Posted on May 21, 2020
By Deena Majeed
This Ramadan has been unlike any other Ramadan in our lives. I learned a lot about myself this past month – some things that surprised me.
When I first learned how this month would be different, like many Muslims around the world, I grieved for no tarawih at the masjid, no large iftar gatherings, no Eid prayer this year. However, I also tried to see what positive aspects could come of this month.
As a highly introverted person, I thought this could be my most productive Ramadan ever. No distractions, no rushing to clean and get dressed for the masjid after iftar. No need to get the kids to bed at an early time. Here’s four things I actually learned.
1. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I want to stay home all the time.
As an introvert, I constantly need daily “alone” time to recharge, refuel, and reflect. I thought that I would cope well with this year’s Ramadan. I could make all this time beneficial. And in the beginning, I was fine. I printed out a daily Ramadan planner. I wrote out a list of goals I wanted to complete for myself and my three children. I put together small Ramadan goodie bags for the kids.
But after a couple of weeks, around the midpoint of Ramadan, things started to feel stagnant. It was like I was living a version of Groundhog’s Day where I woke up to the same daily routine. The kids became restless and bored. I had to figure out ways to entertain them while fasting.
Usually, going to the masjid in the evening would be something we looked forward to, but now there was nowhere to go. I realized that while I did desire my alone time and moments of reflection, there was nothing highly stimulating during the day for me to “recharge” from.
Image source: BBC
2. What I missed this Ramadan.
In the past, I did not go to the masjid every night for tarawih, because it was difficult to go with my kids. However, when I did go, I felt a deep connection to everything around me: the recitation of the Quran, the sisters standing next to me in salah, the sound of the masjid afterwards brimming with noise and life.
Then there was the sweetness of Ramadan nights during large iftar gatherings. Serving the food for your loved ones, cleaning up together, sipping steaming hot tea with sweets afterwards. That feeling of lightness that you feel after you break your fast together.
When I first thought about Ramadan being an event of solitude this year, just my family and myself, part of me was relieved. No more family events that I had to attend every weekend. No more rushing to get the kids cleaned, dressed and ready post-iftar so that we can make it the Isha prayer on time. I would have the whole 29 or 30 days to myself for a time of prayer, du’a, and other forms of ibadah (worship).
But after a while, I longed for the feeling of community. The sound of the Quran playing on my phone could not be matched to the sound of the live recitation reverberating throughout the masjid. I also began to feel a technology burnout. Although I am grateful for the amazing Islamic online resources that have been offered throughout this month, I couldn’t decide which I wanted to focus on since there were so many.
I know that Ramadan is not about gatherings or the food or tea and desserts. But I also learned this month that community can help encourage us and keep us strong. Whether it’s someone collecting sadaqa (charity) for an important cause at the mosque, or the kindness of the volunteer servers at the masjid iftar, or the hug that your friend greets you with after it’s been so long since you’ve seen her, and you’re now reconnecting at the masjid. And of course, I did find community online, and I did stay connected to the ones that I love. However, I have to be real – it was not the same.
Image source: Pexel
3. Things that made me stronger this Ramadan.
Although there were many things that I felt were missing this Ramadan, there were also wonderful things that made me stronger and helped me learn a lot about myself. I think a lot of us, before Covid-19, did not spend much time alone. And when I say alone, I mean without distractions. Without a show streaming on your laptop or music playing in the background. I mean time spent in solitude and reflection.
There is reason why Prophet Muhammad (saw) spent so much time alone in the cave of Hira. This was before the Quran was revealed to him. Time alone gives us clarity. I don’t think I ever had this much time alone in my life, and although it was a struggle to be alone this long, it was also a gift.
I also saw what I was capable of this Ramadan. I challenged myself with a no-media pledge. No TV shows, no music, no time spent “zoning out,” which by the way is an introvert’s delight. It was always my number one way to relax after a long day. I would put the kids to bed and turn on my laptop to stream one of my favorite shows. This year, what would I do without these distractions for a full month? Here’s what happened:
Although I admit, I did not finish reading the Quran and I did not pray tarawih prayers every night, what ended up happening is something not quite quantifiable. I was distracted less, and I was able to focus. I asked myself questions like how can I increase my ibadah? How can I make myself more mindful?
I did things that I never had the time to do before. I made a du’a list. I memorized several du’as that I’ve been meaning to memorize for years. I stopped worrying about things out of my control. I put my faith and my trust in Allah (S). I memorized this du'a that has resonated with me so deeply that the recitation brings tears to my eyes:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ، وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ، وَالْبُخْلِ وَالْجُبْنِ، وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ، وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ
Allaahumma ‘innee ‘a’oothu bika minal-hammi walhazani, wal’ajzi walkasali, walbukhli waljubni, wa dhala’id-dayni wa ghalabatir-rijaal
O Allah, I seek refuge in You from grief and sadness, from weakness and from laziness, from miserliness and from cowardice, from being overcome by debt and overpowered by men (i.e. others). Al-Bukhari 7/158. See also Al-Asqalani, Fathul-Bari 11/173
I had more time with my family and kids. My kids and I tracked and recorded the moon every night. We did nightly lessons after iftar on topics like Layatul Qadr and giving zakat. We opened up our hand-made advent calendar and enjoyed the goodies inside. We cooked together. We did project after project. I let the house get messier than I would have wanted during any other Ramadan – pom poms in the crevices of the couches, foot paint prints on the stairs. (I did clean it all up eventually.)
Is this all from just not watching my shows for a month?, Probably not. It was a combination of things: the blessings of this month, less distractions, more time spent in reflection.
1. Final thoughts on this Ramadan.
I did experience the sweetness of this month, albeit in a different form than I expected. And in the process, I learned a lot about myself, spiritually and mentally. I learned that although I am an introvert, I still need and crave social interactions. And now, next Ramadan, when we Insha’Allah will be able to get together, it will be all the more sweeter and full of meaning, and it’s something we can all to look forward to.
Deena is a writer and homeschooling mother based out of Northern California. When not homeschooling her children, she loves giving book recommendations, hosting tea parties and trying new recipes. Find her on Instagram @deenamaj!