Muslim Girl in America

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

Ramadan Brain

Ramadan Brain is a real and true phenomenon. Ramadan Brain occurs each day during Ramadan, though the time of day varies from person to person. For me, Ramadan Brain typically occurs around 1-2pm.

A main characteristic of Ramadan Brain is memory loss. You find yourself inexplicably in a room and with no idea as to why you entered it. Despite the many calendar apps on your phone (and the physical paper backup you keep), you can recall nothing but the times to stop and start eating each day, and rely on your prayer calendar to remind you for the timings of other prayers.

Another characteristic of Ramadan Brain is clumsiness. Those who were clumsy before (such as myself) have a new and debilitating sense of clumsiness that strikes when we are at our weakest. Others, formerly graceful and gliding, find themselves tripping all the more.

There are other characteristics of Ramadan Brain – which ones do you exhibit?

But despite these characteristics, God gives you strength and focus for the day. He lifts you up when you fall, and guides you through this month of reflection, prayer, and penitence. May God give us all the strength and focus we need to become better citizens on this Earth, Ameen.

-M

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‘Twas the Night Before Ramadan

(Please note: This is a parody of a classic Christmas poem called ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I hope you enjoy it!)

‘Twas the night before Ramadan and all through the home,

The parents ran after the constantly ringing phone.

Everyone calling to confirm the Ramadan news

So that nary a fasting day they would lose.

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

Too young to fast and face aches of their heads.

The prayer times were hung in the kitchen with care,

Because to miss a prayer – why they wouldn’t dare!

 

Back in the kitchen there was such a clatter,

As Mom cooked and fried and kneaded atta* for later.

With only a few hours to sleep, everyone hurried their tasks,

For during a summer Ramadan, the night goes quickly past.

 

A new moon was visible to the naked eye,

Shadowed darkly in the night sky.

Our thoughts move quickly toward the month ahead,

And the path of reflection upon which we’ll soon be lead.

 

The father was gone to the masjid* and not in their sight,

As the Taraweeh* prayer began this night.

The older kids were playing a game,

When their Ami* called them by name.

 

“Come here bayti* and bayta*, it’s now time for bed;

“And no moaning or groaning should come from your heads!

“Ramadan will shortly be here,

“And you need to sleep now before morning draws too near.”

 

So up to the bedrooms, the children they flew,

To ready for bed and breakfast soon, too!

Too soon a light touch fell on the kids’ faces,

As their Ami woke them gently with kisses.

 

The kids got up and stretched as their Ami rushed off quick,

To stop the parathas* from burning, though the griddle was nonstick.

A summer fast was harder than most,

And their Ami knew that their hunger would not be satisfied with mere toast.

 

So there was also dahi* and unda* and daal*,

With tea and juice, so their blood sugar would not fall.

Dressed in pajamas, they stumbled down the stairs,

The kids looked like quite the pair.

 

Ami’s eyes – how they twinkled! Her demeanor so merry,

As she served the family parathas and poured them juice made of berries.

The kids mouths grew into a smile,

For fresh parathas made the waking early worthwhile.

 

The kids ate quickly, along with their Abu, too,

And Ami ate last, after feeding the rest of the brood.

The kids brushed teeth and drank extra water,

For they knew the day would only get hotter and hotter.

 

The parents drank coffee and tea, and saved water for last,

Filling their glasses a little too fast.

They all said a quick prayer to officially begin fasting that day,

And then prayed Fajr* and other prayers they did say.

 

An hour of quiet soon passed and the family rose once more,

They dressed and they showered, and did a few chores.

The parents to work, and the children to school,

To join in the evening and break fast , their willpower with them all day, through and through.

 

No eating or drinking, only abstaining these days,

To teach us restraint and purpose, and to correct the error of our ways.

The month has begun, let us be guided by the light,

Ramadan Mubarak to all, and to all a good night.

 

*Abu = Father.

*Ami = Mother.

*Atta = flour or dough.

