By Jannah As-Sabil
The alarm on my Nokia went off. I turned over and glanced at the clock: 4:15am. Time for Suhur. I dragged myself out of bed so that I wouldn’t drop off back to sleep. With blurry eyes, I put on my dressing gown and made my way downstairs, being careful not to trip over in my half-asleep state. Trying to prepare Suhur as quietly as I could so as not to disturb my sleeping family, I put some bread in the toaster and (quietly hmm…) bashed around a bit, making myself a hot chocolate. I sat on the sofa, consuming food and drink in the 10 minutes before the Athan for Fajr went. Unfortunately I tended to leave Suhur quite late, which meant rushing around trying to eat in time. Yet there I was, actually doing Ramadan!
At the time I was 16, going on 17, having been a Muslimah for about 6 months. As the time of Ramadan approached, I experienced mixed feelings; excitement mixed with slight apprehension and worry. Would I be able to complete my fast? How close would I become to Allah (swt)? Would my family make discouraging comments about me fasting?
I knew Ramadan would mean a lot to me, especially as I was a “baby” Muslimah with a lot to learn and this exciting month to experience. I was enthusiastic about making the most of Ramadan, having listened to some lectures beforehand (about the purpose of Ramadan etc.) and having devised my “Suhur plan” ready to put into action. It meant a lot to me knowing that I was going to be fasting with millions of my brothers and sisters, getting a taste of the “Ummah feeling.”
As one of the five pillars of Islam, it was great to think that I was going to carry out one of the most important duties by fasting, pleasing my Creator and becoming a better Muslimah. After all, He was the One who had guided me to my first Ramadan, so should I not offer Him thanks? By doing that which pleased Allah (swt,) I aimed to increase my Islamic knowledge and become closer to Him throughout the blessed month.
This is the low-down of my first Ramadan…
It was one thing waking up, but another thing actually getting up! The hardest part was trying not to immediately go back to sleep, although I did have the motivation of food! I didn’t want to miss out on Suhur. Although waking up proved sometimes difficult, a Sister rang me up daily to check I hadn’t crawled back into bed and fallen asleep.
I’d tried a “taster” fast at the end of summer, which was pretty hard for my first fast (as sunset was mega late.) Ramadan was a bit later so it was easier to fast, but my body was still not used to abstaining from food, and my stomach tended to complain rather a lot (especially around class mates who were stuffing their faces!) At times, I felt a bit dizzy and weak, but Allah (swt) made it progressively easier for me. The problem I had was returning to the normal pattern of eating after ‘Eid, as I tended not to feel hungry at meal times. But I’m sure that this is something that will become familiar to me in future Ramadans Insha’allah.
Although I felt weak during the fast, I gained amazing strength from my daily prayers Alhamdulillah, as I appreciated how Allah (swt) alone sustained me daily.
Fasting was one way to get out of a basketball lesson…or two…or three…ok, ok, four. In fact, I think once I’d missed four, the teacher forgot I was in her class, so I didn’t have to turn up again! Score!
When I refused snacks at school (unlike my usual self) and didn’t drink at all, typical comments included “You’re gonna faint with no water all day”, “A whole MONTH?!”, “I don’t see why you have to fast, loads of Muslims don’t”, “When can you eat, man?!” Despite my rumbling stomach, I attempted to explain Ramadan to my inquisitive class mates as best as I could.
I know how hard it is to get out of a bad habit. Whether it’s listening to rap, swearing or backbiting, it’s hard to suddenly turn off the mp3 player and control your tongue. I read the Hadith: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah (swt) is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” [Bukhari] I knew with Allah’s (swt) will and help then I could succeed and maintain good deeds after Ramadan too, avoiding such bad habits. But in the school environment, class mates constantly engaged in Haram conversation (sometimes just to annoy me) and with the radio blaring, it was hard to always walk away without someone commenting: “Does your religion allow anything?”
Alhamdulillah my Mum sometimes prepared something for me to break my fast with. Other times I had to get something myself, generally chocolate, as I was too lazy to cook anything. Obviously my eating timetable was quite different than that of my family, so I often just broke my fast in the kitchen before going to pray. There was generally no huge selection of food for Iftar, which I’ve heard some Muslim mothers prepare for their families everyday throughout the whole month!
One of the highlights of breaking my fast was making Du’aa just before, and praying Maghrib afterwards. This made me feel a sense of peace and closeness to Allah (swt) as I prostrated to Him, knowing that I had successfully completed my fast for His sake. Every time I drank or ate something, I remembered how it was Allah (swt) who provided me with it, and how I should constantly be grateful to Him.
One of my aims of Ramadan was to successfully be able to recite Qur’an by ‘Eid. I could not learn all of Tajweed; however, I did make steady steps towards reciting the Qur’an. I read the English translation of the Qur’an daily Alhamdulillah and this made my connection to Allah (swt) stronger. I took it to college and generally read it in my free lessons (when I wasn’t getting distracted by class mates), or later in the evening if I didn’t have lots of college work. But Fajr is also one of the best times to concentrate, even though there may be a strong temptation to leap back into bed.
