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 Is It Your First Ramadan? Read about a Revert's First Ramadan!

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PostSubject: Is It Your First Ramadan? Read about a Revert's First Ramadan!    Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:54 pm


Planning for Ramadan

By: Shannon Lee Elghandor


When I think of Ramadan, I'm reminded that Ramadan is not like any other event on earth. Some people think of it as a holiday like to Christmas or Hanukah. But Ramadan is not, by any means, merely a holiday. It is a time of spiritual purification. It's not just fun and games and pleasantries and celebrations. It is a time for remembering Allah with the fullness of our hearts. When we think of what happens in the course of a year, there can be a million different things that have changed, and looking back on the year gives us the chance to reflect to our deeds and accomplishments as well as our setbacks and things we had meant to do but never did. And It gives us a chance to evaluate our own spritual growth. Have we progressed in this since last Ramadan? That is always a question that one should ask themselves.

For some, they've been experiencing Ramadan every year of their lives. They grew up in a society where Ramadan was part of the yearly schedule. But for many many of us who are reverts, we have had maybe only a few Ramadans, or maybe only one, or maybe this is our very very first time. August 1st marks the start of Ramadan month. And it is very very exciting. Last year was my first Ramadan ever. And I wanted to share the story of my experience with those who are going through their first Ramadan this year, as well as those who've been doing it for years. Because, I feel my story is important for people going through tough and difficult situations to realize that no matter what is going on in your life, Ramadan and fasting is absolutely one of the most important events of a Muslim's life. And even if you are brand new to it, you should do your best to make it through Ramadan from start to finish.

Last year when Ramadan started, I was homeless. I lived in my car in the dead of heat (My car had no air conditioning) with a dog and two cats. The only money I had at the time was what was left of my last month of Unemployment benefits. I had been parking at truck stops at night, going to the park during the day, and after a while I began parking on the dead end dirt road outside of a family member's house. The only connection I had to the Muslim world was through my PC. Facebook was the one place I could go to talk to other Muslims at all. I had spent the past few months studying up on Ramadan, trying to learn exactly what I was supposed to do. And learning about what others were doing for Ramadan in their own countries and societies. And when the first day of Ramadan came around, I felt I was prepared enough to take on this great challenge. I had had one big frozen Lasagna meal on the last day before fasting. And prepared myself with dates, life water, and whatever other food items I had which I stored inside my family member's home. I got up on the first dawn before Ramadan, out of my car, I went and made wudu from the swimming pool and I made my fajr prayer on the ground outside. I prayed to Allah and asked him to accept my prayers and help me get through Ramadan no matter how difficult it was for me. And Alhamdulillah, my prayer was answered.

Every day, I'd get up before dawn, eat my morning meal of dates, water, and sometimes I'd eat dry cereal or whatever I had with it. Then I'd go pray Fajr, go back to my car and sleep until later in the morning. I'd go do wudu in the pool and pray Dhuhr. And they days were very very long. 16 hours per day without any water or food, in the hot hot sun, living primarily outside was very difficult. But I'd count the hours until the next prayer. And I'd pray Asr, and then when Maghrib came, I won't lie, it was a relief. Best time of day, not because I was hungry, but oh my God how I was thirsty. I'd go inside and grab my ice cold life water and drink it all down so fast. I felt this way for about the first 2 weeks. But when the third week came, I was used to it and sometimes I'd forget to break my fast until after Isha. I'd pray maghrib but I'd be busy researching something or talking to a friend and I stopped thinking about food and drink. I'd remember my prayers and I'd keep thinking about how insha Allah, this difficult time would be over soon.