*Bayta = Son.

*Bayti = Daughter.

*Daal = A dish made from lentils, pronounced “thaal”.

*Dahi = Yogurt, pronounced “thaay”.

*Fajr = Morning prayer in Islam; the first of five prayers of each day.

*Masjid = Mosque.

*Paratha = A type of homemade fried bread.

*Taraweeh prayer = A special prayer said after the last prayer of the day at the mosque during Ramadan, and which begins the night before the first day of the fasting.

*Unda = Egg.

 

 

 

 

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Here I Go Again …

Well, here we are again. Yet another sequel to the saga of my speed dating experiences. Someone once said that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Am I crazy for trying again? Am I crazy to stop trying to meet someone? I don’t know. I just want to meet someone. Someone who will be kind to me and my family, and understands the importance of religion and prayer in daily life. I also want (and maybe for a Muslim girl this is shooting for the moon) someone who adores me and who I adore as well. Sigh. Well, if nothing else, hopefully these experiences are at least providing some amusement for all my readers out there.  And giving me something to do on a weeknight.

So, after last time I ended up meeting with Mr. Linguistics and Mr. Similar. (I should mention that Mr. Judgmental and Mr. B.O. also contacted me but I chose not to meet with them.)

Mr. Linguistics and I actually had 3 or 4 phone conversations before we ended up meeting for coffee. I took this as a good sign – we talked easily, the conversation wasn’t forced, he was nice, and he seemed to be interested in me since he kept calling back. Our meeting went well … until he mentioned that he travels for 9 months out of the year for work and isn’t really interested in anything long-term. Why would he wait so long to tell me this? He never mentioned it in any of our previous conversations. After thinking about it later on, I began to think that maybe it’s me. All the guys I’ve met seem to come up with a reason not to keep seeing me after we meet – what I am doing wrong? As I’ve never “dated” before, I don’t know what the rules are. Even watching Friends or watching my real-life friends in their relationships hasn’t prepared me for this. Am I coming off as desperate? Needy? Un-attractive in some way? I just don’t know. I know I hate the games – why can’t we come out and say: “I’m at the place in my life where I want to get married and start a family” or “I’m not looking for anything long-term” right off the bat? Why do we dance around the issue? It’s so frustrating. Readers, any guidance would be most appreciated. Anyway, after that, he texted me to say he wasn’t interested in me.

Mr. Similar and I also met for coffee and had a nice chat. He’s younger than me and shorter, which I’ve found tends to turn guys away. Once Ramadan started a day or so after our meeting, we couldn’t meet up, but we still texted and checked in with each other.  Everything was okay – just okay. I suppose I was treating him as a sort of safety school – waiting to see if something else panned out first. I don’t think I was treating him meanly –was I? No, I don’t think so. Anyway, he ended up sending me an insanely long text where he tells me that he wants to live abroad and he’s still trying to find himself while getting over a break-up (with a woman he was seeing for 5 years but hadn’t married) and really just wants to be friends. Well (and I mean this with the best of intentions), best of luck to you, Mr. Similar – I hope you find what you’re looking for.

So here we are: Speed Dating IV.

So this one, just days after Eid (the holiday at the end of Ramadan), had a low turnout; there were only 5 guys there and even less women. So this one will be short and sweet. Well, short anyway.

Bachelor #1, Mr. Judgmental Returns … Yet again. So as I mentioned above, he did contact me after the last event. I pretended as if some clerical error had waylaid his message. I know, I know! I shouldn’t lie (particularly after my long rant about hating games above), and I should just be upfront and say I’m not interested. But I don’t want to be mean to anyone, so I just avoided the situation. (I should point out that I’m not usually an avoider and that I usually prefer to face personal issues head-on, but in this “dating” world where I’m such a newbie I still don’t know the right etiquette – any help here, readers?) Our conversation started out okay though. We talked about Ramadan and our hobbies and somehow he ended up mentioned the Fifty Shades series again; why does he keep mentioning it if he thinks it’s horrible? Methinks the man doth protest too much. Anyway, he ended by saying he would contact me again.

