nothing in this world matters to me more than God. Which is why I could never fall in love with a non-muslim guy. Because I would hate myself if I didn’t live this spiritual journey with someone who wants to be as close to God as I do. Because this is what love is to me. I need to love for the sake of God. And that is all that should matter to me. 

I am truly in love with Sana. Because she is me. I am her. I relate so much to what she is living as a teenager because I wasn’t so sure of myself either when Iwas one. I wasn’t as close to God as I wanted to be. I chose to be friends with girls that didn’t respect my faith because I didn’t think I was valuable. I always had to justify my actions. “You’re too algerian” “you’re too french” “you’re not muslim enough” “you could be more beautiful if you wanted to” “a woman has to know how to cook” “this shirt is too short” “aren’t you hot with that hijab on?” “but it’s so sad you will never know what alcohol tastes like, here, have a sip, come on, just a little one” “you don’t know what you’re missing; dating is amazing” “Girl! this guy likes you, you should go out with him even though you don’t like him, you won’t find another good muslim guy like this one!” and so on.

When you’re 17, you’re in construction. Everything you hear has an impact on you. And this is tough. This is tough to know who you are and what you want when so many people tell you what to do. Which is why I left. Which is why I saw myself in Sana. Which is why her story matters. So thank you Julie. Thank you Iman. You managed to give us all the love and the fears and the tears Sana was feeling. We were feeling them. Being in someone’s perspective makes you this someone, which is why this show is magical, which is why I am going to miss Skam.

To end this, I am truly and honestly in love with Yousana. Perhaps the little girl living inside me needed to see that kind of love though I would have loved to see a muslim guy and a muslim girl falling in love. I know why my decision wouldn’t have been as difficult as Sana’s. But I also understand her. And it feels like Yousef isn’t coming back and as much as I want him to be there for this one final week (*tears*), I would understand why he wouldn’t. 

For the ones interested by this text, thank you for reading my emotions out. I needed to write. May God protect you and your loved ones. Enjoy this life as much as you can and don’t forget to spread love.(Yes, I cried writing this)

Ramadan 2017: Days 1-3

Day 1

Two days ago was the first day of Ramadan; I fasted from dawn until dusk. For Muslims like myself, Ramadan is a time of spiritual enlightenment. It’s about learning self-discipline and renewing our connection with our faith. It is also an extremely social occasion. Muslims are encouraged to mend broken ties, visit family and relatives, invite guests to share the iftar (meal in which we break our fast) experience.

I studied Islam for about 6 years before I became Muslim, so this is not my first Ramadan. In the past, I participated in parts of Ramadan, but never fully. This year, though, is my very first Ramadan as a Muslim. The fasting during the day wasn’t the hard part; it was iftar that was really difficult for me. In fact, it was a very lonely experience.

My family isn’t Muslim, so I feel like I can’t really share Ramadan with them. What’s worse is that I felt forgotten by other born-Muslims.

I went to a Masjid (mosque) here in Wisconsin that I’ve never attended before. Although I was a acquainted with some of the people there, I felt extremely left out. I would say hi to everyone and they would enthusiastically and warmly say hello back, but after that, everyone seemed to keep to their own cultural groups. I was left to sit at a table, eating alone for most of the evening.

In addition, it was chaotic and loud. I could understand what anyone was saying because there were so many people talking at once. Being deaf at a local gathering can be an isolating experience in itself. But it was also the first fast-breaking evening of Ramadan. I was in such emotional pain. I actually went and hid in my car in the parking lot. I sat there, alone in the dark, and I cried.

I cried especially because I would be moving to California soon. I fear that I will have a similar experience there, especially because I don’t know the area. And I have connected with one of the Muslims sisters there online, but besides that, I will not know anyone. I cried that night because I have waited to long for this Ramadan, and it ended up being such an isolating experience.

I texted J, the Egyptian-American man in California that I am interested in. I wasn’t sure if I felt 100% comfortable enough to cry on the phone and tell him what happened, but I did want to talk. I thought maybe he could make me feel better. Sadly, he didn’t answer when I called.

I left the Masjid and went home before the midnight prayer and I saw a message in my Facebook inbox from the sister in California that I met online. Her name is Ameera. She asked me how the first day of Ramadan was and I literally began crying some more. But this time, I was crying from relief. Someone actually remembered me and asked me how I was doing!? I was in awe. I explained to her what happened and she was upset about my experience. She promised me that in California it would be different and that she would make sure of it.

I spent a full hour that night crying and praying; I made dua (supplication/personal prayer) so many times. I called out to Allah and asked him to remove the pain in my heart. I asked him not to be angry at the sisters who made me feel left out because I know that was not their intention. I asked Allah to bless all my sisters and brothers during Ramadan. I asked that Allah help me during this difficult time. I also asked Allah to help me draw closer to J and get to know him better. I asked Allah to help me seek out my other half and find true love. And then for the rest of my dua, I spent a half hour thanking Allah for His many blessings. There is so much that I ought to be grateful for.

Day 2

The next day, while fasting, Ameera messaged me and said that my story last night bothered her and she wanted to invite me to a sisters Facebook group. All Muslim women in the Bay Area of California, almost all of the women are from Egypt. She invited me to join. I wrote a post introducing myself. The response I got was so overwhelming. Everyone was welcoming me, saying I should come over and spend time with their family, they were inviting me to events, someone actually offered to pick me up from the airport when my flight came in, I had offers to show me around my new town. I was told that I was invited to all gatherings and all iftar meals.

