By Zaynab Dawood
Ramadan is a month of immense blessings and even before its silver moon is sighted, the preceding weeks permeate with enthusiasm and anticipated harmony. Muslims around the world feel its light as the heavenly portals emerge and open with the month that delivered the Holy Quran. Muslims mentally prepare themselves for a month of dedicated fasting and renewed devotion through recitation of the Quran and the Taraweeh prayers. Communities gather and outwardly display their excitement for this guest and this, undoubtedly, helps Muslims to immerse themselves in the experience of Ramadan. Being together helps us achieve the best from Ramadan. However, being together is not a reality for many Muslims. Especially reverts.
An Individual Endeavour
In towns with large numbers of Muslims, some market stalls will be decked with sparkly moons and crescents and piles of boxed dates. Muslim women receive more what’s app invitations on groups for shared Quran readings and more posters will be put up with encouraging announcements of study circles and events in the local mosque. These are all blessings that we should be grateful for and we should not underestimate the nurturing consequences of all these activities yet we need to bear in mind that fasting in Ramadan, Siyam, is primarily an individual endeavour.
Allah reminds us collectively of our spiritual connection to previous communities:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (2:183)
Although we should bear this obligation as an entity of believers, its initial realisation is through all of us as individuals. Fasting is an individual activity first and foremost as its true reception by each of us is when we immerse ourselves completely and wholly to it. We must do this alone, individually, by ourselves. I must do this by myself. I cannot share its obligation with my husband. I cannot divide its duties amongst my siblings. I cannot delegate its responsibilities to my friends. It is my fast.
Embrace your present juncture
Pre-Ramadan vibes on social media portray a perfect family, home and community setting that is essential for us to get the most out of Ramadan but for Muslims who do not have any family support or revert Muslims still trying to establish themselves domestically, these images can be disconcerting.
Accept where you are now. Accept where destiny has placed you: it’s all in Allah’s Plan for you.
Wherever you are, whoever you are with (or not with), whichever resources are available or accessible to you, at any given moment, remember that Allah is always with us. Worship was initially an individual duty for the early Muslims and we can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the men and women of Makkah to fast and offer salah whilst living with other family members who were openly hostile to the message of Islam and also vehemently against the Prophet, peace be upon him. Those new to the deen may encounter similar challenges but their fortitude will arise from their commitment to their Lord. It is achievable- with or without support from others around us.
Our task is to do the best we can now- this means committing to Ramadan with whatever strength and blessings we have been given.
We express our gratitude for the blessings that being in a community in Ramadan gives us and it is certainly a fertile time to make dua for our circumstance to change and improve. Hoping to find fulfilment in wholesome means: through spouses, children, homes and income, are all blessings that enable us to carry out our religious duties easily. If these are not part of our lives now then we should be mindful that their absence need not impede our potential during Ramadan.
Bask in the solitude of your devotion
Being alone can be difficult but it is not absolute. Being alone need not dampen one’s enthusiasm for the arrival of the holy month nor reduce our resolve to pray as much as we can, to recite as much as we can. Being alone can be a beautiful blessing in disguise.
Fasting is a task that yields physical, emotional and mental strength. Fasting cultivates blessings for this earthly life and more in the Hereafter. The kernel for this great harvest is within us- deep within: beyond the layers we wrap our psyche in and through the filters we use to see ourselves. To find this kernel we need to embark on a private inward journey into ourselves and this individual journey requires solitude and detachment from others around us. It’s when we’re truly alone with our thoughts that we can really feel the khushoo of prayer and though there is heightened reward for communal prayer, there is nothing to impede a worshipper’s singular and individual effort in reaching a deep and enriched state of taqwa. (Khushu is deep concentration during prayer.) Scaffolding from others helps but it isn’t essential.
Those that find themselves alone this Ramadan can use their solitude to delve deeper into themselves and really harness the closeness we all ultimately strive for. Perhaps Allah wants us to be alone so we can give all our love and attention to Him, as we all know how family and friends, despite being immense blessings, can distract us from that closeness to Allah.
Our fasting will be for Him Alone, in sha Allah, and that’s why Allah has set the reward of our individual fast for Himself to decide:
“Every deed of man will receive ten to 700 times reward, except Siyam (fasting), for it is for Me and I shall reward it (as I like.) (Muslim)
As individuals we can immerse ourselves into Wordsworth’s “bliss of solitude”, peel away distractions, emerge strong yet humble, without any scaffolding from others and embrace Allah’s Words:
“I am indeed close to them,” (2:186)
About the author:
I’m Zaynab Dawood from Lancashire, England. I’m a busy mum of four, a teacher and author. For me there are three delights in life: Ibadah, spending time with family and friends, and reading good literature!