We’re most of the way through the last 10 days of Ramadan, the most blessed days of the most blessed month of the Islamic year. I didn’t fast this Ramadan. I haven’t fasted since the third year of grad school when I no longer had enough classes to fill my need for social interaction. During that year I made it a habit to work from cafes so that I would remember that other people exist. Ramadan became a month of depressing isolation that my mental health could not bear and so I stopped fasting. To this day, fasting continues to remain emotionally isolating and so I continue to not engage.
Being a Muslim for whom Islam is very important makes not fasting during Ramadan a difficult time. If you’ve been following us at MMW you know how some of our writers have struggled, for various reasons. However, unlike years past when I would feel guilty and, consequently, depressed for not fasting, this year I decided to do things differently. This year I refused to feel guilty. Instead, I decided I would engage with my faith and enhance my spirituality in other ways.
And I was successful, sort of. I didn’t feel guilty. That worked out well. Perhaps it was because I had limited contact with Muslims this month so I wasn’t that conscious of my non-fasting status. I rarely go to any mosques as I find them unfriendly toward women and I don’t have many Muslim friends who live close enough that I can see them on a daily, or even weekly, basis. Or perhaps it was because I am becoming more comfortable in my own Muslimness, in my own practice, and not needing the approval of others to feel like a good Muslim. Either way, I am quite happy the guilt wasn’t present this month.
However, I didn’t engage with my faith or enhance my spirituality as much as I wanted. I didn’t pray every single prayer, I didn’t read books on Islam, I didn’t listen to Qur’an recitations, and I didn’t reflect deeply on what being a Muslim means to me. And all that has left me feeling unsatisfied, disappointed in myself, and in desperate need to fit in as much spirituality as I can in these last 10 days of Ramadan.
This past month was busy. Work was busy, my personal life was busy, and then a few side projects filled up the rest of the time. I tried to fit in spiritual reading but it didn’t happen. You see, I’m an academic and although I was able to get rid of my Ramadan guilt, I can never escape my academic guilt that plagues me when I read for pleasure or personal growth. Now, in these last days, a sense of urgency has taken over me, almost as if I am trying to catch up in a race in which I long ago fell behind. But this race is not with others; it is with my own spiritual hopes and expectations.
There are things many Muslims do in the last 10 days of Ramadan. There are few lists of suggestions floating around the internet with great suggestions, but many of them (e.g., going for taraweeh, sitting in itikaf) are just not feasible for me, or for many Muslims. So I decided to come up with my own plan for the last 10 days and nights.
Here’s my plan:
Say more duas
I have a wonderful Dhikr and Dua app in my phone. I have been accessing it during Ramadan, but I’m going to increase its use in these last 10 days, and nights. I find so much comfort in the remembrance of God. Of course this will include reciting Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee. (Say: O Allah, You are pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon me.)
Ok, so I’m actually not bad at this in my daily life. I’ve grown up with God central to my life that it’s hard not to keep Them there. But, I will continue to do so in a variety of ways. From a silly “Really, God?” when things don’t go my way to the old aunti “Ya Allah” as my knees crackle when I walk up the stairs, I will remember God more.
Pray for Others
This is also something I always do. I can’t pray for myself without praying for others. It feels REALLY selfish and unfulfilling.
Read an Islamic book
Specifically, I will continue reading The First Muslim by Lesley Hazelton. This is such a beautiful read telling the story of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in such intimate detail. This book describes clearly why the Prophet is so beloved by Muslims. It also shows just how important social justice was to him. As someone for whom social justice is important, it made me feel such a connection to our Prophet I have literally cried reading it.
Connect with friends and family
I’m an introvert so talking on the phone can be anxiety-provoking for me. I desperately want to connect with people I love, and can just hope and pray they know how much I care for them, but I still believe I need to make a better effort to express my love and admiration for them. I will call, text, and acknowledge in other ways those who are important to me and my happiness.
For some reason I’ve really become lazy when it comes to salat. I am always in awe of those who do their five daily prayers. In these last ten days I will aim to do more salat. I may not do all five everyday, but I will do more than I usually do and work my way up.
Vow to Maintain this Plan Year-Long
Finally, I will continue to do all this year-round.
So that’s my plan for the last few days of this holy month. I will aim to fulfil the plan but will also not feel guilty if I miss something. Ultimately, this Ramadan I have learned that my faith remains important to my life and my identity. Regardless of whether or not I fast, or whether or not I am able to fulfill my plan for these last few days, I can come out of this month knowing I will have achieved the spiritual renewal I needed.