Bachelor #2, Mr. Moderate. The two of us ended up having an interesting chat about the differences between “liberal” and “moderate” Muslims and what it means to be a moderate Muslim these days. It was a great conversation – we both found we had similar beliefs about the definitions, and also about our definitions of marriage (i.e. that it’s the joining of two families not just two people). I’d definitely like to see him again.

Bachelor #3, Mr. Nervous Returns. I met him in the first event and also met him for coffee (see the second Speed Dating post for details on that. It was a bit awkward seeing him again, but we chatted amiably for our allotted time, until he decided politics was a good topic of conversation. I’m not even going to mention the topics we discussed (to avoid any political-ness coming through – this blog’s not really the place for most of that, I feel), but suffice it to say that I felt my decision not to see him again was the right one.

Bachelor #4, Mr. Unambitious. This guy was nice enough, but he mentioned quite a bit about how he hates his job (well, career, really) and how he’d love to get paid to watch cricket and movies all day. I ask him if he plans to go to school and study something else that he likes better. No, he says, he also hates school and never wants to go back. Not everybody is ambitious – I totally get that. If you’re happy where you are and with what you’re doing, that’s great. In DC, so many people are driven and ambitious that it can be odd to meet someone who’s not. But, if you’re so unhappy in your current situation, why wouldn’t you try to make your life better? Even if it meant more hard work ahead? I think it says something about how he approaches situations in life.

Bachelor #5, Mr. Big Family. This guy is the youngest of 6 brothers, two of which are twins and have had twins themselves. He’s a very nice guy and we have a great chat about a number of different things. Conversation flowed really easily and I can tell that he’s mature and well-educated. I wouldn’t mind seeing him again.

So that’s it for now, faithful readers. Please leave me advice or comments – I love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

-M

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Ramadan 101 – Meaning & Etiquette for Non-Muslims

It’s that time of year again – time for Ramadan. Ramadan is my favorite month of the year. It’s more than just a month of fasting, but is also a month of prayer, reflection, and giving back. The same sense of community and excitement people may feel for Christmas is the same feeling I get during Ramadan.

It’s hard for some non-Muslims to understand how to behave toward Muslims during this month. I’ll tell you how I prefer people treat me. But first, I want to give you some background on the Ramadan. I am in no way an expert on Islam, but here’s some basic information to help you understand the month.

One of the Five Pillars. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam (the others are a declaration of faith, praying 5 times a day, performing the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in your life, and being charitable or giving alms to the poor).

Timing. Ramadan itself is an Islamic month. The Islamic calendar differs from the standard Gregorian calendar in that it is based on lunar cycle. That means that the month and the holiday don’t fall on the same Gregorian calendar day each year. For example, Christmas is always on December 25th each year, but Eid-ul-Fitr (the holiday at the end of Ramadan) actually moves back about 10 or so days each year. Also, because it’s based on the phases of the moon, you never really know when Ramadan begins or ends until the evening before – you need to check and confirm the phase of the moon first.

Meaning. Why a month? Because we Muslims believe that the Quran, our holy book, was recited to the Prophet Muhammed by the Angel Gabriel in this month.  

Fasting. Our fasting days differ from fasting in other religions. We abstain from many things from sunrise to sundown – no eating, drinking, smoking, marital relations, etc. These days, because Ramadan is in the summer, the days are longer. Where I live, it’s about 16 hour fasting days. Yup, that’s 16 hours without food or water, but some countries have even longer days than that. I typically eat breakfast well before sunrise, and we all break fast at sunset. There are no set foods we have to eat or drink during this month, but most, if not all, Muslims tend to break fast by eating a date. Then there are the local cultural foods and beverages you may drink. In addition to dates, I love to eat pakoras (a mix of shredded & chopped vegetables mixed in a batter and deep-fried) and drink Rooh-Afza (a syrup made from roses that you either mix with water or milk and sometimes sugar).

