Ramadan Reflections: My Room

I am currently visiting my parents in Vancouver. They still live in the same house that I last lived in before I moved to the East coast 3 years ago. I am very nomadic when I visit my family. The other day, it hit me that I can no longer lay claim to my room as “my room” since  my baby sister has completely taken over it. She and I shared this particular room for 5 years and had been roommates for 13 years before I moved away. Whenever I visit my family, my stays are of longer durations.  My family is always excited to have me over and do everything in their capacity to ensure my comfort. One of the bedrooms is almost always made available for me to stay in, however, I get anxious and have troubles sleeping in a new space, so I generally crash on the couch in the living room. Our home (3 years since I moved away, and I still can’t refer to it as just my parents home, but ours) is not huge, but a cozy little place. growing up here, that was one of the things that I loved most about it. It was sometimes hard to really find privacy (which would get annoying), but you always felt the presence of the people in the house. At times, it seemed to be a small home, but for our family of 6, it served its purpose.

Since I moved out, it meant that each sibling had a room of their own and basically a private space. We managed well in this home of ours. Since, I don’t see this house as separate from my existence,  there really is never any need for any sort of formality. Comfort to me is not defined by my convenience but by the convenience of the hosts that I am visiting. Sometimes,  to me, requiring a private space to sleep in is not important when I visit, but this very Bedouin-like attitude of mine is in fact what impedes their normal routine.

It occurred to me that although when I was around, there was 6 of us who managed fine in this space, but now that there are 5, somehow that same space seems small when the 6th member of the family rejoins. I started thinking about the irony of life, that once people who are integral parts of our homes, and lives, can all of a sudden seem to be the very cause of disturbances. Like molecules that are constantly moving and adjusting according to the space allotted to them, human beings do the same.  My room is no longer mine, but rather I am a guest in the house. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t behave as a guest, nor am I made to feel unwelcome or as a disturbance, but I am no longer an everyday part of their lives. The layout of the house and the natural flow of the space is now adjusted to be managed without my being there, hence my very presence disturbs the equilibrium of this home.

Life, as a cycle is cruel! As children, we are entirely dependent on our parents, our lives unimaginable or even non-existent without their constant care and nourishment. As we grow up, we crave our own personal spaces, so we move away. I remember when I was younger,  I always thought I could not live without my family for a day, let alone spend 3 years away from them. Being the eldest, I had a lot of responsibility placed onto me. My parents, out of habit always called out my name first when they needed something, before they called out any of my other siblings. There was a huge dependence and reliance on me. Similarly, I was so used to just having everyone around me, that the very thought of not being around them was crippling. It would shake me to my core and I would spend sleepless nights crying; yet I have survived the past 3 years, and so have they. It is not to say we don’t miss one another or even miss each others’ constant presence in our lives, it is just that life takes over.

I often think about my grandparents who have passed away. My maternal grandfather passed away 21 years ago and my maternal grandmother passed away almost about 9 years ago. I think how my mother lives without them in her life? I wonder how my father lives without his dad, who passed away 4 years ago. Our time on this earth is limited, we are bound to each other in relationships of love and nurture. We deem ourselves incomplete, and incapable of living without one another, yet life stops for no one. It continues its vicious cycle of living. Time flows seconds into minutes into hours, into days into weeks into years into decades into centuries. We all come to this world, and leave. When we leave, we cause pain to those we leave behind. At those moments life seems impossible to live, yet we too find the strength and the will to continue living. First we miss our loved ones every waking moment of our lives, then it becomes every other day, slowly, we miss them on happy occasions, or remember them on the day they passed away. Those  people who were once crucial to our very survival , their memories start to fade and they become a distant, hazy image in our heads. Everyone around adjusts and makes themselves a little more comfortable in the space those loved ones once occupied. There remains no empty or extra space.

Just like my room is no longer mine, this earth is also one day not going to be mine. We all do return to Him. Our time on this earth is temporary and short, yet we spend majority of our time inconveniencing everyone around, when we all know we will leave one day. We spend our lives making strong buildings, and yearning to earn unlimited amounts of money for a future time we cannot guarantee we will have. In the process often times, we burn bridges, break hearts, humiliate, keep animosities, lie, cheat and deceive, all for our temporary existence and comfort  in this world. Before I moved away, at times I would feel that my family didn’t value me enough, and I deluded myself into believing that once I was away, they would realize how dependent they are on me. I think we all become slaves to the idea of others existence somehow dependent on us. Yes, we are interdependent, but no life ends with another. It is arrogant to believe my non-existence would somehow stop the world. Coming back to visit my paternal home this Ramadan has been a humbling experience because I realized that once where I was an integral part of my family’s daily life, they have been forced to adjust without me, just as I am forced to without them. This does not mean that our love for one another has diminished, but just that we have learnt to manage without one another.

