Dear Sista Friend,
We are now a week into Ramadan! As Islam gains more attention in the mainstream media, I find that more people are familiar with the idea of Ramadan (which is cool because it’s very different than when I was growing up and no one knew anything). But let me give you some background about Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month where Muslims fast daily, worship God more, and try to make a lot of time for self-reflection and self-growth. I have heard people refer to our fasting period as “crazy” or “impossible”. For Muslims, fasting means no consumption of anything from sunrise to sunset. NOT even water. Most of us are not only fasting from food but we are also trying not to be tempted by daily worldly sins, which for some include gossiping, listening to the radio, smoking, and whatever else they may want to fast and detach from. Many people also try to minimize any intimate sexual relations even with significant others, which could range from not kissing and for others no sex. Those are just a few of the things I know people are abstaining from during the month (especially during the daylight hours). For me personally, I find myself not partying as much, trying to dress more modestly, and not hanging out with guys as much.
While many people may find abstaining from food to be the hardest, that is actually not that difficult for me. I often fast on Mondays and Thursdays during the week to help keep me grounded. The thing I usually find most difficult is my time management, especially during the summer months. There are these nightly prayers, Taraweeh, which I like to attend. My schedule often consists of:
8:00pm – Pray Maghrib/ Break fast/Spend time with community
9:30pm – Pray Ishaa
10:00pm – Go to mosque, do Taraweeh
12:00am – Sleep
3:30am – Wake up to eat and pray
4:45am – Sleep
6:30am – Wake up and start day
As you can see, there is not much time to sleep (less than 5 hrs) and a lot of it is interrupted. Being the extrovert I am, I usually find it challenging to stay social and not neglect my friends. I end up missing birthday parties, social gatherings, and various activities because most of our activities are centered around food or require energy. Even amidst being drained, I try to spend the little time that I have with God. It is sometimes hard to communicate these commitments to my friends and peers because they may initially be upset or annoyed. As time goes on they get over it because they realize it’s a part of my life and before they know it Ramadan doesn’t overlap with their events anymore (also note that Ramadan is based off a different calendar).
So to my fellow Non-Muslims, if you want to help a sista out here are a few things you can do.
1) Acknowledge Ramadan. It’s hard out here. This is a very important season, and unfortunately I live in a country that barely recognizes this holy month. Nothing changes. I still have to go about my daily life as if I nothing has changed. Imagine no one acknowledging Christmas, and you still have to go to work or no one is spending family time together. So yes, I LOOOOVE when my friends are like “Happy Ramadan” or “Merry Ramadan”, even if it’s not correct. BTW it’s “Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan) or Ramadan Kareem (Noble Ramadan)”… if you really want to impress them.
2) Check In. The check in text/call is very much appreciated. Even if I can’t immediately reply, it warms my heart up. As I stated earlier, I am an extrovert and I do miss hanging out with my friends during this time. So when they check in, it makes me feel less guilty and reminds me that they really care about me and understand my commitments during this month.
3) Don’t get in your emotions. It’s not about you! Know that during Ramadan, your Muslim sista friend is still your friend! She is not neglecting you. Well maybe she is, but that’s because she is spending the much needed time to become a better person. Friendships have seasons, and this is a season you should work to respect. Don’t keep pressuring her to go out. Don’t try to make her feel bad for missing events. Trust me, she probably has enough self guilt.
4) Offer to break their fast with them. I appreciate when my friends go the extra mile to hang out with me. I have had friends who will come to my house and break fast with me! I have even had friends wake up at 3:00am to go to IHOP with me. Now those are the people that I’m really impressed with and who always will have a special place in my heart.
Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims. Work to educate yourself about what goes on during this month so that you can support your sista friends!
Your Sista Friend,
Mariam “Meme” Alaka
Mariam Alaka is a first generation Nigerian American Muslim who was raised on the Southside of Chicago. She is currently pursuing her M.D. at the University of Chicago and plans to work as an Emergency Medicine doctor. While her education is a priority, you will still find her traveling around the world, enjoying brunch with her friends, and attempting to live her best life socially. She likes to live by the motto of “Work Hard, Play Hard!”