By: Dareen Abukwaik
Last year, I wrote an article about the struggles of celebrating the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan during AP testing and while in school. Little did I know just how much would change within 11 months, as Ramadan 2020 is now being spent all at home. However, despite all the differences this year, it has been an interesting experience nonetheless and one that I am trying to make the most of.
Ramadan is the Holy Month in the Islamic calendar, as Muslims believe it is when the Holy Quran (similar to the Bible) came down. During this month, Muslims all around the world fast from sunrise to sundown, which means no food or water during that time frame. In addition to fasting, it is customary to pray more during Ramadan, along with abstaining from bad habits such as cursing, smoking, etc.
Ramadan is also usually a time for families to get together for the traditional “iftar,” or the meal when we all break our fast. However, with social distancing regulations, that has not been the case this year. My extended family used to have gatherings every weekend which was when I got to see all of my favorite cousins and eat many kinds of foods. Now, we are left to have iftar with our immediate families, and we rely on social media to keep in touch with everyone else. Even though I miss my family and my favorite cousins immensely, I am so fortunate to still have the ability to talk to them every day just with a few taps on my phone.
Another tradition that occurs during Ramadan is Taraweeh, a special prayer for the month that is usually performed at the mosque every night. In recent years, I haven’t been able to go to the prayers every night due to my school work, and now my mosque is closed for safety precautions. Despite this setback, my family has not given up on this tradition. Our mosque does live streams of the Ramadan lectures and lessons, which is helpful in keeping our spirits up. And my family prays Taraweeh together in our make-shift mosque that we have in our basement, which is just an area with prayer mats and Ramadan decorations. I have managed to get closer with both my family and my faith, as my parents continue to tell us stories in between our prayers.
The biggest change, however, is definitely distance learning. I have always struggled with Ramadan while in school, as I felt that I had to choose between my faith and my education. As my sleep schedule gets messed up during Ramadan, I would constantly feel tired and unmotivated during school, then nap as soon as I got home. This year, I no longer deal with such difficulties as the earliest I have to get up for school is 9 AM, which is a lot more bearable than 7:45 AM. Additionally, I just have more time in my day to focus on school without the distraction of snacking, which has been a problem during the quarantine. I feel more at peace this year, as I am no longer dealing with consistent fatigue and lack of determination.
Overall, Ramadan 2020 is one that will definitely be memorable for just how strange it is. While it is sad that I am not able to spend this wonderful holiday with my whole family, I have realized just how fortunate I am. Through the use of technology and social media, I can still remain in touch with my family members. Also, I am thankful for my parents as they try to make our at-home-mosque as authentic as possible. And finally, despite how much I miss going to school, I am thankful that Ramadan has been much easier for me at home. This holiday has gone from being one that made me feel guilty for not putting enough time to celebrate it, to joy and gratitude for all that I have.