We’ve reached the halfway point in Ramadan, and I thought it was good to have a check in. Last night at iftar, my 17-year-old mentioned that this wasn’t a very good Ramadan for her because she wasn’t hitting her goals like last year. And I feel her sentiment very keenly.
Even before the month started, I knew this was going to be a half-in/half-out Ramadan, in that we’re still in a global COVID-19 pandemic, with many masajid closed, others operating at limited capacity and still others just doing whatever they’ve done along. Vaccine rollout is ongoing, and some of us are vaccinated, half-vaccinated or perhaps not at all. And I don’t know how your communities roll, but there has been socializing and parties happening for months in my teenage children’s friend groups as well as ours, as we’ve continued to shelter-in-place and take the parameters and restrictions of this pandemic very seriously.
That’s made for a confluence of weird Ramadan emotions. Whereas last year the unifying conditions of Ramadan in the U.S. was a (pretty much) complete closure and shut down of mosques, tarawih
and Jummah prayers
and community iftar events coupled with an influx of online programming (including Jummah khutbahs
, or sermons, qiyams
, or night prayers and such), this year we are all doing a lot of different things – half in/half out.
There is something to be said for a “regular Ramadan,” where everyone is doing the regular Ramadan activities (along with the usual Ramadan challenges and stressors) and the one we had last year where nearly all of us experienced a rare Ramadan at home – and benefited from it. My own family had one of our best Ramadan's last year spent in each other’s company. With the kids’ schools converted to virtual (and running at a 25 percent capacity, if that), their fasting was made easier by being able to sleep in. They had a lot more time to read their Quran without managing it against their school work and classes. And, we just spent a lot of time together.
Though my kids are still virtual this year, school is running at full capacity. So they have to be online at a proper time in the morning, with full classes and homework, especially the end of year testing and AP exams coming up. That makes for the regular challenges of sleep deprivation and time management, which obviously they don’t handle that well. But that’s ok.
For our family, and I’d dare say many others, this Ramadan has come after a year of hardships and challenges, illness, loss and deaths. It seems to me, anecdotally, that most everyone I know has either had COVID, knows someone fairly close who has had COVID or experienced a death in their immediate or extended family or friend group from COVID.
Our family hails from India, which is experiencing the worst wave of COVID
as I write this. It is a nightmare across the country there. Many family and friend messaging groups or WhatsApp groups like mine are blowing up daily with messages beseeching prayers for someone’s recovery from COVID or saying inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon
because someone has died from COVID. Every morning I wake up with the privilege of dreading to open my WhatsApp and hear what is happening abroad. Because I’m only reading and reacting to the messages, not living the scariness over there.
It is intense. It is overwhelming. It is sorrow-filled. Last year was the fear of the unknown. This year is tragedy upon tragedy. Heartache on heartache. Maybe this isn’t your experience, and if it isn’t, I’m so very, very happy for you. But it is for a lot of us or has been for the past several months.
As I write this, I’m sitting on my sun porch looking at the sunshine and new spring leaves on the trees in my backyard. My mother-in-law had COVID last summer in India, and it has been a rough road to recovery. She is here with us, and we could not be more grateful that we are all together. Others are not so lucky. My husband and I still are employed, we have our home, we are able to pay the bills, and we are ok. Alhamdulillah for all that. So much Alhamdulillah.
This Ramadan is a real mood and a vibe that I can’t properly put into words. There’s an unsettling, an uncomfortableness about it that we, at least I, need to feel. If you are a believer, then you know that life was never meant to be anything but a test. And, sometimes we need to immerse ourselves in the uncomfortableness to lay ourselves bare to Allah (S), to beseech Him for mercy and forgiveness.
We’re halfway through Ramadan my friends. There is so much more opportunity in front of us to reach out to Allah (S), to pray for whatever it is you want, to read just a few lines daily from the Quran if that’s what you can manage, to sit on your prayer mat after you’ve done your fard salah and reach out to Him. To engage in any type of charity (or caring for others) that you can manage. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to follow the goals list you wrote or the journal you’ve mapped out. It’s just your heart speaking to Him.
That’s where I’m at.