With the institutionalized mysoginy I have experienced in the Muslim community this Ramadhan, it goes without saying that the 30 days of Ramadhan were more a test of faith than a test of will.
Low point: the feeling of isolation when faced with a new partition in the Islamic centre’s community room.
High point: the strength and kindness of true Islamic sisterhood.
Besides the emotional roller coaster I’ve experienced, I had set clear goals for myself this Ramadhan, here is how I fared:
New Dedication to the 5 Daily Prayers
With a new alarm clock blaring the call to prayer (Athan) through my apartment 5 times per day and my phone sending me more subtle reminders when outside the house, I have had no reasons to miss the prayers. Yet with all the good intentions, I still found it difficult to move my butt from the bed / couch / work chair, perform the ablutions (wud’hu) and perform the prayer (salaat).
Islamic tradition states that Satan (Shaytan) hides during Ramadhan, so I have but myself to blame. However, I have to admit that I am proud of the little I *did* pray. I managed to get all 5 some days, 3–4 most days, only 1 some days and none only very few days.
It is my hope that I can build the habit to offer Ritual Prayer (salaat) more consistently following Ramadhan. I am encouraged by my actions during Ramadhan and I hope and pray I can follow through the rest of the year.
Memorizing New Chapters of the Qu’ran
I have a terrible memory, especially considering that my attempts in memorization involve learning a prayer in a language I do not understand, speak or even read. Regardless, I managed to learn one new chapter (surah): Chapter 114, The Humankind (An-Naas).
This chapter was the 21st revealed to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and is placed as the final chapter of the Qu’ran. It is one of the two chapters of which the recitation is recommended when wishing to receive God’s protection along with chapter 113, The Daybreak (Al-Falaq).
It is considered a conclusion to the Holy Book as an answer to The Opening (Chapter 1, Al-Fatiha). In the Opening we testify God’s sole right to be worshipped and ask that we be guided upon the righteous path. In The Humankind, we acknowledge God’s guidance and request to be protected even from the evil within: acknowledging that our own will and desires are often the first to steer us away from guidance.
My goal is to include further chapters to my knowledge: namely chapters 109 – The Disbelievers (Al-Kafiroon), 113 – The Daybreak (Al-Falaq) and 103 – The Defined Time (Al-Asr).
Introducing more Voluntary Prayer In and Out of Ritual Payer
I certainly disappointed myself in this particular point. I was hoping to introduce the voluntary prayers (du’as) pronounced at the beginning of ritual prayer (salaat), but I often prayed “on-the-go”, at different prayer locations, and did not always have my PRAYER pamphlet with me. I also did not include much voluntary ritual prayers (sunnah salaat) outside of the night prayers (Taraweeh and Tahajjud). I am hoping to continue introducing those voluntary prayers throughout the year – in God’s will (inshaAllah) – and will be improving my pamphlet and wall art to help.
Attending Congregational Night Prayers
So, prior to this year, I had only attended Night Prayers (Taraweeh) once. It is an important part of Ramadhan and the mosques welcome large number of worshippers each night. I did not keep track of how many nights I attended night prayers but it feels to me as a majority of my Ramadhan nights. I am also quite proud to say that I have prayed night prayers alone at home on some nights I was not able to attend the mosque.
I spent many of my prayers with Eren, bestie and author of Identity Crisis by New Muslim(ah) Walking Around, touring the various mosques around the city. These experiences were challenging in many respects but they were also a powerful opportunity to pray for the changes we hope to see within our community. There is still so much to say but most importantly, I would like to remind worshippers that advice is given in private, subtly, after prayer and that even if you believe this person is doing something that MAY invalidate their prayer, it is NOT appropriate to criticize or adjust them publicly, especially in the middle of prayer (Salaat).
Reading the Qu’ran in Order of Revelation
Another personal success: I read approximately 20 parts (juz) – or 2/3 – of the Qu’ran in order of revelation. My goal is to resume my reading and complete it in the early fall. I have found that the verses (ayat) are increasingly specific while earlier verses were still in large part rather philosophical rather than judicial. In my re-visiting the revelations, I was able to develop the fundamentals of my faith and build upon them. This is not my last reading of the Qu’ran or my last re-ordering of the reading but I am glad to have begun this journey and hope to continue and re-experience the Qu’ran in its many different aspects.
BONUS: Isolating myself in worship (Itikaf)
So through my research on worship during Ramadhan, I stumbled upon the Itikaf (Lit. “to stay in one place”): the practice of isolating oneself in worship for a pre-determined amount of days or hours. The example set by Prophet Mohammed (Sunnah) states that he would remain at the mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadhan, remaining in constant worship. Many will perform Itikaf for 10 days; however, shorter periods are also allowed – 3 days, 1 whole day or between two prayers (e.g., Afternoon–Sunset prayers [Asr–Maghrib])
My understanding of Itikaf being slightly flawed at the time, I performed Itikaf between 3 prayers rather than two (Dawn–Noon–Afternoon prayers [Fajr–Dhur–Asr]). Sleeping is permissing during Itikaf and, being grossly sleep-deprived during Ramadhan, I did sleep a bit more during my Itikaf than I had wished. However, I did catch up to my Qu’ranic reading, I performed all obligatory ritual prayer (salaat ul-fard) on time and in congregation, I prayed voluntary ritual prayers (salaat al-sunnah) and voluntary recitations (du’a), and worked on my memorization of Qu’ranic chapters (Surah).
Beginning my Itikaf, I asked God to be moved to tears by my worship; to feel the true connection to His Word and His Love. Slightly disappointed, I left the mosque dry-eyed after the afternoon prayer (Asr). It was with a heart full of His Love and His Mercy that with a group of loving, caring muslims that evening, I was moved to tears during the evening prayer (Mahgrib). God showed me the time and place I would be called to His Love and it is in that environment, not the conservative and segregated mosques, that I was reached by His calling. Itikaf was enlightening to me and I hope to repeat the experience next year, perhaps in a slightly different format – yet to be determined.
The work isn’t done
So what are my plans for the upcoming months if God wills me another year and another Ramadhan?
- Continue my work towards building gender-inclusive, LGBT-friendly Muslim spaces
- Improve my knowledge of Arabic and of the Qu’ran
- Memorize more chapters of the Qu’ran (Surah)
- Pray obligatory ritual prayer (salaat ul-fard) every day and on time
- Create new and better guides for worship, need-to-know information and easy-to-use reminders
- Spend valuable time with people who bring me closer to God in worship and in habits – people whose compassion and mercy ressemble, in intention if not in greatness, His Compassion and His Mercy
Thank you to all who have made my Ramadhan such an enlightening experience and who have kept me strong through it all.