By: Sana Sardar
“Every year since that Ramadan, I feel like a reset button has come for me each Ramadan. It invites me to recenter my goals and my lifestyle to that of pleasing Allah as my priority.”
I remember when I came to the USA at the age of 12 from Pakistan. I came with my immediate family. We had no family or friends here. Going to school in the final semester of 7th grade was tough. The kids picked on me and my sister for the way we dressed and talked. The teachers, however, were pleased with our homework, because our dad helped us.
Our dad was the Chief Planning Officer for the Board of Education in Pakistan, but in the USA he had to take on two full-time jobs and often fell asleep during his job or at the red light. My mom, who was so pampered in Pakistan, with many servants cooking and cleaning and handling the kids for her, now had to take on a full-time job as well.
One day while walking home from school, some kids started throwing pebbles at me and my siblings from across the street. Being the eldest sibling, I told them to stop and they attacked me while holding my siblings’ hands behind their backs. I got punched around a few times before they ran off. That day I decided that I no longer wanted to be different. I didn’t want to be the immigrant kid in the school any more. I tried my best to speak English without an accent and blend into society.
I quickly realized, however, that there were limitations to adapting an American lifestyle, because my parents would not let me. For example, my classmates openly danced in front of the class, they had boyfriends and girlfriends, and spent weekends hanging out at the mall with mixed genders. This created frustration inside me. I was lost about my identity.
When I entered college, I saw some women wearing hijab and I asked them if they were following an Arab culture or if it was part of Islam. I was reassured that Islam taught us to cover ourselves. I started thinking about my identity and what I was trying to become.
In my class, I once heard someone towards the back of the room talk about Islam and about the beauty of the Qur’an. He was saying that Surah Noor, for example, teaches us proper etiquettes of entering and leaving a house, of dressing inside and outside the house. I bought a CD of Surah Noor the same day after school and heard its translation for some time. I didn’t understand much and turned it off quickly. However, I fell in love with Qari Abdul Basit’s recitation of the Qur’an and started playing it more and more while playing games on my computer.
Another day, the same person was inviting some classmates: “let’s go and pray,” since there was a mosque right behind our college. I said I couldn’t pray because I had no scarf. He offered me his hat, and said it’s better than skipping the prayer altogether. I was alone in the women’s section and prayed peacefully. I felt so calm and loved it. I started coming to the mosque, bringing a scarf in my book bag to use during prayer. I often stayed there between periods and studied there as well.
One day during Ramadan, after praying, I thought to keep the scarf on instead of putting it back in my bookbag. I was surprised to find that it was not a big deal and some Muslims greeted me on the streets. It was a nice feeling and it made me realize that while some people will always reject you because your identities clash (for example you are a Muslim and they are not) you can find belonging in your community instead.
I was once walking from one class to another and noticed a person praying underneath the college’s stairwell. I was so surprised and thought to myself, these are real Muslims. They know what’s told in the Qur’an and they offer their prayers wherever they are. Ramadan that year was a wake-up call to my identity.
I finally understood what I had to do to learn more about myself. I had to practice my religion! Next year when Ramadan came, I started wearing a hijab. I started offering my prayers, listening to the meaning of the Qur’an and started going to Taraweeh prayers regularly. I came to love this way of life and felt at ease in my own skin.
Every year since that Ramadan, I feel like a reset button has come for me each Ramadan. It invites me to recenter my goals and my lifestyle to that of pleasing Allah as my priority. Each time Ramadan comes around, I buckle up. I start reciting the Qur’an more, focus on the meaning of the Qur’an, and make sure I don’t miss prayers.
I begin giving charity, try not to argue or lose my temper, and overall try to focus on the right mindset and live a healthy lifestyle. Ramadan impacts every aspect of my life inside and out. For example, I start eating very clean for suhoor, because if I don’t, I suffer during the day. If I eat oily things during suhoor, I get very thirsty during my fast. I also quit drinking tea and all caffeine before the start of Ramadan because I don’t want to have headaches during my fast. I also build my tolerance for my kids and husband because I don’t have the energy to waste on unnecessary stress. I spend most of my day in worship, rather than watching TV and wasting time. I let go of grudges and try to be sincere inside and out.
The reward of Ramadan is abundance all around us as well as inside us, by feeling the sweetness of faith, Iman. No matter how many sins we have committed and how far we have strayed from our religion, let Ramadan be your miracle reset button. Try your best for that one month to earn Allah’s pleasure and the aftereffects will last you all year long, In sha’ Allah. Ramadan is truly a miracle gifted to the believers.
No matter how far you have drifted from Allah, no matter how few steps you have taken towards Allah, let this Ramadan be the new beginning for you. One step at a time, focus on becoming a better version of yourself. Learn daily to improve daily. Don’t beat yourself up over whatever is done and how much life has been wasted. As long as you are alive and you have this golden opportunity to earn so much more reward for each good deed you do, take advantage. In general, one good deed gives one good reward, but in Ramadan Allah gives us special sales where each good deed gives you at least 70 times the reward! Take advantage and run in this race for good deeds, earning Allah’s pleasure and taking the first step to starting over in your life. Put simply, reset!
(P.S. The guy who taught me about Surah Noor is now my husband, Alhamdulillah!)