I can say that Allah answered many of my prayers in this time. I prayed that I would find a home for my dog because I knew it would be impossible to find a place to stay with a big full grown rotweiler mix, even though he was incredibly friendly. And alhamdulillah, I found him an amazing home. It was so hard to see him go, I'd raised him since he was a puppy and for 4 years, but I was so relieved that he was out of this bad situation of living like this, and would be in a safe and loving home with people who could give him everything he needed to be happy and healthy. I found out that he had been subjected to some bad sicknesses while he was with me in the outside. There was no protection from virus spreading bugs and I know now that if I'd tried to keep him, there is a good chance he would have died. And Alhamdulillah, Allah sent me a person to take him who could get him taken care of. She was kind enough to send me pictures and let me know that she gave him vet care and that he was completely fine now. And on the day she took him, her and her sister and mom had come up to me and stuck $50 in my hand and said "Take this! We know you didn't ask for money but we know you need it!" And I was entirely moved to tears for their kindness. We all exchanged big hugs and I just said to myself, "Alhamdulillah!"

And then at the start of the fourth week of Ramadan, I was able to leave this situation and go to stay with friends who welcomed my mother and I in with so much kindness. They even let me keep my other two cats with me. And I've been here ever since, just trying to figure out what to do next. And I can't tell you how many times Allah answered my prayers. He opened my eyes to see many situations that were potentially bad situations, and he helped me to get through some of the sad losses and difficulties I faced. He helped me through everything and he helps me everyday still. I can't explain my level of gratitude, and I often find myself wondering how on earth I can ever do enough. And what's more, he has blessed me with an opportunity of a lifetime. And sent someone into my life which I could never doubt, was a blessing. And now this year as Ramadan approaches, I look back on last year and think, wow! How far I've come in such a short time. All thanks to Allah, and I feel that if I had not fasted, if I had not stayed strong during Ramadan, I would NOT be blessed as I am now. What I did for Allah was a tiny measure by compared to what he gives me everyday. And so this year, I look forward with a sense of awe and excitement. This Ramadan will be somewhat of a challenge. But I hardly see it that way. I see it as a wonderous opportunity and I am so grateful for the month of Ramadan.

This is what Ramadan is. It is not a time to be dreading having to give up your food and drink and petty wants that mean so little in the scheme of things. It's a time to think, what an amazing opportunity to give to Allah a tiny fraction of what he gives to us. It's a time to give and recieve love and happiness from Allah and from those around us. It's a time to spend time with loved ones, share stories, share adventures, share experiences, and praise Allah for all those opportunities. It's a time to build on self restraint so that we can face any difficulty with strength. Because after all, what is food and drink? A basic human need. And if we can restrain ourselves during this time, even in the hottest conditions, from desiring our basic human needs, then imagine what we can restrain ourselves from doing otherwise. It's our chance to learn exactly how strong we are. It's our chance to say, if I can deny myself food and drink for Allah and pray my prayers and thank him, then I can deny myself of any haram thing easily. I can deny myself of any unnecessary excesses and learn to become more humble and less materialistic. I can become more pious and be among the best of Allah's creations.

That is the whole point of Ramadan. So when we approach it, we should be looking toward preparing ourselves for this state of being. Take some time to reflect, but also look ahead. Take some time to plan to fast in spurts between now and then. Take some time to plan extra prayers and start to remove the desires for things that we know are haram. Speak kinder to each other, and try to give more than we recieve if possible. Try to be more in tune with the devine laws of Allah. Remember that the sooner we prepare ourselves for this time, the better we will be when we get to the first day. This is so important. And I know some people who are new reverts are so nervous of this time and asking yourselves a million questions. Can I survive this? Will I do it right? Will I mess up? Will I have any enjoyment? What will others think of what I'm doing? etc etc...

I had all these questions going through my head the first time too. But I tell you now, do not worry. Because, if you realize how my situation was so difficult, and how easy it would have been for me to say "Oh, I'm homeless and in this bad situation, I think Allah would be ok with me skipping this year and doing next year.", and knowing I didn't give up, then you must know that you can do it too. I am so glad that I stuck it out and didn't give up. And I promise you now, you will be so glad you did too, Insha Allah. So keep the faith and get ready, because this year will be a hot one, and it will be a long one. Longest days of the year. But if this doesn't beat you out, nothing will. That is the challenge.

