My first Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims around the world) away from home and family has been nothing but a huge learning experience for me; emotionally and spiritually. As much as I’d love to spend it with my loved ones, it has also been such a blessing and an exciting month. Through series of unfortunate events (from a friend who had a mental breakdown to a point where I had to call the police, unfair boss, some personal issues to an emotionally twisting unstable character in grief – which I will elaborate later), I’m so grateful to be surrounded by righteous people who can make me feel like home.
Having to perform my fasts in the summer time of Vancouver means having to finish my sahoor before 3.20 am in the morning and breaking the fast at around 9.15 pm at night. In total, fasting went on for about 18 hours per day. Alhamdulillah, with His will, it all went smooth for me even in the sun heat and also while I worked at a fast food restaurant for 6 hours per day. Honestly, it felt so easy especially while working as I didn’t even have to think of time that flew by really fast. In the last 10 days though, I quit my job to focus on my fast and spend more time at the mosque with my sisters.
The mosque I go to, Ajyal Centre, in the Chinatown area of Vancouver provided meals for ifthar (the time when we break our fast) everyday. It is one of the platforms for Muslim brothers and sisters around Vancouver to gather and rejoice our togetherness especially in such a holy month. The space is rather small in size with the females and males sections divided by a full wall with a connecting door. The space has also been segregated into three parts, with one being an extra room that would be used only depending on which group of gender has more people.
On top of that, fasting in a non-Muslim majority country distract you from the fact that you’re actually fasting. No exaggerated food commercials nor ungrateful individuals who count the remaining hours till we can digest again. Other than ifthar provision everyday and taraweeh, there weren’t any specific or new activities at the mosque during Ramadan. During the last 10 days, some of us would also stay over until the morning to do more prayers and recite the Qur’an. I don’t specifically focus on one mosque as I enjoy expanding my circle of friends. However, I did spend a little more time at Ajyal Centre, as I have been most comfortable with the people. Our age and ethnical backgrounds vary yet we are able to accomplish such a vivid sisterhood in a place where we are a minority.
Anyway, I have a little exciting story that helped me changed my view in life. At one point of Ramadan, our Muslim community got a visit from a lady outside of our community (a non-Muslim) who just lost her mother a couple weeks back. Due to her shock and trauma, she has been unable to stay at her place by herself and therefore asked for help from the Muslims (don’t ask me why, we wondered that too – but of course, we were more than happy to offer help). At first, we would fulfill her demands by sending one sister every night to accompany her at her place, including myself. After a couple days, we figured out that not only it was physically exhausting to do that yet also emotionally draining to listen to her close-minded point of views about existential issues. Bear in mind that this is her personality issue, in addition to her emotional state of grief.
I don’t need to go through details of what was said because I can probably make a book about that, but let’s say that she was a straight up manipulative character who enjoys guilt-tripping innocent human beings. At the end of the day we did realise what was happening and tried to remind each other that we can only help others to a certain extent while they have to put effort in helping themselves. She did twisted our emotions a little bit by making us feel like the devil by telling us, “oh I thought Muslims were so nice” etc. (Remember that I was dealing with my friend, so I was already a little traumatic by that).
On the other side, I’ve been bringing a couple of friends for ifthar to the mosque. My friends, whom two out of three are non-Muslims, have responded positively by praising how heartwarming and welcoming we Muslims are and how we have rubbed off the global stereotypes. For us, it was upsetting at first how we think we failed to do dawah/set good examples to someone. It was very natural of us to be so absorbed in our failure that we were blinded to see the other great things happening. We might have lost one dawah opportunity but we were given THREE more opportunities, Alhamdulillah.
Anyhow, during these vulnerable times for me, my sisters here have done their best by supporting me physically and emotionally. They would constantly remind me that these events happen to me during Ramadan for a reason and that I have to be grateful since it’s the best time of the year to make duas and seek forgiveness. I really wouldn’t have thought of it that way without their reminders.
To end this, I’d like to wish everyone a late Eid Mubarak. Please forgive me if I have ever done anything unpleasant to you – consciously or not. May Allah forgive our sins and accept our fast as well as other ibadah during Ramadan and in the upcoming months. May we continue striving for more of His barakah. I’d also like to thank my Muslim community in Vancouver, especially those who have been so closely spending time supporting me and also organizing everything during the past month. May Allah reward you all with more blessings than what you have given in this dunya, inshaAllah. Ameen