Its day 3 of Ramadan and I have kept only one fast, had to break another, and missed one entirely. As I write this, I know I likely will miss another one tomorrow, and then a couple more later this week when my menstrual cycle arrives, and then possibly a few more when I have to travel with my daughter to Washington, D.C. for a school related trip.
I started Ramadan with a bad head cold, but I fasted anyway. That head cold turned into a fever, which has now lasted several days. I’m 36 years old now, and have been fasting regularly since my high school years. Yet, its different now. At 16, Ramadan was what I looked forward to. It was what I exceled at. Heck, worship in general was what I exceled at. I would stand in prayer for hours for tarawih and tahajjud, complete all my fasts, read Qur’an, and memorize new chapters of the Qur’an. At 36, I no longer look forward to Ramadan. The long days without food and drink with three children at three different schools and a full-time job gives Ramadan nights a completely different vibe. I’m lucky if I can make my prayers on time. And all I want to do is sleep.
For anyone who knows me, they know that my inner critic is an incredibly loud voice. And when thinking about Ramadan in 2017 versus Ramadan in 1997, I am the first to tell myself that I’m failing a month that has been given to us as a month of blessing. This is the month when each good deed, each act of charity is multiplied exponentially–when reaping reward should be so easy. Yet, it seems so hard. And it seems I am failing.
Yesterday, my best friend texted me remorsefully. She told me about her migraine by the end of her day and how that prevented her from doing any extra worship. In other words, her accomplishment for the day was that she completed her fard: she fasted, and she prayed.
While my inner critic is loud to me, it doesn’t yell at others. And so I found myself giving her advice that I later realized was actually for me. “Here’s a survival tip.” I told her. “Renew your intention for all the things you just have to do. Example: Oh my baby, my love. You need a diaper change? I will change you for the sake of Allah. Oh child you need to go to school? I will drive you for the sake of Allah.” She laughed in response telling me I couldn’t be serious. And I found myself saying, “I’m actually totally serious. Why not get reward for all the day-to-day we do for our loved ones.”
A couple hours later, I came across this status by Islamic scholar, Maryam Amir, and found myself moved to tears. It was as if she was speaking to me: “Your greatest act of worship this Ramadan is simply to give it your all however that is for you – in spite – not despite – your circumstances. Recognize that whatever you are putting forth for God’s sake, even if it’s ‘nothing’ in comparison to what others seem to be racing to do, is huge in the sight of God. It may be even bigger than what others are doing, even if in quantity it seems smaller.”
And so, this Ramadan, I aspire to exercise the same compassion I do with myself as I do with others. I will go to work for the sake of Allah. I will cook dinner for my family for the sake of Allah. I will love and nurture my children for the sake of Allah. I will even sleep for the sake of Allah. I will fast and pray for the sake of Allah. And when I cannot fast, I will also do so for the sake of Allah. And if that is the best that I can do this Ramadan, then I have reaped the rewards of this incredible month.