Posted on May 01, 2020
Editor's note: All this month, Haute Hijab team members are bringing you our Ramadan Diaries, posts about how our month is going, things we've learned and struggles we may be having. We are figuring out fasting and worship at home, strengthening our connection with Allah (S) and how to build community while in quarantine, just like all of you! This entry comes from our Creative Director, Gizelle Begler.
Salaam my beautiful Haute Hijab family!
I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Ramadan this year. I pray that your loved ones are safe during these uncertain times. For those who have lost someone as a result of this pandemic, it’s good to remember that as Muslims, we believe that lives lost as a result of a plague are granted a martyr status in jannah (heaven)! So, perhaps the thought of our lost loved ones being honored in such a tremendous way might help ease the pain of missing them until we are all reunited again, Insha’Allah.
As a single woman living without family in New York City, Ramadan has always been about finding a community that I could latch onto to prevent myself from spending my evenings alone. I used to wrap up my work at the HH office and trek over to the ICNYU (Islamic Center of New York University). There, I would be greeted by the same warm and welcoming community members with whom I had spent the past few years breaking my fasts.
The evenings would start with small talk, laughter, children, biryani and end with all of us praying isha and tarawih together. I would then, in a half-asleep zombie-like state, proceed to spend an hour waiting for late night subways and making train transfers until I could finally reach my home around midnight. After setting my alarm for suhoor time, I’d lie in bed, my mind flooded with concerns that I probably wouldn’t get enough sleep, definitely was not reading enough Quran, and panicked about how I was going to be able to get up for work the next morning.
However, as we all know, this year is quite different.
Now I’m isolated in my Brooklyn apartment during this holy month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My roommates had left to quarantine with their families, and with all the mosques closed. Having lost my mother a little over a year ago, it hit me that this Ramadan I really was completely alone.
The morning of my first day of fasting, I opened my eyes and felt a sudden wave of relief at the thought of not having to worry about what I was going to wear that day. Every Ramadan before this one, I find myself going through the same internal dialogue as I get ready for work – should I wear makeup? I don’t want to waste time making sure my eyeliner is on-point when I could be reading more Qur'an. Is this outfit comfortable enough to pray tarawih in? Once I leave my apartment, I won’t be coming back home until midnight. Do these socks have holes in them? I don’t want the mosque squad seeing how savage my socks can get!
And on and on it goes.
This week as I rose from my bed in my quiet home, I felt a stillness, a peace that I’ve truly never felt before during Ramadan. My heart was calm, the air felt different, and I realized I had nothing to do in that moment but worship Allah (S). I was excited to open His book with a clear and available mind, knowing that I didn’t have to rush through the verses – I could let every inch of my soul absorb them. There was nowhere else I needed to be other than right where I was.
As the days passed I found that in the quiet of my home, I was able to listen to my body and it’s needs. There is so much to be heard if you just listen. Your soul has so much to say, but you cannot hear it when it’s drowned out but the noises of this dunya (the world). No wonder why our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) would go find solitude in a cave, far from everyone! I’m sure it was only there, far from the distractions of the dunya could he reconnect with his heart and his creator.
I realized how silly I had been to be concerned about being alone. We are never really alone! Allah (S) never leaves us. In that moment I realized how lucky I was to be quarantined with Him. I was gifted with the company of the best of companions during the holiest of months!
I found myself having silent conversations with Allah all day, asking Him for things I wanted, sobbing through my heartache, and thanking Him for protecting me and for giving me this alone time to really feel the beauty of Ramadan!
While celebrating this month with the Muslim community is something I always enjoyed and looked forward to, the hustle and bustle of interacting with everyone deprived me of the quiet time that really allowed me to feel the divine presence that truly does differentiate this month from all others. I am finding it easy to meet my daily Qur'an goals while also really processing and thinking deeply about what I was reading. Without people cooking for me, I wasn’t overeating at iftar time and I could easily stick to the one-third hadith (one-third food, one-third water, one-third air) for the first time in Ramadan history!
Going for pre-iftar walks on the deserted city streets, my attention was drawn to trees I had never seen before, the architectural details on the marvelous old buildings around me, and cracks in the sidewalk with little clovers sprouting from them that I had never walked slow enough before to notice. I found myself in a constant state of awe and ibadah (worship), repeating to myself Subhanallah over and over again!
There are tiny ecosystems, beautiful little miracles existing all around me that I never noticed before as I was constantly pushing through crowds of people to catch a train or rushing to grab a latte.
I also came to realize that being by yourself during Ramadan is a true test of your sincerity to Allah and your deen (faith). It quickly reveals where your shortcomings are, as you are left completely on your own with your own goals and intentions for this blessed month. It’s so much easier to fall asleep after iftar when you don’t have a group of people around you waiting to pray tarawih. It really makes you question how much what you do is for Allah and yourself, and how much of it is a result of going with the flow of what’s happening around you.
A Ramadan like this will probably never come again in our lifetime. And instead of dwelling on what we don’t have, we should think about how lucky we are to be given such a unique Ramadan with so much extra time to focus on what really matters – our families, fine-tuning our faith and embracing the alone time we are given with Allah.
I am beyond grateful for this rare and beautiful experience – Alhamdulillah.