I look forward to Ramadan like most Muslims. I worry about being prepared, but I also realize we can never fully prepare for anything, especially something as important as our duties and obligations to Allah.
I understand that whilst I try my best, only Allah knows if my deeds, actions and prayers will be accepted.
Over the past 13 years, each Ramadan has taught me something different. My first few Ramadans were clumsy. Ramadan can only be truly learned by experiencing it. As a new Muslim, I read and studied about Ramadan and took classes at my mosque.
Ultimately I winged it, as my husband at the time was not Muslim and I reverted to Islam only shortly before Ramadan. I made mistakes and learned from them. One time I thought it was okay to continue fasting, despite the sun setting, until I got home from work at 10 pm. That was a mistake. I did not feel good at all and I missed the Taraweeh prayers.
As I settled into Islam and learned more by reading the Qur’an and taking classes, I became more sociable and met new sisters. Lifelong friendships developed. While many new reverts are eagerly accepted into a mosque after reverting, the “thrill” often wears off and the newly reverted Muslim is left on her own to navigate the learning process to achieve a better understanding of Islam. As a Muslim community, we need to keep in touch with people who have reverted, make friends with them, guide them, teach them and include them in social activities beyond their first few weeks.
It goes both ways. As a new Muslim, you also need to reach out. Just like seeking that job you have been coveting, you also need to be proactive in your quest for gaining Islamic knowledge, inquiring about classes, asking about social outings and being that friend you are seeking. Making connections among the Muslim community, like anywhere, is a two-way process: both you and the sisters at the mosque must make an effort.
Ramadan mosque experiences
During Ramadan a few years ago, I and two close sisters took two new converts and visited six different mosques that were within a three-hour traveling distance from our hometown to break our fasts with them. At each mosque, we were warmly welcomed and treated like family. Each mosque was different in size; one holding about 1000 Muslims for iftar (the sunset meal during which the fast is broken) and the smallest having a capacity for about 20.
Each mosque had varying styles of iftar. In one, we were served while seated on the floor, at another we sat at a table, and in the third we sat in a circle with a beautiful cloth placed on the floor for the vessels of food.
The mosques also varied by culture and ethnicity, which was a welcome learning experience. What each iftar had in common, though, was the happy, smiling faces, ready to greet one another and talk about how their day of fasting went. I learned about the struggles of the women, mothers, wives and single moms striving to raise healthy, happy Muslim children.
We were unified by our various struggles combined with a tenacity to serve Allah in the best way we could. I experienced a deep appreciation for the strong Muslim women we met who wore different styles of clothing, head scarves, and other cultural Islamic garments, some handmade by the sisters.
I also learned different recipes for foods from many different countries and my cooking skills are now diverse and appreciated by my family. Tarawih prayers were the same in every mosque. One mosque had an area where mothers could leave sleeping children safely so they could participate in the prayers. This was appreciated by mothers who wanted to be pray at the mosque with their sisters.
During our travels to the various mosques, we had the opportunity to discuss Islam with the two new sisters who had lots of questions. It was beautiful to see their enthusiasm. It reminded us of the time when we took the shahada (and became Muslims) many years ago.
After our visits, they told us how wonderful their first experience of Ramadan had been and how much they learned from all the various sisters and mosques. Since that blessed Ramadan many years ago, we’re all still very close with each other and with the sisters we met.