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Baba, The Quran and Me

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 25th September 2016 19:53
Baba, The Quran and Me

Hiba Masood June 17, 2016

“When we were young, every Ramadan, we had to complete one recitation of the Qur'an because my dad made us. There was no question of not completing it. It's just what we did.”

Sitting together with my friend and our toddlers in a Mommy & Me art class, the words were barely out of my mouth before regret kicked in. I saw the surprised and disapproving frown forming on my friend's face. Forcing the Qur'an on a child? How politically incorrect. How backward. How unenlightened. One simply did not say these things in polite, modern, company. I could practically see her censuring thoughts and I felt dismay at my inability to explain myself. Thankfully, the conversation took a turn elsewhere, both of us wise enough not to go too deep into a potentially tricky topic.

Later that evening, after my kids were asleep and the blessed cover of the night slowly drifted over the city, I lay in the quiet, thinking. Remembering. And laughing over the realization that if I were to ever retell this story, I would probably begin the exact same, inappropriate way:

When we were young, every Ramadan, we had to complete one recitation the Qur'an because my dad made us. There was no question of not completing it. It's just what we did.

I think I must've been seven or eight when I first gained an understanding of this family tradition. My Baba, during the course of some of the most precious conversations of my life time, would often tell us, my brother, sister and I, stories from his childhood. What his life and his days spent with his eight brothers and sisters used to look like.

The Ramadan stories were particularly powerful to hear because he would speak of things that seemed so foreign, so unfamiliar – like abject poverty, splitting one bowl of food for Iftar amongst a family of eleven – that it was almost dream like.

The story we marveled over most was the amount of Qur'an that, as kids, he and his siblings read each Ramadan. “We would each try to be the one who finished it the most number of times. I usually reached four and gave up. One of my sisters did it seven times each year. No one could ever beat her.”, he would chuckle as he remembered. “But how did you guys find the time, Baba?!” we would gasp. And he would look equally amazed. “It was Ramadan. Once work is done, what else is there to do except read the Qur'an every single possible minute?” His genuine shock, that one could possibly, crazily, choose to spend their time in unessential worldly matters and how utterly unfathomable that was to him, seeped into our young, impressionable minds. We would pester him again and again for more nuances to this story and he would oblige. “Do you know every letter you recite during Ramadan has 70 times the regular reward? That means every letter, like saying Alif, gets you seven HUNDRED good deeds? Just do the math for reading the whole Qur'an! Go on! Now do the math for your aunt who reads it seven times!” Our minds properly boggled, we would be wide eyed trying to figure out the answer to this cosmic equation from the mathematics of the Divine.

And eventually, our amazement and interest in this particular competition led to the formation of our own internal, little family game. The rules were simple: The target was Eid, and, more specifically, Eidee, the cash gift that we received from Baba on Eid morning. Whoever finished one, just one, complete recitation of the Qur'an before the official declaration of Eid, would have their Eidee doubled.

When we first heard this wager, I think we each of us practically clapped in glee. Oooh, twice the amount of money! A parent-sanctioned chance to openly beat the siblings and earn bragging rights, and that too, not just in some vague, metaphorical way, but in actual, crisp, crackling, Saudi riyal note earnings! Oh Daddy, this game was on!!

And our glee was because, you see, the very first year, we operated from a place of total ignorance. We'd never actually attempted what was being asked and so we figured “Eh, how hard could it be? Those old aunts and uncles of ours, if they could do it up to seven times, what was ONE time? This should be a cakewalk.”

Well it wasn't. It wasn't the first year. And it still isn't 25 years later.

There have been years of starting and staying strong. Of planning from beforehand. Of thinking, okay, roughly 30 days, 30 juz. If I read a little more than one a day, I am on track. And in that same pattern, of sailing easily and comfortably to the finish line. Of standing, grinning on Eid morning, keeping my palm extended as first one 50 riyal note was laid on it and then, nodding proudly, yes I did complete my recitation, getting another 50. Of exulting over my father's proudly beaming face.

There have been years, in late tweens/early teens of total mismanagement. Of letting life take over a little too much and then realizing, aghast, that only five fasts were left and I still had eighteen juz to go. Of racing, helter skelter, through more than six juz on the very last day, squeaking past the finish line just minutes before what would be the last Maghrib prayer of Ramadan. Of encountering a slightly raised, fatherly eyebrow, “So you really did finish?” and of meekly nodding yes, deliberately neglecting to mention the particular speeds of recitation.

