Originally published on Coming of Faith, which brings the voices of Muslim American women to the world through multidimensional storytelling and empowerment initiatives.
The Bachelorette: Ramadan Edition
By Huda Alawa
Last Ramadan, I lived a Hollywood role: the lonely bachelorette.
It was my junior year summer, and I was doing independent research while simultaneously working at a coffee shop in the middle-of-nowhere-Western-Massachusetts.
This was the beginning of an era: my own apartment, my own life. No longer was I a dependent taxpayer; from here on out, I was an independent adult!
When Ramadan first started, I was excited to do it on my own: now my siblings wouldn't hog the leftover lentil soup that I so coveted during suhoor, nor would they jabber so much during suhoor that my dad would shush us all ("Do you not realize it's 4:00 am and the babies are sleeping? I don't want to have to put them back to bed.").
I wouldn't have to deal with my siblings bickering over whose turn it was to read the hadith of the day -- a tradition my father had set up. Iftar would be a breeze. Because I would be at work, I wouldn't have the grueling experience of counting down the minutes on the clock. Nor would I have to deal with smelling my mom's delectable chicken cooking in the oven prior to breaking my fast. All of these first world problems -- and I would be exempt!
At first, it was no less than great. On the day before Ramadan, three of my friends and I blasted Mesut Kurtis' "Burdah" in the car while we drove to Taraweeh prayer. I felt refreshed, excited for the month.
This Ramadan, I thought to myself, would be perfect.
That first suhoor, I woke up enthusiastically. I was excited. Everything was so quiet! I prepared suhoor for myself, consumed it as fast as possible, prayed, and went back to sleep. As I drifted off, I thought to myself, I could do this all the time.
The rest of the day proceeded as I had planned: wake up at ten, get some writing done, pray dhur, get ready for work. Spend the next eight hours working, take time out to pray asr, break my fast with a caramel frappucino. Come back home, pray mughrib, make some pasta and salad, read Quran, pray Isha, go to sleep.
My life became a schedule, timed to the dot. Nothing unexpected would happen; everything was as I planned.
Every suhoor, I would trudge to the kitchen, make myself some porridge, eggs or cereal. My movements were robotic, my intentions were lackluster. My days were less than thrilling -- with all the interviews for my research done, all I was doing was writing. Work was the same thing on repeat: pour the milk, steam it, pull the shots, pump the syrup -- nobody wants to read how to make a latte! Imagine making 400 or more a day.
I felt like every depressed movie character who just broke up with their significant other: breaking up with my family for Ramadan resulted in going through the motions, with no meaning to my life.
Who was I kidding? I wasn't ready for this life!
I began to miss the constant scuffles my siblings and I would get into, grouchy from not eating, my mother reprimanding us that since shaytan is gone this month, we are apparently just awful human beings and what did she ever do to deserve this? (Note: this is my interpretation, I'm sure she didn't say it exactly like this.)
In efforts to revive Ramadan, I decided to do the cliché iHop suhoor -- and why not? Everyone seemed to have so much fun doing those!
Unfortunately, my friends and I decided to go to one in a town that wasn't reputable for the right reasons. The restaurant was filled with people who weren't in the most Islamic condition possible -- they obviously weren't worried about fasting. But it was going to be great!
A reluctant waiter seated us, then proceeded to ignore us, taking forever to take our orders and even longer to give them to us. By the time we got everything -- man, oh man, was I excited for these chocolate chip pancakes! -- we had fifteen minutes left of suhoor. Pair that with that fact that we only got one cup of water to down the sugary pancakes...the experience still gives me nightmares.
Defeated, I went home for the last couple days of Ramadan.
I basked in the suhoor fights over leftovers, partaking in the loud arguments that resulted in the youngest siblings waking up, trudging downstairs groggily, disoriented. We squeezed them onto the bench with us, pinching each other to make more space for ourselves. My siblings and I raced to drink as much water as we could, knowing full well that there was only a few minutes left until no more could be consumed.
Never has my heart felt so full. There is something special in being surrounded by your own blood, suffocated by the constant arguing, overwhelmed by the underlying love.
When fajr was prayed and the traditional hadith was read, I walked to my room and threw myself onto my bed, smiling to myself.
Ramadan was back.
Huda Alawa is a student at Mount Holyoke College, where she is combining her interest in the world around us with her passion for stories through her Anthropology major. When not buried by assignments or planning out lists of life plans, Huda can be found consuming coffee at indie coffee shops or chasing after her family's cats in hopes that they will show her some sign of affection (this is a rare phenomenon!). Follow her on twitter!