I consider it a gift, almost a personal gift, that the moon was not sighted in Mecca on Friday, allowing Muslims to fast one more day of Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is usually 29 days in length, but this year extended to 30. The extra day gave me one more chance to pray, one more chance to fast and express my sincerity. The extra day was an opportunity to read the Quran for hours on Saturday - this month I've been so busy teaching and preparing Iftar at the masjid (mosque) on a daily basis, I remain two days behind on my goal to complete the Quran before Eid. It's probably shameful for me to admit that here, but such was my experience this Ramadan.
I loved the entire month of fasting and praying. Abstaining from food and water is not hard as some would suggest. Of course there's discipline involved, and even more, the mercy of Allah, who makes it easy for us. But for me the greatest challenge was the physical exhaustion due to a lack of sleep. Staying up late for Tarawih prayers and to rehydrate, on top of planning lessons to teach really took it out of me. Let's just say this is the first time I've ever fallen asleep while having my face threaded. To fall asleep during such an uncomfortable ordeal told me a lot about how tired I really am. Thankfully, the 30th day of Ramadan also made it possible for me to sleep until 10:00, which felt absolutely refreshing. What a gift from Allah subhana wa ta'ala.
It's hard to describe the heaviness I felt in my heart yesterday evening, and even in my physical body, as I soaked in the reality of Ramadan's end. Most Muslims will be celebrating with their families, while my family criticizes my fast and religion. I should at least say that I am grateful to Allah for allowing me to feel this month like I had a family. The beautiful traditional Pakistani dress of green and gold that I'm wearing this morning is evidence of how warmly I have been embraced this month.
I've taken a shower, dressed in my newest and best clothes, and eaten an odd number of dates. I'm ready for my first experience of communal Eid prayers. I thank Allah for this chance, and I'm going for the earliest of the prayers (7:30am), because I'm ever so grateful to be in a place this year where I am free and able to go to the mosque.