Accidental eating. Yes, this does happen. I know I often taste food while I’m cooking it, and there have been instances where I have placed food in my mouth, remembered it was Ramadan, and spit it out quickly. In these instances, your fast is NOT broken. Intentional eating or drinking breaks a fast – and God knows which one you’ve done.

Negating fasts. Besides intentional eating or drinking, many things can negate your fast. Passing out or fainting (which, at that point, it’s not safe for you to continue fasting anyway) is one. Bleeding (and yes, that includes a female’s monthly visit from “Aunt Flo”) also negates the fast. I also try not to swear and you’re not supposed to get upset or lash out at others – in other words, you should keep your emotions and anger under control. That’s what Ramadan is about really – how to exercise control over your own life and actions. I know with all the violence occurring in parts of the world this Ramadan, it’s hard to believe that they’re fasting. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure killing another human being or ordering other humans to be killed negates a fast. Just saying.

Alternatives to fasting. Not everyone can fast. The elderly and women who are pregnant and nursing, for example, often have medication or needs that preclude them from fasting for so long each day (btw, you cannot swallow medicine either while fasting). In such an instance, you can give money for feed another person for the month of Ramadan. See what tips a fellow blogger has for nursing mothers.

Advice for Non-Muslims. As a non-Muslim, you may wonder about how you should behave around your Muslims friends or co-workers. It’s very simple: BE CONSIDERATE. That’s all. You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re eating and drinking during the day, but be considerate that someone nearby can do neither. So, if you’re having something awesome for lunch, don’t taunt them with it. It’s really that simple. And, if your Muslim friend sits down in the lunchroom with you, don’t worry about it. Obviously they knew what they were getting into, so you shouldn’t be afraid to eat your lunch – just don’t offer any to them. Truthfully, at least in my case, it’s not that I’m tempted by the food others are eating (I have long since learned to ignore my grumbling stomach during this month), but I DO mind when they shove food in front of me when I’ve already told them I was fasting. Truthfully, many non-Muslims just forget about Ramadan, even if you mention it to them, because the act of fasting in this manner is just not something they place in the front of their consciousness. Truthfully, that does hurt my feelings. Ramadan is a VERY important month for me – I do extra prayers, I get very little sleep, and my kidneys don’t thank me at the end of the month – but for me it is totally, completely, 100% worth it. As long as I am physically able, I plan to fast each Ramadan. And if you have told someone that something is important to you – Muslim or no – then they should be considerate of that.

Another piece of important advice I would give is: Never Assume, Just Ask. Most Muslims I know are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. I strongly dislike it when people assume things about me because of my religion. This stems from a traumatic 9th grade experience in Geography class, when, during a chapter on Islam, my teacher (*cough* Mrs. Tipton *cough*) decided to show Sally Field’s Not Without My Daughter to depict traditional Islamic home life. For those who don’t know, Sally marries an Iranian man who takes her to Iran, keeps her and their daughter there, beats her on a daily basis, and Sally spends the rest of the movie trying to smuggle her daughter out of the country. After the movie was over, I received many curious looks from my fellow classmates who thought I was beaten on a daily basis. WHICH I WAS NOT. It’s sad that such a situation does occur in the world, but it wasn’t my world. And for that matter, domestic abuse is not just an Islamic trait – unfortunately, that is one action that is not culturally or nationally restrictive. I also brought in a English version of the Quran for people to look at. Only about 2 or 3 people were “brave enough” to take a gander at it – they weren’t afraid of the unknown as so many others are; they faced it head on and wanted to learn more. I’m guessing those turned out to be the less racist bunch of my fellow classmates.

To sum up: I am always more than happy to answer questions. Now, it’s true that not all Muslims are like that, but just take a chance – you never know.

If you ever have any questions, please drop me a line or comment.

Thanks for reading!

-M

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