Although it will likely be the most difficult Ramadan I’ll ever have (Inshaa’Allah), my first Ramadan was also the most moving and magical experience. Four years ago, prior to Ramadan starting in June, is when I first started researching Islam. My interest came about out of a series of small perfectly timed events, but nevertheless, for months on end, I found myself researching the faith in private, before finally having the chance to say my shahada on the 1st of the last 10 days of Ramadan.
I was staying with my uncle at his home in Florida for the summer and was at the peak of my research into Islam. During one of my first few days there, I decided to check on maps if there were any masjids nearby so that I could plan a visit to ask an imam some questions and just talk things through. To my surprise, considering my uncle’s neighbourhood is in the middle of the wilderness, it appeared there was an Islamic centre not even half a mile away. I quickly went to check out of an upstairs window to see if I could spot it, and subhanAllah just through the trees was a towering gold minaret. I’d stayed with my uncle countless times, and yet I’d never noticed this structure that would essentially change the course of my entire life.
A short google search and email later, I had made arrangements to meet the imam that Friday before Jumu’ah. As I had a few days to wait, by the time Friday came, I knew in my heart that I needed to say my shahada that day because I had no guarantee of being given any more time.
So on the 21st day of Ramadan, I put on the most modest attire I could find, wrapped a scarf around my head fashioned tight with a bobby pin, and followed my Google maps to Darul Salaam (house of peace). I had never been to a masjid before so was unsure where to go, but with the help of some women, I ran into I was able to find the Imam. Once they realised what was going on, the whole environment changed. People I had never met in my life began to weep for me, running to their cars to grab books and items to gift me. They were amazed that a 19-year-old girl who had debatably never held a conversation with a Muslim in her life had somehow ended up in a mosque on her own, proclaiming that there is no God but God, and Muhammad (sws) is his final messenger. I never saw those women again or returned to that masjid, but it will forever hold a special place in my heart, and bear witness for me on the Day of Judgement as the place that I declared myself a Muslim.
Fasting during that first Ramadan was quite a challenge. Initially, my family wasn’t aware of my journey, and when they were, any kind of practice became infinitely more difficult to carry out. I would pray kneeling on my bed as to not make noise, and when I was at work I would lock myself in a towel closet in which I had to fashion appropriate salah attire as well as find a somewhat clean space. I would bring my Quran with me, and as most of my job was sitting and observing guests, I managed to read the entirety of it in only three days alhamdulillah. Skipping breakfast without wasting food was particularly tricky (even more so considering I am recovered from an eating disorder), lunch I was able to skip unobserved, but dinner was always where I would encounter problems. Whilst the time my uncle and I would usually be eating was around Maghrib, it was always just before the adhaan that I would need to eat. There is only so much delaying you can do before people begin to ask questions, so all but one of my fasts were nullified by about 10 minutes too soon of breaking them. I like to think the intention is what counted, but I was able to make up my 10 days of fasting as a Muslim later that year.
My second Ramadan was a completely different experience than the first. I was able to practice openly, had become heavily involved in my community back home in the UK, and yet things felt far more difficult than they had the year before. I was able to fast properly and carry out ibadah, but it was the first time as a Muslim that I felt truly alone. I was in charge of the sister’s side of my mosque for iftar so was surrounded by my community every night and got to experience Taraweeh, but at the end of each evening I would go home alone, and couldn’t help but feel I was lacking the all-important aspect of family during Ramadan. The thing is, no matter how much your community and friends do to make you feel a part of it, it’s just never the same feeling as celebrating and worshipping with your own family unit. A good part of the month I admittedly spent feeling rather sorry for myself but managed to get it together and focus on the most important relationship I could ever have – the one with Allah. One of the keys things I learned that Ramadan was to be open-minded, and accept help and support when it is given. Though it may not fill the void you feel being on your own, we should always be grateful for any kind of gesture from our communities and their efforts to make us feel welcome.
Going into my 3rd Ramadan, alhamdulillah I was engaged to be married. It had all happened rather quickly, and I had moved in with his family during Ramadan while he was still at our university town working for a few weeks. It was my first time staying in a Muslim household for a prolonged period of time, and the atmosphere was completely different from living on your own. Even though my future spouse wasn’t there, being in that family environment when breaking fast and getting up for suhoor gave a whole new feel to the month – a sense of belonging. As far as worship goes, I must admit I did not perform to the best of my abilities. We were due to be married just after Eid, and I feel that with everything going on I just didn’t fully dedicate myself to focusing on Allah and the Quran as I should have. However, being able to be in that family environment only went to show me that things do get better, and no matter how alone you feel as a convert, Allah will provide you with what is best for you when the time is right.
And here I am today – celebrating my 4th Ramadan, even though I am not fasting as my husband and I are expecting our first baby any day now in shaa Allah. It has been such a long journey, full of heartache and struggle, and it is still ongoing. I look back on my first Ramadan, and how hard I fought to tell myself that one day it will be better, and it is. Granted there is still hardship, but of a different kind, where now I have the tools and Islamic understanding to get me through them, it all feels easier, I feel I can cope easier than I was able to before. Allah has blessed me with so much, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a sigh of relief when the holy month began. I need it, my family needs it, we all do as an ummah. Every Ramadan is unique for each person, but it gives them exactly what they need, should they choose to embrace it. Although I’m not fasting so in a sense it’s hard to feel the Ramadan ‘spirit’ per say, I will, in turn, be welcoming the greatest miracle Allah could have blessed me with.
One that Inshaa’Allah will impact my faith in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined. As I sit here watching my (already fast asleep) husband, and feeling new life inside of me bound to make her entrance any time now, I know that I have so many things from Allah to be grateful for. And I am hopeful this Ramadan will give me exactly what I need right now – as the ones passed have done so.
Karsen (Noor), is a Norwegian Algerian originally from America, currently based in London. She takes pride in her roles as a wife and new mama. She is a convert to Islam which she talks about proudly on her Youtube channel. Her area of interests includes discussing issues muslimahs face from marriage, hijab and identity, to spirituality and faith. Follow her journey on Youtube and Instagram @karsbreanne