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Muslim Converts On Their First Ramadan
Lockdown means this is a Ramadan like no other, especially for those celebrating for the first time
Ramadan is a time where many Muslims around the world take a moment to appreciate what they already have. By fasting from food and water between sunrise and sunset, it’s a time to recognise and strengthen positive habits. Yet, it’s not just about refraining from the snack cupboard. Every year, Muslims around the globe renew their intentions, try to complete the Quran (as it was revealed during Ramadan) and get to know more about their religion as well as themselves.
The 30 days are also made up of acts of community and charity. Whether it’s praying at the mosque for the Taraweeh communal nightly prayer or getting together with your loved ones for iftar, in order to break your fast. So it’s no wonder this Ramadan in lockdown will be experienced differently, especially for those who will be celebrating their first Ramadan.
For those who are newly reverted into Islam – Muslims use the word ‘revert’ as the belief is that everyone is born Muslim and it is our lifestyles which shape our path – like Yasmin, a 25-year-old marketing assistant based in Birmingham, her first Ramadan isn’t what she expected it to be.
“I became interested in Islam around two or three years ago when I gained real-life exposure to the Islamic faith. A friend of mine really enjoyed sharing his faith with me, and through Islam gave me answers that made sense to me.
“I made it official in December 2019 so I was really amped up to take part in Ramadan for the first time properly. Last Ramadan, I fasted but I drank water throughout the day so my body could get used to it. It was a time where I didn’t know much about Ramadan so now I’m more invested in it.”
On one hand, the lack of festivities due to social distancing has meant Ramadan this year feels dystopian. On the other, many Muslims are using it as an opportunity to reflect.
“I’m enjoying this Ramadan, as it means I have to keep myself and my hands busy. It feels like you’re giving your system a detox, as I’m a notorious snacker, and it’s a break mentally and physically,” says Yasmin. “As a way to feel connected to the community, I plan to read more works by Muslim women and reach out to different platforms and online Muslim communities to see what the Ramadan experience is like for them.”
For others who have recently become Muslim without their family knowing, the ability to fast during lockdown becomes even more difficult, if not impossible.
Sarah*, who is 24 and from Barcelona, found Islam through her work as a social worker a few years ago. “My family isn’t religious, I wasn’t brought up in a religious home and therefore religion was unfamiliar to me. But when I met and started working with those who identify as Muslim, I started reflecting and it made sense to me. For a long time, I didn’t revert as I thought it wasn’t for me.
“Eventually last year, I was going through a difficult time and felt lost. I needed some guidance so this is when I actually found comfort in converting. I talked to a few friends who encouraged me to take those steps if it felt right. So I took my shahada [the Islamic profession of faith] and was so excited for my first Ramadan.
“So a few weeks before Ramadan began and when I realised [due to lockdown] Ramadan wouldn’t go as planned, I started to feel guilty. Though my brother knows I’m now Muslim, my mother still doesn’t. I thought because I’d be at work, I’d be able to hide it, but now we’re all at home, I try to pray as much as I can but I won’t be able to fast this year.
“Though I know Ramadan is different for everyone this year, those who have Muslim families are still able celebrate together. So as a way to be active during Ramadan, I’m trying to read more about the Quran and to perfect small prayers. I also have a notebook where I journal quotes and thoughts. Maybe next year, it will be easier.”
Yet, even if you have told your parents and loved ones about reverting to Islam, a Ramadan in lockdown, that is also your first, can feel like a small hill to climb. For 20-year-old student Gigi, who lives in a household with her Catholic mother and atheist step-father, it has been a learning experience. “I’d be lying if I said it was all sunshine and rainbows. I hear stories from Muslim friends and acquaintances about praying as a family, eating suhoor and iftar together, even some learning about the Quran together and I can’t help but feel like I am missing out. Alhamdulillah, my mum is supportive of me being Muslim.”
Nonetheless, a Ramadan in quarantine, where the usual events of togetherness aren’t able to take place, has meant finding inner peace through solitude and a healthy dependence on faith.
When asked what she loves about her newfound faith, Michella was quick to answer, “The miracles of the Quran, the poetic and linguistic beauty of the Quran, its clear wisdom, women’s rights in Islam [from being able to divorce before it became acceptable worldwide to the financial security that is obligated to Muslim women within the family], praying and fasting etc… everything just made sense to me!”
“It actually wasn’t until lockdown started, at the end of March, that I managed to start praying my fardh (obligatory) daily salah. This is when I consider myself properly becoming Muslim. I truly see this quarantine as a mercy from Allah as it has blocked out many distractions and I can focus my time on Quran, salah, dhikr, du’a without distractions which had previously held me back. It’s the best opportunity to get closer to Allah, my faith and this new part of me. I pray I am able to keep this up when lockdown is lifted!”
*Name changed for anonymity