Eds. Note: What a delicious way to complete Ramadan or welcome Eid!
After spending 10 days away being utterly spoiled by my Aunt and having the best time of my life, I’ve found myself struggling just a little bit to return to real life. It feels great to be home and back in my own bed, and not drinking out of a plastic water bottle no one will ever recycle, or walking around sweaty-faced with a drink held to my face, or getting sand in my shoes everywhere I go, or constantly fearing I didn’t apply enough SPF 50 to protect me from the 50C heat.
Hah, now that I’ve got all the not-so-great stuff about my trip out of the way I can focus on all the incredible moments, and there were lots and lots of those. But before all that I should probably sort out the strange sleeping pattern I have adopted after my time away. It’s the beautiful month of Ramadan and I’ll be fasting from approximately 2:30am till 9:20pm. I plan to take it easy for the next couple of weeks before I begin my new career (GAH SO SCARY), go back to dressing like an adult, and have to set my alarm clock the night before.
Speaking of taking it easy, this chocolate mousse is just that: easy and effortless but so gloriously satisfying. I used milk chocolate because it was the only type I had at hand, but feel free to opt for dark and play around with the toppings.
When I was a child, Ramadan – like the life that stretched before me – seemed magical. Forbidden for the very young, fasting was a mark of adulthood, a rite of passage for which we were all too eager. You woke for the early morning meal with a sense of pride, keen to know what mysterious things adults got up to at this delicious hour.
As I grew older, Ramadan became a time to pause life, a time for reflection as well as a time for community. Growing up outside of our respective ethnic identities and cultures, this month provided the chance to regroup and reconnect with friends and family.
We became used to a melding of cultures where we’d reach for spices in two languages during iftar, knowing only our ethnic name for certain spices and only the English one for others (I will never call “saunf” aniseed or “dhaniya” cilantro, but “namaak” will always be just plain old salt to me). We indulge in kibbeh and kunafeh at our Arab friends’ houses, in pakoras and dahi bade at our South Asian friends’ houses. During Ramadan, we seem to make up for the things we never realized we were missing – the sound of adhan from all corners, mosques on every block, altered work hours to make the fast easy: all things available in the Muslim-majority countries from whence most of us came.
After my brother’s passing, Ramadan became a month of refuge from the chaos of my grief. It allowed me space to breathe, mourn, to build up strength for the remainder of the year. The past few years, I have been able to recharge and re-center during this holy month by finding solace in the strength of the spiritual.
But this year? This year is different.
This Ramadan has been hard. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough, and the wondering why piety doesn’t entail feeling more.
It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.
This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.
Today on Beacon Press’s blog, Beacon Broadside, Love InshAllah editor Nura Maznavi writes about why she’s not fasting this Ramadan:
[Ramadan] meant community when I moved away from home. During my seven years living in San Francisco, dozens of friends would cram into my tiny studio apartment to break fast, all of us away from our families. When I moved to Chicago as a new bride, I met most of my closest friends here during my first Ramadan. We were invited to an iftar almost every night, with people we’d only just met welcoming us newlyweds into their homes.
Over the years, I never missed a day of fasting, except for the few days each Ramadan I was on my period. (And even then, I pretended to fast, because I didn’t want everyone to know I was on my period.)
Then, last year, for the first time in almost thirty years, I didn’t fast.
Read more, here.
My wardrobe is not properly equipped for hot weather, but what is the proper attire for desert adventures and camel-back riding? I booked my ticket to Dubai last week on an impulse and everyone who knows me is busy LOLOLOLing because I can barely handle an English summer … what will I do in Dubai?? I don’t want to imagine the struggle.
But after the year I’ve had I felt as though I deserved a break, and after my Aunt made a week-long surprise visit home last week I needed very little persuasion to join her there in June. My cousin will be joining me – we’re both nervous fliers and don’t do well in confined spaces, nor can we sleep whilst travelling. Our 8-hour flight will be interesting.
My plans for the next few months can be summarised as follows: Dubai! Ramadan! Summer vacation! New career!!!!!!!!! The blogging goes without saying, of course. And the excessive use of exclamation marks entirely appropriate.