And then on top of the comments in that closed Facebook group, at least 50 of the sisters from that group sent me a personal friend request and personalized messaged of welcome. They all can’t wait for me to come to California. And many of them gave me their phone number and address. They told me to let them know if I need anything. The last thing they want me to feel is as if I am alone.

For those of you who don’t know me very well, I cry about everything. I cry during solidarity moments in movies, I cry when I am happy, I cry when I am sad, and I sometimes laugh so hard that I start crying. So when all of these Egyptian sisters were welcoming me into their homes and into their hearts, I couldn’t stop myself from crying tears of gratitude.

For iftar that night, I joined two of my best friends for iftar. One of the sisters recently was married. The other sister flew out for her wedding Friday and was headed back Monday (today). Nikki, Arooj, myself, and Nikki’s new husband Zaland broke the fast together (iftar) with some middle Eastern food, dates, water, pizza, ice cream, and Chinese food.

After the iftar, I talked to J on the phone; I told him a little about what happened the night before at the Masjid, but I didn’t tell him that I had cried. J told me not to worry. He said that he is sure that I will find my place in California even though he will be 6 hours away. I told him about the group of Egyptian sisters. I told him how excited I was to be learning more Egyptian Arabic, how to cook Egyptian food, and learn more about the Egyptian culture. He said that made his heart very happy. Talking to him just makes me really happy.

I went home the second night of Ramadan with a happy and grateful heart.

Day 3

Today was the most difficult day of fasting I have ever experienced and it was because I accidentally missed suhoor, which is the pre-dawn meal that we eat to help sustain ourselves throughout the day of fasting. I overslept and missed my meal, so I had to do without. In 5 days, I move to California, so I had to start packing. It was so difficult to pack and get everything ready; I was so tired and hungry. My head was throbbing and I had absolutely no energy or desire to physically move around. I was also really, really crabby about everything.

I broke the fast alone tonight with water, dates, almond milk, chili, sushi, and sorbet. Then, I watched some Netflix and did yoga and meditation.

Today was a challenging test, but I prevailed. Allah strengthens those who turn to him.

The rest of the evening, I think I am going to study the 99 names of Allah. I feel so happy and inspired.

I still can’t believe that I move to California in 5 days!

6 things you shouldn't say to someone fasting for Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims around the world fast from dawn to sunset. I have been fasting during the month of Ramadan every year since I was about eight-years-old and the experience has been changing for me in many ways, teaching me a lot about discipline, and what it means to be less fortunate.

As I’ve grown up, The Islamic calendar is based on cycles of the lunar phases, meaning that the days during Ramadan have beengetting longer over the years. Something that has stayed the same however, is the common reaction that I often get from non-Muslim friends and colleagues. Here are six of them:

1. ‘So you don’t eat or drink anything at all for 30 days?!’

After dark: dinner is served at a London mosque

You really think that’s what I’m doing? I am pretty sure I would die if I tried that.

2. 'Is it ok to eat in front of you?’

A Pakistani Muslim man arranges Iftar food for Muslim devotees

Of course it is. One of the main principles of fasting is discipline and I would prefer if you just spent your day normally and didn’t worry about me. I can handle some crisps being eaten near me but I think everyone else here hates you because they stink.

3. 'Why do you do it to yourself? Isn’t it bad for you?’

Cold drinks are prepared for the breaking of the fast during Ramadan celebrations in Surabaya, Indonesia

Why do you have to talk about it so negatively? I’m not punishing myself and this isn’t a burden. Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims that a lot of us look forward to. There are certainly times when it can be difficult but it only lasts a month and it reminds us how people less fortunate than us have to live.

Fasting is only considered obligatory for adults that can fast. You don’t have to fast if you have any health issues that could be affected. We may be losing a few meals every day but the aim is to change our entire lifestyle positively allowing us to feel that we are gaining a lot spiritually throughout the month. You should try it!

4. 'Must be a great way to get in shape!’

Indian workers dry vermicelli, used to make a traditional sweet dish popular during the fasting month of Ramadan, in Allahabad

Yes, there is plenty of evidence around to support the many health benefits of fasting, including improving brain function, improving your immune system, normalising insulin sensitivity, helping to cure addiction and helping weight loss. We also eat a lot of dates during this month which are very good for you.

However, we tend to cancel a lot of this out because as soon as the sun begins to set and we hear the call to prayer begin, we are likely to eat as many delicious fried foods as possible and continue to snack at every possible opportunity until the following sunrise. That may just be my routine though.

5. 'Eat some of this, no one will know’

Muslim faithfuls eat dinner at Assalam Mosque on June 28, 2014 in Nantes, western France, on the eve the first day of Ramadan (credit: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/ Getty)

You have completely missed the point. Please, get away from me.

Ramadan is not just about avoiding food or drink. We use the month to learn self-discipline, try to become spiritually stronger, Appreciate God’s gifts to us and how fortunate we are, Reflect on the value of charity and generosity and give thanks for the Quran which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan.

6. 'You must be really hungry!’

I was doing fine until you mentioned it, thanks.

If you know someone fasting during Ramadan, please, just act normal. If you still find the entire concept too difficult to comprehend, remember that it only lasts about a month and at the end we get to celebrate Eid al- Fitr. This is like Christmas but much better, so really don’t worry: we’ve got this.