Later, once womanhood kicked in, there were years of getting unexpectedly overly long periods and that throwing my entire calculation off. Of feeling gnawing desperation around Day 21, 22. How will I complete it now? Of not giving up. Of, after ghusl, staying up all night and then continuing to stay awake after Fajr to complete the required reading, but now, with the sense of adulthood inside me, only reading in the most measured, dignified manner possible.

There were years when, long after the double-Eidee wager had faded away with other remnants of childhood, with all the impetuous, rebellion of youth, of spending my days in smoke-filled rooms, strategizing with socialist/activists, and my evenings protesting against the Iraq war on the frozen streets of Toronto. Of not praying at all, of not so much as glancing towards the dusty shelf where my Qur'an sat the entire year. But then, out of sheer habit, on the first of Ramadan, shamefaced from all the spiritual neglect of the past eleven months, taking it down, cleaning it and then getting to it. Of feeling, verse by verse, page by page, chapter by beautiful chapter, cleansed. Redeemed. Able to start over.

There was the first year of my marriage. When my brand new husband, sat back, astonished at this surprising wife of his. This wife who never even put her shoes in the right place when she got back home from somewhere. Whose phone was always misplaced. Whose closet always a disaster. “I never knew you could be so disciplined.”, he marveled as he witnessed my steady progression over the course of the month, the pages on the right of the bookmark growing and the pages on the left lessening.

There were subsequent years in which he figured if I could do it, he could too. Of motivating each other. Of gently teasing whoever was behind. Of eventually acknowledging, that his long office hours and unrelenting corporate job would get the best of him. Of consoling ,“Don't worry. I read it for both of us. Niyyah is what counts. You got it.”, and of vowing, “I'm going to do it next time for sure!”.

There was the year of expecting my firstborn – a boy who would later go on to have developmental delays and additional needs – when Ramadan was in the month just before his birth. Of, that year, with all the nervous excitement and joyful anticipation of a first time mother-to-be, completing the Qur'an three times. Of growing bigger and more uncomfortable, curling up on the couch and slowly working my way through the Book again and again, and one more time, to give myself a sense of purpose and calm. A steadying feeling that I was being a responsible mother and giving my very first baby his very first gift as a Muslim child.

And there have many, many more years. Of anxiety. Of scary financial strain. Of a turbulent marriage. A difficult son. Of sickness. Of fear. And of deep, deep grief.

In all of those years, those months and weeks of uncertainty, Ramadan and the accompanying habit of completing the Qur'an has stood like an immovable beacon.

In the early years, the prospect of either receiving doubled earnings on Eid or facing the disappointed expression on my father's face was the motivation. In the middling years, it was force of habit, a yearly ritual that I neither questioned nor pondered very much over. Completing the Qur'an was just another part of Ramadan for me, similar to fasting. I had to fast and so I had to finish the Qur'an. And in recent years, with the onset of maturity, the wisdom that has come in my thirties, the settling into the very bones of my life and my self, this yearly practice has become an identity and a gift. An eagerly anticipated reconnection. To Allah. To the Qur'an. To my childhood. To my father. To my self.

Ramadan1

The motivations behind this practice have shape shifted and blurred over the years. They have entered questionable realms and they have exited. They have wavered repeatedly, stretched unbelievably and sometimes disappeared completely. But, now, today and insha'Allah forever after, they are strong, solid and singular in focus. And so perhaps, a better way to start this story would have been:

Every year, in Ramadan, I have to complete the recitation of the Qur'an because this is who I am. There is no question of not completing it. It's just what I do.

I know, in writing this, that there will be dissenters. There will be those who strongly disagree with this idea – those who will be disgusted by the linking of monetary motivation to the Holy Qur'an. Those who will insist everyone should give weightage to spending more time understanding the Qur'an rather than rote reciting it. Those who will find my descriptions of “racing” through the Qur'an in my earlier years the exact raison d'etre for not setting unrealistic targets.

Perhaps, they are each right in their own way. But they, their reasons, their motivations, their goals are not right for me.

I cannot explain to them how I feel about my father and how the prospect of attaining his pleasure can compel me to move mountains. I cannot explain how this practice he has instilled in me has been my spiritual lifeline. I cannot explain to them the deep, intrinsic pleasure of reading that Book from cover to cover in a fixed time frame and that too, during the most blessed days of the year. I cannot explain because I am always far too busy trying to make sense of my own story.

