I won’t lie to you. This Ramadan was tough.
It’s my seventh Ramadan fasting, and the hardest one to date. I’ve been back in England for almost a year now — after living in Qatar for nine years — trying to survive my first year of A-Levels unscathed. It was a rollercoaster month of ups and downs, but if any of you are experiencing the same thing, then here are some words of wisdom (and comfort!) I have to offer.
Everything about Ramadan in a Muslim country is so different from practicing it in a non-Muslim country. For starters, there was no more walking to a beautifully done-up mosque for taraweeh every night; in fact, there was no hearing the adhaan from my house at all, which I was so used to.
If anything, I feel as though not being surrounded by the “spirit” of Islam constantly brought me closer to Allah in a more authentic manner, and really forced me to appreciate the true beauty of our religion. It’s true when they say you only appreciate something once you know longer have it.
It’s really hard to put into words, but wherever you went, the aura was totally different…
Small things, such as not being able to see the moon clearly every night from my bedroom window upset me. Or how prayers would end at 11pm instead of 9pm. It sounds strange and silly, but I missed the whole Ramadan atmosphere that we had in Doha. I missed the familiarity of Ramadan in Doha. It’s really hard to put into words, but wherever you went, the aura was totally different. Here, life goes on as normal, and there are no special considerations put into place for you. No longer did I have shortened school days that ended at 1pm. I remained bogged down, revising for exams right till the very end, whilst trying to manage my spirituality too.
Reflecting on Ramadan as a whole, mentally it was a struggle. By the end of it, I felt liberated and proud of myself for having gotten through the month, but at the same time, I felt so mentally drained by life’s hurdles thrown in the way.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected my first Ramadan in England to be like. For sure, I knew it would be different and come with its own set of unique challenges, but whatever it is, at least I’ll be more prepared for next year now that I know what’s coming!
Then there’s Eid, which is another story. I was so used to my usual Eid traditions of praying Eid Salah in the desert, hosting brunch with different families and friends, and going out in the evening. This time around, it was totally different here in England. Mind you, neither good nor bad; just different.
It’s never an easy transition, moving countries or being an expat, but I promise you the experiences are all worth it, even if it doesn’t feel so right away.
Instead of Eid Salah in the desert, we had Eid Salah in a park with a much larger congregation of people.
Instead of our standard rush of Eid brunches, my sisters went to school to sit an exam, and I went out for a meal with my parents. I’ll admit, Eid would’ve been a lot nicer if we had some Muslim families we knew in the area, but iA next year!
I guess, at the end of it all, here’s what I want to say: for anyone going through similar struggles, I feel you! It’s never an easy transition, moving countries or being an expat, but I promise you the experiences are all worth it, even if it doesn’t feel so right away.
Together, I know we can get through this and make every Ramadan and Eid the best one possible. It’s just a matter of sussing out new traditions in our new homes. Hey, sounds super cheesy, but it’s true!