My Private Ramadan

By Atiya Hasan

This year’s Ramadan showed up on my doorstep unannounced. How could I not have noticed that a whole year had passed by? I didn’t know if I should be excited or overwhelmed. Regardless of my sentiments, however, the Month of Fasting was upon me.

All the news mediums did their best to educate the masses about the intricacies of Ramadan; no food or water from sunrise to sunset, abstinence from sex and foul language during this time. A month of worship and family, gatherings and congregations. But what did that mean for me? I’ve been fasting every year since I was in the 5th grade. Yet, like snowflakes, no two Ramadans were ever alike. This year’s turn of events brought me somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago living with my newly married brother and sister in law. None of us know too many people out here. We aren’t even that familiar with the city. And with my latest string of ill fortune, it just seemed too much like a twisted prank to expect me to have a successful Ramadan.

It took about 3 days for my body to adjust to the sixteen-hour long fasts and that was the easy part. The nights comprised of standing in two-and-a-half-hour long prayers. The Imam’s well-trained voice resonated in my ears as he recited the powerful verses of the Quran from memory. It’s during these prayers, that it first dawned on me, the sniffles and silent tears of those around me were undeniable proof that I may not be the only one experiencing rough times. As the Imam’s voice cracked under the pressure of his own emotions, guilt washed over me.

I had a place to live and food to eat. I had family and friends who loved me, no matter how far away they lived. Despite all my foolish mistakes, I had those who would stand by me in unwavering confidence. Much more than that, I had a variety of clothes to clothe myself in, jewelry to beautify myself and a means to attain all the things I wished and hoped for. More than three billion people in the world live on only $2.50 a day (source). As we speak, there is a continuing famine in Eastern Africa. A merciless drought that doesn’t discriminate between child and adult or male and female. Yet, at the end of my fast, I always have a meal waiting for me.  A ready cure to my short-lived hunger.

It took this twisted trick played by fate to wrench me out of my self-pity. A lesson that won’t be easily forgotten, I hope. It’s easy to kick yourself when you’re down, but it’s definitely worth it to be grateful and appreciate yourself. This Ramadan reminded me that optimism is a human necessity. Despair comes to everyone but the faster you let it go, the simpler it makes life.

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