See, I feel, to thrive in this Life, we each have to do what we can to try and make sense of the lot we've given. To try and comprehend our messy, marvelous stories and see them for the treasure they are.

When I look at my life, when I take the long view, I see two, exactly opposite, completely diametrical truths. I see that I have had, through the Will of Allah, so much turbulence. Such storms. Such darkness. And I also see that my father in the form of this and other traditions, gave me such stability, so many anchors. So many lifebuoys. In all the years of my life, when I was flailing and thrashing about in the uncertain seas of physically painful, fibromyalgia-filled school days, a rebellious university life, a tumultuous early marriage, a special needs child, difficult subsequent pregnancies, financial strain and unemployment, sickness, grief, this tradition was an always present marker on my horizon. A rope to grab on to every single year no matter how stormy and darkened the rest of the eleven months were. A steady, brightly shining lighthouse that by virtue of always being there, always brought me back to my center.

As another Ramadan approaches, I think of the ghosts of Ramadan past. The years flitter in my mind like a fast paced slide show and I see my recitation efforts stacked up on each other. Year after year after year of trying. Of working towards a challenging but clearly identified goal. Of honing my discipline and time management skills. Of experiencing the fear of failure and the dedication required in overcoming that fear. Of experiencing the high of personal achievement and the two-folded spiritual satisfaction of reconnecting to this glorious book of Allah and, in the process, beating down my inner demons of laziness and indiscipline, those lesser parts of me who, every year would rather give up but don't.

Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly lost as I look at my son, this boy who refuses to comply, whose anxiety levels are always so high, who doesn't speak like other kids his age, I clutch to my heart the memory of those hours and hours my pregnant self spent with the Qur'an, those three complete recitations he heard while he moved inside me.

Sometimes, when things seem excruciatingly lonely, I think of my ancestors and my aunts and uncles and my cousins. All those children of all those siblings of my father. I think of the dozens and dozens of my family members, all of whom carry on this tradition proudly today. Each and every one of the kids and adults in my dad's side of the family (and there are many!) completes the Qur'an every Ramadan. Because that is who they are. That is who we are. If they can do it, I can do it. I am reminded that I not alone. I am held aloft by a strong family, good values and faith-full traditions.

Sometimes, when life seems particularly overwhelming, too much work, not enough time, I think of all those years in which I took stock of the situation, ”Okay ten days left, 16 juz to go. How can I manage this?” and then slowly and diligently accomplished what initially felt to be an insurmountable task. I hold daily to my soul the knowledge that I am resilient. That I can overcome. That I have. That I will.

And sometimes, when my now sick and aging father is asleep, his gray hair glistening softly in the shadows, I lean down and press my cheek to his. I put my lips to his ear. And I whisper things. I whisper how the kids made me laugh today and cry simultaneously. I whisper that Ramadan is coming and he better get my double-Eidee ready. I whisper my love and my prayers and my hopes. I whisper how afraid I am of the future. How much I already miss him. But most of all, I whisper my gratitude. Gratitude for gifting me so freely all the things, all the lessons, all the beliefs, all the forces of habit and inspiring stories and abiding, enriching traditions that have blessed my life. For giving me an identity and an anchor. For always being my lighthouse when he was able, and whenever the time came that he wasn't, to make sure to leave my life with enough Light to see me through.

Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera
Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera
Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera

muslimmatters.org/2016/06/17/baba-the-quran-and-me/

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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 11th June 2017 02:27

Shaykh Musa Furber‏ (HA)

Ramadan is the preferred month for reciting Quran. The last ten days are the best ten contiguous days for recitation. #tibyan
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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 30th May 2018 15:28
Excellently written Ramadhan article above thought I would bump it since it is Ramadhan.
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#4 [Permalink] Posted on 3rd January 2020 23:26

Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah


By

 Hiba Masood.

Growing up in Jeddah, every evening in Ramadan, we would pile into our car and whiz off to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers to Shoaibi Mosque and spend a few spell-bound hours under the reassuring baritones of Sheikh Abdullah Basfar. His beautiful voice became the anthem of my childhood in many ways but more than his voice, it was the building of tradition and memory that became ingrained in my system. By doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out, my parents gave us a sense of stability and predictability that set the tone for our entire adolescence.

How that rhythm seeped into the very bones of who I am is something I am still discovering well into adulthood.

Last night, standing in my grandmother’s garden in Karachi, I experienced my first Taraweeh Khatam-e-Quran since leaving my parents home in Jeddah so many years ago. It is also, incidentally, my first Ramadan without both my parents, who last year seemingly decided they would much rather be together in Jannah than spend more time in this rubbish world and in quick succession, returned to their Maker, leaving me understandably grieving, awash in memories, struggling to steer my ship.