Our lives should not be slaves to our ego’s desire to be the centre of attention, nor should we live in a life of delusion to think that somehow the world revolves around us. Those of us who live today are blessed to experience this beautiful month of Ramadan. How many of us will live to see the next Ramadan, none of us know. May we all gain the blessings of this month and may we be granted another day to live and utilize the blessings within this blessed month. May we continue to realize the temporary state of our stay in this world, even after this month of Ramadan is over and may we continue to live our lives to the fullest servitude of Allah rather than the worldly possessions and whims (Ameen).

Ramadan Reflections-Moon where art thou?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar. It is the most blessed month where the Shayateen (devils and his chaplains) are chained up and we are basically left to our own vices and no one to blame for our bad behaviour. Imam Khalid Latif of ICNYU is submitting daily reflections to the Huffington post, which I find truly inspiring, so I thought, why not take sometime daily and reflect. After all, isn’t the month of Ramadan about taking a deeper look at oneself?

I am obviously 4 days behind in my reflections, but my very first reflection began on the night when we begin the tedious battle to sight the one moon our earth has been blessed with. Like every year, there was a confusion, some people started on Friday the 20th, while others started on the 21st. Every year, I find myself getting angry at this lack of unity between the Ummah. If we cant seem to agree on the day the moon is sighted, how in the world can we agree on other matters of graver consequences?

Every year, I find myself cursing, being agitated and irritated. This year, the confusion was still there. Since, I am visiting my parents in Vancouver from NYC, I am 3 hours behind from my counterparts on the East Coast. I got an email from the ICNYU declaring Friday as the day for Fasting. I waited anxiously to hear form our Local Masajids to see when they would declare it to be Ramadan. Vancouver is generally a city of overcast days, which of course adds to the dilemma of sighting the moon. As luck would have it, Thursday night was a beautiful clear night. Our local mosques finally declared that Ramadan was not beginning on Friday as it was for Saudi Arabia or as followed by ISNA. Generally, by about this time, I am pretty angry, and thus begins the month of Ramadan on a very sour note. However, this year was different; maybe I am finally maturing, maybe I have been too preoccupied to really delve deeper into the matter, or maybe because I decided last year to pay closer attention to Mufti Google:).

 

I was out late on Thursday night rekindling contacts with my old University mates, maybe it was that feeling of rejuvenation that this whole moon sighting fiasco didn’t send me hurling down anger lane. I came home, realized that it was not Ramadan as per the local mosques and went on my merry way to check what Mufti Google’s moon app has to say? As it were, iGoogle showed the moon at 1% waning (new moon). 1% waning to be viewed by the naked eye is perhaps a tad difficult to accomplish, so there is room for negotiating the start date of Ramadan by using this traditional method of moon sighting. Similarly, Islam makes allowance to utilize the scientific breakthroughs and come to a conclusion. Either way, whoever decided to fast Friday was just as safe as one who decided to start on Saturday. I, for one decided to start fasting on Friday. I still followed the beginning of Ramadan with the local mosques here as Saturday and to offer Taraweeh prayers starting Friday night, but my logic to start fasting was that even if it is not Ramadan, then I get the reward for nafil Fasting, and if it is indeed Ramadan, then I ended up fasting on the right day.

I am by no means well-versed in the matters pertaining to my religion and faith. There is significant disagreement within the Islamic Scholars on various topics of Islam and it ends up becoming a bone of contention for many Muslims growing up in the present day. I suffer from the same day in and day out, including the debate around the start dates of Ramadan and the Eids. However, for some reason I reacted much more calmly and logically this year than I did last year. I recall, the same confusion around Eid time after Ramadan, and I remember being so furious that I am sure my entire fast that day was wasted. A lot of this agony perhaps from from feeling left out. Ramadan and Eid are such festivals that there is joy in celebrating it together as one. It feels miserable to be fasting when some are celebrating Eid or you feel guilty when some are fasting and you are still eating. I don’t think there is a solution that would make everyone happy, but the lesson to learn here is to try to not react badly in such situations.  One of the beautiful things about this religion is the vast diversity of people that are part of its make up. Celebrating on two different days is part of that diversity.

Happy Ramadan to All my brothers and sisters around the globe. We are lucky and blessed to share together this month of goodness despite distances, time zones and different start dates!!!