I had an entirely different post prepared for the first day of Ramadan. Honestly I wrote it about a week ago and had it scheduled and ready to go live so I didn't have to worry about writing a blog post during the first day of fasting. But then something happened. Everything I was feeling going into this Ramadan completely changed. Truly in a flash it changed. So I decided to scrap it and start fresh.
This will be my fifth Ramadan that I am celebrating. My first Ramadan started before I became Muslim. I had been doing a lot of reading about Islam and asking a lot of questions and learning about the religion. For me, the thought of fasting for a month was incredibly daunting. So I treated it as a test. I felt that if I could handle fasting, I could handle anything else. I spend the first two days fasting and found that I was handling it fairly well.
"And on the third day..."
Okay but seriously then on the third day of Ramadan, I said my shahada and "officially" converted to Islam.
However, the rest of that month was pretty much spent alone. I would start my fast alone and end my fast alone. Day after day it was spent alone. But what I really struggled with was that I really didn't know what I was doing. I had no idea how to pray salah, I didn't have any Muslim friends, and I found myself feeling incredibly alone.
When I learned that the "stay at home" order for Wisconsin would include Ramadan, I got very upset. A lot has changed for me since that first Ramadan. I have made so many Muslim friends and have a community that I usually celebrate with. We have big gatherings with lots of food and great company. So having this taken away made me think back to that first Ramadan when I felt totally and completely alone.
Over the past few weeks, I would try to do what I could to get myself excited for Ramadan and think of things to help make it special. In fact one of those things was starting this blog. I thought that maybe if I had an outlet to reflect on the month, it would make it more special for me. I spent a good portion of last weekend completely cleaning out a lot of the things that I had hanging around my apartment that I no longer needed and putting up the few Ramadan decorations I had. It lifted my spirits a little, but not very much. I was still weary about what would be in store this month.
Earlier today, I remembered a conversation that took place a few years back. A good friend of mine was talking about Ramadan and the way that she prefers to spend the month. While most people are excited for the big iftars with loads of food and people, she prefers to spend the month at home alone. She reminded all of us that this month is meant to be spent worshiping God and connecting with God and our religion.
In that moment, suddenly my perspective about this month changed. Rather than feeling weary and lonely, I wondered if this "stay at home" order was really God redirecting our focus back to the true purpose of Ramadan. And from there I became inspired and excited. I know how to pray salah, I have resources to continue to learn and grow as a Muslim and I have this beautiful community of Muslims around me to encourage one another. I'm also very lucky to have non-Muslim friends and family and coworkers that ask me about Ramadan and fasting and what my plans are and how things are going to keep the spirit of the month going.
Ramadan began today at sunset and at that moment, I began to cry. But not because I was sad. I began to cry because I was happy and hopeful and excited for the month to come. I had been so worried for weeks now that I didn't think I would be able to enjoy myself during this Ramadan and didn't think I'd ever get excited. But I'm grateful to have found inspiration for this year. I'm beyond excited to see what this month will bring me. I pray that it brings so many blessings to everyone and we all enjoy ourselves through this month.
Ramadan Mubarak everyone!