And so it was, that by the time the imam reached Surah Qadr, I was chokey. By Surah Kawthar, I had tears streaming down my face. And by the time the last three surahs, the comforting Quls, began, I was openly sobbing. Probably more openly than what is considered socially appropriate…but honestly, I was restraining myself. Because what I actually felt like doing was throwing my head back and howling up at the sky. Thankfully, I was flanked by women who knew, who understood, who with tears in their own eyes, let me be with my heaving shoulders and a chest that felt it would crack open under the weight of my emotions.

As the imam had recited surah after surah and the end of the Quran had approached, the ghosts of Ramadan Past had flooded into me and my body had remembered. It had remembered years and years of experiencing that same excitement, that same sense of weight as Sheikh Abdullah Basfar gently and methodically guided us over the course of the month through the Book of all books, that same uplifting, heartbreaking, momentous trepidation of offering something up to Him with the hope that He would bestow something shining in return.

Had this Book been revealed to a mountain, the mountain would have crumbled. You get a tiny glimpse of that weight when you complete a khatam. Here I am, Allah, here I am, in my little hole-y dinghy, with my itty bitty crumbs of ibaadah. Pliss to accept?

Back in Jeddah, after the khatam, we would pile back in the car and go for ice cream. Last night in Karachi, after the khatam, the Imam gave a short talk and in it he mentioned how we are encouraged to cry when conversing with Allah. We should beg and plead and insist and argue and tantrum with Him because He loves to be asked again and again. We live in a world of appropriateness, political correctness, carefully curated social media feeds and the necessity of putting our best, most polished face forwards at all times. How freeing then, that when we turn to our Lord, we are specifically instructed to abandon our sense of control. All the facades and the curtains are encouraged to be dropped away and we stand stripped to our souls in front of Him. In other words, He loves it when we fall apart. Which is exactly what I had just done.


Last night, I found myself wondering what exactly had I cried so hard over. Which tears were for Him and the desperate desire for His mercy? Which were for the loveliness of the Quran, the steadying rhythm of it, not just verse to verse but also, cover to cover? Which tears were for the already achey yearning of yet another Ramadan gone past? Which were for my breaking heart that has to soon face my first Eid day and all the days of my life without my beloved Mumma and Baba? Which tears were of gratitude that I get to stand on an odd night of the best time of the year, alongside some of my dearest people, in the courtyard of a house full of childhood memories, under the vast, inky, starry sky and standing there, I get to fall apart, freely, wholly, soul-satisfyingly?

And which tears were of a searingly humbling recognition, that I am so wildly privileged to have this faith of mine – the faith that promises if we navigate the choppy dunya waters right, we will be reunited with our loved ones in a beautiful, eternal place, that if we purposely, and repeatedly crumble under the weight of our belief in Him and His plans, our future is bright?

Today, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter why I cried. Because here is what I do know:

1. “If Allah knows good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you…” (8:70)


2. “If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

3. “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

In losing my parents, I have drawn closer to Allah. And though I miss them dizzyingly, I am so thankful that through the childhood they gave me, through the anchoring to the Quran they gifted me with, through their own tears that I witnessed during those long-ago khatams in the Shoaibi Mosque in Jeddah, they left me with the knowledge that if in losing them, I have gained even an atom’s worth more of His pleasure, then that’s a pretty great bargain.




As a parent of three young ones myself, I’ve spent my days teaching my children: be strong, be strong, be strong. Stand tall, stay firm, be sturdy in the face of the distracting, crashing waves of the world. But now I know something just as important to teach them: be weak, be weak, be weak.

Crumble in front of Him, fall apart, break open so that His Light may enter and be the only thing to fill you. It’s not easy but it will be essential for your survival in the face of any loss, grief, trial and despair this world throws your way. It will help you, finger to tongue, always know which way the wind is blowing and which way to steer your ship. Straight in to the sun, always. To Jannah. Because how wondrous are the affairs of us Muslims that when it comes to our sorrows and our hopes, out there on the horizon of Allah’s wise plans, it all shimmers as one – The grief of what is, the memory of what was and brighter than both, the glittering, iridescent promise of what will be.

MuslimMatters.org
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#5 [Permalink] Posted on 10th April 2020 13:47
Bismillah.

Good quality writing is ever so slowly becoming a lost art.