In September, my knowledge of the Qur’an was still very limited, and I had only memorised a few short Surahs. Therefore praying Taraweeh was somewhat difficult, as I still couldn’t fluently recite the Qur’an, and reading from the English Translation was not an option… as I didn’t know I could read my prayer in English until about half way through Ramadan, which was slightly too late. So my Taraweeh was kinda short. Going to the Masjid wasn’t really possible because it was too late to go alone, and surprisingly enough, my Dad didn’t fancy being my “Taraweeh Taxi.” However, I enjoyed standing up at night praying to Allah (swt,) as it brought peace to my heart, although once having completed as many Rakats as I could, I was ready to fall asleep immediately. I would have preferred to have someone to pray with me, but I knew that Allah (swt) was with me all the time.
I knew that the last 10 days of Ramadan held the greatest opportunity for forgiveness from Allah (swt.) It was my chance to once again be clean, sinless. I constantly thought of Allah’s (swt) mercy and this special night in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh.) I prayed quite a few Rakats every night, but didn’t have the strength in faith to stand up all night, which made me feel disappointed. I hope that Allah (swt) accepted my prayer and forgave me in that special night Insha’allah.
Alhamdulillah I was lucky enough to celebrate ‘Eid twice… Partaaay! I went to my local Islamic Centre for prayer and chilled the rest of the day, and then I flew to the USA. Because ‘Eid was celebrated a day later there, I visited a Masjid and prayed there, celebrating with someone I knew in the USA.
All in all, in my first Ramadan I experienced highs and lows, benefits and worries...
In Ramadan, the Ummah seemed to come together and unite as one, which unfortunately is sometimes quite rare to see. As I was fasting with millions of others, there was a real sense of community, and the Hadith of the Prophet regarding the Ummah being like one body seemed to come alive.
Generally my family had previously accepted that I would be fasting. My dad and sister blatantly thought I was off my trolley. My mum was more sympathetic, worried that I was going to lose weight, and constantly advising me to eat a great feast at 4a.m!
In Ramadan I took more time out to think of those who had (and still have) less than me. I loved fasting and experiencing hunger and thirst as millions do around the globe every day, because it made me feel in touch with my suffering brothers and sisters, even though they may have been thousands of miles away.
At times I felt lonely and sad that my family weren’t Muslim, and therefore at home I felt a bit isolated, especially when breaking my fast. I constantly wished that Allah (swt) would open their hearts in the blessed month so that they could know the beauty of Islam and fast with me.
Living in a predominantly non-Muslim area (and most Muslims who are here are not practising), I was kinda on my own, but I was contacted by sisters occasionally Alhamdulillah. Through Da’wah videos on the net, however, I did always have someone to support me, offer me advice or help me, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil Alhamdulillah.
A German sister I know very well regularly recorded videos for me and took pictures throughout Ramadan, with messages from her and her children, in order to make me feel part of her family and the bigger family of Islam Masha’allah.
For me, my first Ramadan was a special month full of new experiences. Regarding preparation for the upcoming Ramadan, I want to create an Islamic plan with daily activities such as learning Tajweed rules, the Arabic language and the Seerah, memorising the Qur’an, performing Tahajjud (night prayer,) making more Du’aa and listening to lectures. Prior to Ramadan, I will try and forgive everyone who has wronged me, so that my heart may be pure so I can focus on the worship of Allah (swt.) Fasting as much as I can in the month of Sha’ban is also one of my aims, after having read the following Hadith: Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle (pbuh) used to fast till one would say that he would never stop fasting, and he would abandon fasting till one would say that he would never fast. I never saw Allah's Apostle (pbuh) fasting for a whole month except the month of Ramadan, and did not see him fasting in any month more than in the month of Sha'ban. [Bukhari and Muslim]
Alhamdulillah this year I will be able to recite Qur’an in Taraweeh for longer. I will do my best to pray Tahajjud more, by making sure I go to bed early (easier said than done!) In order to concentrate on my faith and worship at home, I will try and use my free lessons at college to do my work. By having a set plan, as previously mentioned, I will be able to learn more and analyse myself. I will do my best to give more Da’wah to my family, as I feel this is an important duty for every Muslim.
Allah’s (swt) Mercy in this upcoming month is a great gift to us as believers, so we should strive to improve ourselves in the Deen, in order to prepare ourselves for the Akhirah. This Ramadan I hope to achieve a stronger connection to Allah (swt,) by avoiding anything which is Haram, and practising the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh,) as well as the Fard actions. I want to make the most of my time by seeking Allah’s (swt) forgiveness and performing more good deeds, which I aim to keep up after Ramadan. I hope to progress further on my journey through Islam Insha’allah, in order to renew and strengthen my faith so that I can walk on the path to Jannah.