Last year I fasted during Ramadan for the first time in over 10 years. I don’t know why I decided to do it. There was this whole mix of factors, one was that my colleagues at my old job were fasting and had all given me food to have for Iftar all month, frozen samosa, dates, spring rolls, and I was really touched by their generosity. Also, I guess something inside me felt like it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to, summer fasts are long and hard. Working all day with kids, not being able to drink water in the Chicago heat isn’t something I would suggest anyone ever does. But it all turned out to be wonderful. I napped during the day when the kids were napping, I was exhausted a lot but I got to have Iftar a lot with people I love and wasn’t ever by myself very much. I hosted an Iftar for a big group of my friends and got to share Ramadan with people who had never been apart of it before. By the end of the month, I felt really good, mentally and spiritually but maybe not physically. I was so tired.
I’ve been debating again if I want to fast for Ramadan, which starts on May 15th, and I think signs are pointing towards yes. I am going to try and make it as much of a positive experience as last year was, and I know that I can always stop if it’s becoming a struggle or I feel isolated. Ramadan in the past for me has always been about family. Even when I wasn’t fasting, we would have family over for Iftar every day and it was a month where you never felt alone. Last year I was worried about how it would feel to do Iftar by myself, but luckily most of the time I had friends who were willing to wait until sundown to eat with me.
I don’t talk about my connection to Islam a lot, because it’s not something that I am truly comfortable with. I grew up with so much dislike of religion and so much conflict in my family because of religion. For so many years I had no desire to be Muslim at all, and have always identified myself as Agnostic. In my late twenties, I read a lot about Sufism and was starting to want to learn more about my Pakistani roots. I think being Muslim is as embedded in me as being Pakistani and English. It’s part of the mix of cultures that make up who I am and that I have to learn to love if I’m ever going to learn to be okay with myself. Sufism is the kind of Islam I could relate to, where there was no judgment and constriction and I was free to just be myself and try and be the best person I could, try and be there for everyone around me and be a positive force in the world.
I guess it made me feel a little bit more at peace. Having that presence in my life, discovering Islam in my own way and making it about me rather than having it forced upon me, has given me something that helps me feel centered at times. My dad has a belief that we need to just go with the flow and try and find the good and opportunity in times, even though this can be hard to do when things are not going our way. He has a unique view of Islam that I don’t always agree with but he is gracious, kind and non-judgemental to all people and I love that. I want to try and be more like that.
This blog post is a little open invitation to my friends to say if you want to come hang out with me and have food as the sunsets I would massively appreciate it. I am excited to fast again and looking forward to the next month, I would love to share it with the people around me.
Maryam Hassan is a 32 year old Photographer, Montessori Teacher, Wearer of Yellow from London who transplanted herself to Chicago in 2015. She likes punk music, hash browns, animal facts and mangoes.
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