With Ramadhan being only a couple of weeks away,I thought I would bump this thread. Not only are the above articles great reminders for Ramadhan. They are well written and captivating.

Have a read InshaAllah.
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#6 [Permalink] Posted on 13th April 2021 11:57
Fasting for the First Time? This Muslim Convert Can Teach You a Thing or Two

By Yentl
May 14 2019


I knew from before that life as a Muslim convert wouldn’t be very easy in Belgium. Being born as a Christian and considering myself a practicing Catholic, I saw how the people here thought of Muslims. I, myself, have always had a lot of respect for other religions. Since religion has always been a very important aspect in my life, I never liked it when others made it seem like it’s an evil thing. Because of living in a neighborhood where there aren’t a lot of religious people, let alone Muslims, I never had contact with Belgian Muslims. To me, Islam was a mysterious religion, which I didn’t know a lot about.

That all changed when I got to speak to a Muslim over the Internet. We shared our perception on religion with each other. I compared the ideas of Christianity to those of Islam. Later that night, I concluded that Islam is actually a very interesting religion. The next few days I kept talking to that person, and we kept sharing ideas. I kept asking questions, so I could understand how Islam deals with certain situations. And with every answer I got, Islam became more interesting, and I got more and more intrigued.

Before Ramadan: Lots of questions and insecurity
A few months before Ramadan started, I felt ready. I was looking forward to it, since it’s one of the five pillars of Islam. I imagined feeling more connected to the Muslim community in Belgium and started asking questions about it. A lot of them gave me tips and encouraged me. They never stopped supporting me. That proved to be necessary, because a week before the Ramadan started, I got intimidated. I started to feel scared. What if I wasn’t ready? What if I ate something by accident? What if I got a lot of criticism? A lot of questions started racing through my head and I started to doubt myself. But when Ramadan started, every piece of the puzzle fell in it’s place again.

Ramadan for the first time: How I’m experiencing it
The first day went much better than expected. I had an exam, so I focused a lot on that. The tips I got from my friends immediately came in very handy. The hardest moment of that day, were the last hours. Just moments before sundown, I started to feel tired, as it was still very hot outside. But I still experienced the inner peace Ramadan gave me.

I started the second day with a lot of courage. However, the second day was even harder than the first one, just like my friends told me. I wasn’t used to fasting two days in a row, but I also managed to survive that day.

The next days went better, and every day I became stronger. My body is getting used to fasting. I also feel closer to God, and more spiritual, it’s as if Ramadan is cleaning my soul. Of course, there are still some difficult moments. Now and then I feel hungry and thirsty, but that feeling goes away quickly. I started noticing that focusing on my studies and reading Qur’an makes me forget about my hunger and thirst. And it is time to break my fast before I knew it.

The difficulties of Ramaden
Of course, not everything goes easily. Every day, difficult things happen. The hardest thing for me was telling my non-Muslim friends that I was fasting. A lot of people have this feeling that when you pray five times a day, read Qur’an, or take part in Ramadan as a convert, you are starting to get a little extreme.

Another difficulty is that you suddenly stop eating. My body wasn’t used to that in the beginning, and I quickly wanted to snack something. That, combined with the long and hot days, is very tough in the beginning. But the more days pass, the easier it gets. I notice that especially the last hours can be very hard. Time sometimes seems to go very slow.

Seeing others eat can also be difficult. In my case, I am mostly surrounded by non-Muslims, and it can be hard sometimes to resist eating, when your friends are all eating.

On the bright side: The positive aspects
Besides the difficulties, there also are a lot of positive things as well. During Ramadan, I feel much closer to God. I feel like I can start anew, and that all my sins have been forgiven. What’s also very nice, is that the community has your back. They check up on each other frequently, and they give you a lot of support. Something that a convert sometimes needs during the first Ramadan.

Like I said before, during the day it can get tough. But afterwards, when you break your fast and eat the first date or drink a glass of water, it feels so rewarding. I am so proud of myself every time I break my fast and look back on a good day of fasting. It makes me stronger, and it makes me want to fast the next day as well. It motivates me, and I prove to myself that I am stronger than I think. That God is with me, and that He helps me as long I have faith in Him.

Surrounding’s reaction: negative responses and solidarity
Being a convert, the reactions of my surroundings are all different. Some people support me or listen to my story. Some people act shocked, others will say that it is unhealthy or that I am too extreme. I get asked a lot of questions, especially by non-Muslims that support me. They want to know what I can or can’t do. They ask me about my experiences and how my other surroundings react to my choice. Some even reschedule things on purpose, just out of solidarity. This proves me that not only Muslims are here to support me, but also non-Muslims often support me.

