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.
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.
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!
On the mean streets of Seattle in the Sixth World, there are those who broker deals in the shadows and there are those who live their lives there.
Zaland (aka ‘Z’) is a street-smart, action-loving tough guy; just as competent with his trusty Colt American L36 as he is with his old-school KA-BAR. He’s a hard-wired, wise-cracking shadowrunner who shoots first and probably doesn’t even bother to ask any questions…as long as the credit chip doesn’t bounce.
Z is a pro, but he has been known to get a little distracted where lovely ladies are concerned…