My heart sank and my eyes filled with tears last night on the underground when Ahmed told me that tomorrow is not Ramadan anymore. They sighted the moon in Saudi Arabia, so Sunday evening was the start of the Eid celebration. Sure, it's meant to be a time of gladness, but I found that I was not the only one sad to reach the end of Ramadan. Several of my friends replying to my Eid Mubarak texts saying that they were crying for the end of Ramadan, as well. This is a reaction that I was not expecting. Usually when people are fasting they eagerly await the end of their suffering. For example, many count down the days of Lent, eager to live normally again.
But Ramadan is a season in which the Muslim has the privilege of being even more constantly reminded of their religious identity, their membership in a global religious community, the importance of obedience to Allah, however absurd it seems to abstain from food and drink in the daylight hours, and eat and drink at night when the rest of the world is sleeping. Ramadan is a time of rewards and graciousness. We're rewarded for fasting. We're rewarded for praying. The breath of one who is fasting is like musk to Allah, we learn. We read and memorize the Quran intentionally, and with gladness.
I did not expect Ramadan to have such a profound impact on me. I did not know how happy Ramadan would make me. I've been quite lonely this summer, with no friends in my immediate proximity. Sure, there are folks to chat with at work, and there's the odd phone call. This summer I've wandered open fields to pass the hours after work.
|The Beauty of My Own Solitude|
Ramadan breathed life and purpose into my solitude. This was my first time fasting Ramadan, and the first time that I read the entire Quran. My friend Mahram told me that when you finish reading the entire Quran, you should pray afterwards, and whatever you pray will be answered. I prayed about marriage. I've observed several Muslim families over the past few years. I like to see Muslim husbands helping their wives with the home and children. I like to see how they provide for their families. I like to see how Muslim husbands go far out of their way to support their wives in their studies, educational goals, and careers. I like to see how Muslim parents raise their children seriously and with constant reference to the ethics and morals established in Islam. I wish for marriage and family and a good future.
I'm looking forward to Ramadan next year. I feel that I want to be Muslim, and maybe I already am. At least, I'm more Muslim than anything else. I'm afraid that if I say I am, I won't be able to live up to the commitment. I'm afraid that I won't be able to face my family, and family friends. I'm afraid that I won't be accepted if I want to wear hijab. I do want to, and try to when no one is looking.
I attended Taraweeh prayers at the University on Sunday evening, and by chance ended up in the front row of the congregational prayers. I learned later on that there's a reward for that too. When listening to the recitation of the Quran, I felt moved emotionally, moved to tears. It was beautiful. The recitation of the Quran truly does sound like a miraculous, divine message, something like a gift. I felt welcome, just as much a part of the congregation as the folks beside me who have been praying since they were children, Muslims from birth.
I've experienced a wide variety of religious communities throughout my life. In the Church of God, I was probably grafted in much more easily because I am white and middle class. When I was with Mennonites, I often felt the cultural rift between us. Although I deeply admired the peace church tradition, hymn sings, intentional communities, and potlucks, a Greek American non-cultural Mennonite could not so easily feel welcome, despite all of the hospitable efforts that were made. In the Greek Orthodox church communities I encountered I was not quite Greek enough. But to any Muslim, black, white, Asian, Arab, European - I can be just as Muslim as they are. I am welcome, all are welcome.