There will always be people that don’t agree with your choice. My advice is to not get intimidated by their opinion. Don’t change your opinion because of them.



Tips for people who will be participating for the first time
My first Ramadan so far has taught me a lot already, and I have some tips for the people that are going to take part in their first one.

Firstly, don’t listen to people that don’t like what you’re doing. There will always be people that won’t like what you are doing. Always follow your heart and do the things that make you happier. Secondly, drink a lot of water or milk during Iftar or Suhoor. Try to avoid soda, and don’t drink coffee, especially not during Suhoor. Don’t drink too fast either. This may be hard after a whole day of fasting, but if you drink too fast, your stomach will start to hurt. Drink with small gulps and throughout the night. As for eating, eat things with a lot of potassium. Dates are the way to go, but bananas are very healthy as well. Avoid salty things, because they will only cause you to be even more thirsty. And thirdly, keep God in mind, definitely when you are tempted to eat or drink. Keeping Him in mind has always given me the power to not give up. This can really help during the long and hot hours. Another possible solution is to read Qur’an. That’ll keep you busy and make the fasting easier for you.

The most important thing is: Don’t make it too hard on yourself! May God be with you during this blessed month!

Written by Yentl

Yentl is almost 20 years old and was born in Belgium. His hobbies are playing sports, writing, reading, and is passionate about history and many other things. He wants to become a web and app developer and will graduate next year. His dream is going abroad and serve the Muslim community.
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#7 [Permalink] Posted on 14th April 2021 05:43
Abdur Rahman ibn Awf wrote:
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This is such a fascinating read. Thank you for posting.

I'm filled with shame at how easily a young new Muslim convert is able to put his trust in Allah SWT, and draw closer to Him through fasting, while I, a born Muslim, has let countless Ramadans pass me by, with no discernible spiritual progress.

يا واسَعَ الفَضْل اغْفِرْلي

(Ya waasi'al fadhli, ighfirli)
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#8 [Permalink] Posted on 18th April 2021 20:39
My Ramadans In Prison Were Some Of The Best Ramadans In My Life

Date: 23/04/2020Author: Babar Ahmad

I spent 12 Ramadans in prison. Six of them in small group isolation. Two of them in complete solitary confinement.

One Ramadan I was in a cell where I could neither see the sun nor a clock. I would start and end my fast judging by the times the officers brought meals to my door.

For two Ramadans I ate cold bland food that had been left lying in my cell for up to 13 hours. I never ate a single date those two years, but I saw dates in my dreams.

The prison would give me one orange a day. I would squeeze it with my hands into juice and put the cup next to the air-conditioning vent to cool it until my fast opened.

I bought small pouches of runny processed “honey” from the prison commissary and I would squeeze a pouch into my mouth to open my fast.

I bought this herbal tea which I would have with warm tap water every night because I didn’t have a kettle:



For 12 Ramadans I prayed taraweeh, alone, in my cell. It conjures a romantic, mythical image doesn’t it?

One Ramadan I was next to a prisoner who would spend all night shouting out of the window to his friends in the nearby block.

One night, while I was praying taraweeh, that prisoner was having a shouting conversation describing all the different women that he had slept with.

In sexually explicit detail he described all their body parts. He did this throughout the hour I was praying. He didn’t know I was praying.

Why am I giving all these details?

Because my Ramadans in captivity were some of the best Ramadans I ever spent in my life. I would not exchange them for the world.

I knew that I was in prison temporarily and that one day my imprisonment would end.

I didn’t spend my days and nights in sadness, grieving for a Ramadan with my family, luscious food and serene taraweeh at the mosque.

I knew that those Ramadans would come again one day. And they did.

Looking back I do miss those Ramadans in solitude. They were special.

In years to come you will miss this Ramadan and tell your children about it.

The late boxer Muhammad Ali رضي الله عنه once said, “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

Have a blessed Ramadan. Spread love and hope. Be generous.

Remember, charity is not just giving money or food. Uplifting a sad or lonely person is one of the best forms of charity.

Try to finish the Quran once this Ramadan. Just once. If you manage that, you will have achieved much.

Repent for your past sins, pray for those who have passed or are sick, beg Allah to lift this coronavirus tribulation upon us and let the sun shine once again on the world

Ramadan kareem.
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