Muslim Girl in America

I'm an American girl, born and raised, and a Muslim.

What does Ramadan mean to you?

on June 30, 2014

Another year, another Ramadan. It is, by far, my favorite month of the year.

The first day (or first few days) of fasting can be the most difficult. Your body is adjusting to a new sleeping and eating schedule, and your mind is adjusting to a more intense prayer schedule (at least mine is, as I add additional prayers throughout the day). Sunday was my first day of fasting for Ramadan this year, and I found myself having to adjust to something else: relaxing.

I typically work three jobs, but for Ramadan I cut back on my hours for two of them. So it came to be that yesterday I found myself in the middle of the day without any work. Oh, there were house chores to be done and there was certainly work I could do, but I took the day off. And so I spent the day in prayer and relaxation between prayers. It was a very lovely sort of vacation.

Of course, today, Monday, I’m back at work (as are most) and back to the daily grind (I can already feel Ramadan Brain taking over). But taking a break from all the craziness and hectic pace of daily life really helped me to focus on the month ahead, what it means, and what I hope to accomplish for the month (besides fasting). And I’d like to know what Ramadan means to you.

 

Ramadan Week 1 – What does Ramadan mean to you?

For the first week of Ramadan, let’s consider what Ramadan means to us, in a spiritual sense. I recently met someone who said they only fasted because they were supposed to, not because they felt any great spiritual or other need to do so. They didn’t feel that connection to God. Is this you? Do you feel like this?

I certainly did. Many years ago, Ramadan felt like an obligation, not as something more as it does to me now. When you’re a teenager and busy with school and life and hormones, you don’t always think about the meanings behind your actions (remember those days?). So, this year, while your body and life is adjusting to a new schedule this week, take some time to think about the following:

  • Why do you fast? To fulfill an obligation? Or for something deeper?
  • What do you feel mentally when you pray? Do you feel as though you’re just going through the motions? Or do you feel something more?
  • Do you feel upset that you have to fast? Or do you feel excited or hopeful (along with exhausted) at the idea of fasting?

Personally, I feel that, in today’s modern world, we too often just do things without understanding our motivations for doing so. We’re so busy, busy, busy, and we just want to mark things off our to-do list. In regards to Ramadan, if you’re fasting only because you’re expected to, then think about those expectations. Whose expectations are they? Are they your family’s? Or, deep down, are they really yours? Are you spending long hours at the taraweeh prayers in the evenings because others think you should? Or are you doing it for yourself?

Do you wish you were consistent with prayers and felt that deeper connection that others feel with God? In addition to thinking about what Ramadan means to you, think about what being Muslim means to you. Being Muslim means, at least to me, being kind, hard-working, devoted, charitable, and more. Despite what other adjectives ignorant people may use to define Muslims, remember that only you can define yourself and what you think and feel.

Take the time in this first week for some introspection. If the questions above are too much to contemplate just yet, then start thinking about actions in your daily life. Think about situations at work. For example, think about a time you had the opportunity to do something good or help someone and didn’t do anything – why? Or, conversely, think about a time you had an opportunity to do something bad. How did you handle it? Why did you make the decision you did, one way or the other?

Every day, we are faced with a million little decisions. Make a left at the light and get stuck in traffic, or make a right and possibly avoid it. Do I stop and get a coffee in the morning? Or do I drink it at home and spend a few more moments with my family? Do I start studying for my exam now or later? Do I stop at the store today or another day? Think about why you make even the little decisions each day.

For example, consider the traffic situation I just mentioned. Going one way you avoid traffic, going another you get stuck in it. But, are you avoiding traffic because you’re excited to get to work? Or do you need to get to work because you have a horrible boss and you don’t want them to be upset with you? Conversely, if you made a left and got stuck in traffic, why? Did you want some time to yourself (and why can’t you make this time anywhere else in your day)? Or do you only know one way to get to work and are scared to learn a new way? There are other scenarios here, too, of course, but those are a start.

You can see how any reasoning behind a decision can be illuminating about you, your fears, and your personality. And, just to be clear, I’m not saying you should stop before every decision and analyze it. You’d never get anything done if you did. In my experience, just understanding some of your motivations can help you in the future to live a fuller, more confident life. It certainly helped me.

After a month of reflection and introspection, I have had some revelations about myself. I learned the root cause of my decision-making, or the reason why I make any kind of decision. And, knowing that, I have not only felt more confident but I have become more confident in my decisions and less unsure of myself on the whole. And I have also felt a deeper spiritual connection because I’ve realized that I pray because I believe, not because others expect me to.

I love to hear from my followers; please let me know how your first week goes. I’ll be posting new thoughts and things to focus upon for each week (inshAllah) so please visit again if you have a chance. You can also follow my blog (see the “Follow” button in the top left of the page) to stay up-to-date and receive notices of new posts.

May all of us have a blessed Ramadan. Ameen.

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