Alone In a Crowd: Reflections on Ramadan

So, it’s Ramadan again. The month where the moon stays up so late and rises up early. To others it’s just summer. However, to us it’s the one holy month where we fast to have empathy for others, the month where we get to see all our relatives, and we gather together to interact, celebrate and pray, it is the month where we give the most compassion and take back love, the month where we feel the utmost peace for forgiving ourselves and others, and we feel forgiven as well.

To us, it’s more than summer, it’s more than fasting, it’s more than being hungry, it’s Ramadan. Ramadan is the month where the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). Ramadan is about community, it’s about being surrounded by the people you love, it’s about knowing that whatever you are going through, whatever you are feeling, the next person is going through this with you and you are not alone.

As you walk down the halls of the university as an international student fasting and trying hard to get through the day, you feel no sense of community and togetherness. You’re constantly being treated to blank stares and straight faces; no one is asking how you’re feeling but rather they’re asking why you feel the need to starve (Once again, Ramadan is not about starving or wanting to deprive yourself of anything, it’s about devotion). You haven’t heard “Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak” in so long that you’re starting to now lose the sense and feeling that this is Ramadan. In a month where your heart and soul are pure, the judgment you feel from others starts to develop anger in you. You know that you need to cleanse yourself but you’re stressed because “why can’t no one understand and be supportive?”, and instead of feeling the blessings from this month and walking around with happiness and cheerfulness, you end up with this lump in your throat.

All of a sudden, you’re withdrawing from others around you. You want nothing more than your family here but since they can’t be here, and you can’t be there, you slowly start to feel loneliness, isolation and secluded from the world. You enter a dark place where nothing else matters but to get yourself through this month, forgetting that Ramadan isn’t only about fasting but it’s about the heart, the soul, the compassion, the giving and the greatest love.

Moving halfway across the world into a different country, you come and immerse yourself in the knowledge others have to give. You learn so much about them and educate yourself in their ways of thinking, and their culture but yet they fail to even attempt to learn about you. People tell you not to expect anything from others but I always ask why? You give so much, why can’t you even expect the littlest of gestures or anything back?

Being so used to the warmth of the world where you’re from, and understanding everyone around you while they understand you back, the coldness and the ignorance you get in a different country makes it feel like a whole new world for you. You move across the world to make a better life for yourself whilst leaving your family behind but instead of feeling welcome, you’re left questioning yourself and wondering if this is all really worth it. It’s not just about this, but it’s about the constant self doubts, the constant stress, the feelings of inadequacy, the feelings of loneliness, the feeling of ‘maybe I’m not good enough that’s why they don’t want to welcome me’, feeling like they don’t care enough to understand my culture and my religion, the never ending anxiety, the panic attacks, the sadness, the depression.

One day my aunt passed away, and I had to write a final exam on that same day because how on earth do I contact my family who is mourning and grieving and ask for a certificate to not write my exam? I mean, I ended up failing, getting a panic attack, feeling inferior because I failed my exam and this is an accurate description of how I feel during Ramadan. No one feels the need to cater to you but they always feel the need to increase your school fees. Eating Suhoor by yourself and ending Iftar by yourself is honestly the worst thing. You feel so empty and the one thing you’re craving which is love, seems so distant and far away. I forget the purpose of Ramadan because everything I do is by myself and without anyone.

I’ll give anything to feel warmth and happiness during Ramadan. I’ll do anything to take away the emptiness that is overshadowing the pureness of Ramadan. Others always say to pray, I do pray and I’m connected to God but there is a reason why family and friends exist. If my family can’t be here, then the least I can ask for is a community that embraces me. Or is this too much?

 

Ramadan Mubarak folks!