“Merwa, wake up. It’s time for Suhoor,” my dad said, an hour before the sun rose — a wake-up time I never acclimated to. Those words would greet me every morning as I’d begrudgingly open my eyes. I would make my way out of bed and hurry downstairs to the kitchen –– half asleep and only thinking about what I could eat.
This Ramadan, like last year’s, took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and included the burden of dealing with online school while fasting. Compared to last year’s short, asynchronous assignments and optional Zooms, which took up little of my time and energy, this year’s work was much more time-consuming and exhausting. Thirty days without food or drink from sunrise to sunset, alongside more than five hours of Zooms a day and seemingly endless assignments, was a substantially more difficult experience for me compared to previous years.
In the past, Ramadan was a very community-oriented holiday for me and my family –– we would complete Taraweeh, or nightly prayers, alongside my friends, attend community Iftars where we would break our fasts together and pray Maghrib after sunset in unison. But last month, I spent my days and nights at home, missing the connections that made Ramadan so special in the past.
Ramadan was usually a time I looked forward to. I would have dinner with my parents every night and help my mom fry Bolani, an Afghan potato or leek stuffed flatbread, for Iftar. It was filled with events where I would see my friends and create special memories, like sitting outside the prayer hall while watching food videos on Instagram with my friend Annum, trying to hold in my uncontrollable giggles. I loved coming home from nightly prayers at 11 p.m. and watching Full House with my family while eating whatever baked goods I had made that day. Going to my youth group every Friday evening and Islamic Sunday school a few days later was the highlight of my week, times where I was surrounded by Muslims with whom I was sharing the blessed month with.
Thirty days without food or drink from sunrise to sunset, alongside more than five hours of Zooms a day and seemingly endless assignments, was a substantially more difficult experience for me compared to previous years.
This year, however, as I scrolled through endless photos on Instagram of fellow Muslims preparing for Ramadan with festive decor and detailed goals for the month, I felt guilty for not doing “enough.” Ramadan came too quickly this year; I was neither prepared nor excited for what is usually one of my favorite holidays.
The last two Ramadans were dreary and lonely. There were no meetings with friends to break our fasts, nor time to goof off during youth group — there were only small faces on a screen, staring back at me as I sat silently in my bedroom.
When the school days would come to a close, I’d prepare myself for the seemingly endless list of assignments due that night instead of spending time with people I love. I would open my laptop to find overdue essays that I had promised to submit, math homework that looked like a foreign language and long, boring videos to watch. Exhausted from fasting, I just sat at home all day, my math homework sitting right in front of me, ignored, while I scrolled through Pinterest.
Ramadan came too quickly this year; I was neither prepared nor excited for what is usually one of my favorite holidays.
Once again, Ramadan has come and gone. The Eid moon rose, and it was time to eat breakfast after sunrise again. I returned to the rhythms of “normal” everyday life.
While this Ramadan felt more stressful than previous years, I wish I had let myself relax. When I went to school, I was no longer among my family members who I was fasting with, instead I was surrounded by dozens of kids who were drinking water and enjoying their lunches. Without interactions with my Muslim friends and extended family, I felt lonely. Although my faith has helped ground me during this chaotic time, it was difficult to enjoy this holy month without the camaraderie of previous years. I also feel so very thankful to my parents for raising me Muslim and having me celebrate this blessed month every year.
After two Ramadans in lockdown, I’m excited for there to be no more. I can’t wait for next year, where I’ll hopefully be sitting next to my friends, our plates loaded with salty pakoras and sticky dates, our glasses filled with cold water, waiting for the call to prayer to play.