I will include a few tips now to help you in the month of Ramadan so you can handle the challenge best you can.

1. Dates and water are the best thing you can possibly take in before dawn. Dates and water help you to stay hydrated. Try to get whole dates, not the sugar coated ones. And get a vitamin water to help you keep in good vitamins and nutrition during the day. Eat a good 5-10 dates and drink a whole bottle of water. You can also eat eggs in the morning which will provide you some protein and they are great to help with weight loss so it's a double plus! :-)

2. If you find yourself getting over heated, go and splash cold water on your face. It helps, believe me! Take a cool shower everyday, if you can after Dhuhr or Asr. It will help to keep your body temp regulated and keep you clean for your prayers.

3. If you feel your mouth getting so dry that it hurts, go ahead and swish some cold water in your mouth BUT don't swallow. Spit it out! It will help your mouth from becoming chalky.

4. Make sure to prepare yourself for each prayer. Take a few minutes before each prayer to do wudu, (as you'll probably need it because it will be a hot and sweaty month.) Wudu with cool water will help to keep your body temp at a good level and keep you cooler and more refreshed.

5. When it comes to Maghrib, don't rush!! I know you will be hungry and thirsty, but even though it is time to break the fast, you should still do your best to respect the prayer and take your time. And it shows extra piety and restraint if you pray slowly and even add some extra supplications to this prayer. Allah will reward you insha Allah for your will to keep your duty to him before your own self. And also be sure to ask Allah to accept your day of fasting and bless your break of fast.

6. Breaking fast is a great time. You can go and get yourself that much needed water/juice/soda etc.. and enjoy every sip. But remember during every meal to say "bismillah" or "Allah" and make your meal/drink halal. This is right in the Quran. I know for a lot of American reverts, actually getting ahold of halal foods is very very difficult and sometimes expensive. And if you are like me and living on food stamps, you can't exactly use them at just any store. So the remedy to this, insha allah, is just to be sure to say the words that make this meal for the sake of Allah. This goes for any time of year, day, whenever.

7. You may eat and drink anytime after the sun goes down, after maghrib prayer is complete. Enjoy your meal. Share with friends, family (whether they are Muslim or not!). And what would be really great and very rewarding is if you bring a non-Muslim to Iftar (breaking of fast meal) at a larger public Muslim event. This will facilitate the understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims and insha Allah they may even want to revert after experiencing a great event like this. To see the great unity of Muslims is one of the most inspiring parts of Islam for new reverts.

8. Try to give something, a gift. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't even have to be store baught, even if you have something of your own to give or if you make a gift, (which I feel is always much more meaningful because it is your own effort that makes it). By doing this, you are sharing in the spirit of Ramadan. Even if you are surrounded by non-Muslims and are the only one around, they don't even have to know why you are giving it. Just share something nice with others. And you may find yourself receiving gifts from others in your Muslim community if they know you. It's a chance for people to do something nice for each other.

9. Visit with family and friends (whether they are Muslim or not!) It doesn't matter what they believe because everything you do is for the sake of Allah. And it is Allah's reward that is most desired by any Muslim. And if that reward is not given in life, you can be sure that Allah does not lose the reward of the good in the hereafter and it is better for you. This is straight from the Quran! Be out in the Muslim community much as you can be. And if you don't know any Muslims personally, the do what I did. Spend time online talking to others. Share your experiences with them and learn about what they are doing in their own countries. It can help to make you feel like you are a part of something much bigger and much more special than you know. :-)

That's all for now! I hope this helps to inspire others, Insha Allah and I hope that you will have an AMAZING Ramadan, wherever, whoever you are! Much love to my fellow Muslim sisters and brothers for the sake of Allah! Alhamdulillah! Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi, wa barakaatuh!
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