When I found out that my husband and I would be temporarily relocating overseas, one of the first thoughts which came to mind was that of us being alone in an unfamiliar place during the month of Ramadan. It would be so lonely, so desolate and empty. Ramadan is a time we associate with big pots of rice, bucket loads of invitations to share meals and all of our mothers’ special dishes served as a smorgasbord. I was convinced that a solo Ramadan would be a hard slog, and not anywhere near as beautiful or joyous.
But this line of thinking neglects an important and oft-neglected reality for so many Muslims. It is tempting to paint a romanticised picture of what Ramadan is like, but this perhaps reflects a rosy ideal more so than a lived experience. Ramadan can be a time of immense struggle and difficult contemplations, of dates stuffed into mouths in peak-hour traffic and microwave iftars on a couch for one. For some, work continues well into the night regardless of the long day’s fasting which preceded it.
The reasons people may experience struggles in Ramadan vary. Some are far away from their beloved families and have little opportunity for reunions. For some, the family home is not a safe haven, but in fact a place fraught with danger and difficulties. Some are so busy trying to make ends meet that the struggle to contain hunger and thirst serves as a mere backdrop for the wider struggle to put food on the table. Some are suffering under institutional oppression, while some are oppressed in their own homes. Some are well and truly alone; some are surrounded by people but are plagued by loneliness and an inability to be understood. The very communality which people celebrate in Ramadan can serve as a mere reinforcement, or even an exacerbation, of these private sorrows, particularly when these communal events and spectacles are displayed all across their social media feeds.
When put into perspective, the Ramadan I am having this year is certainly unusual, but nevertheless possesses its own quiet beauty. There are no invitations, no public events to mingle and be seen at and none of my mother’s amazing Ramadan specialties, but there is my husband and I, passing the many hours in the kitchen together. There is a tiny, cosy mosque nearby, there is plentiful food and drink and of course, there is always my mother’s advice, just one phone call away. I am blessed beyond measure; I am blessed far beyond what I have earned.
As this Ramadan draws to a close, I pray that it brings you renewed faith, if you are in darkness, ease, if you are struggling, companionship, if you are lonely, and most of all, contentment, tranquillity and gratitude, no matter your circumstances.