Today was the first day of Ramadan. The kids and I finished putting up decorations, baked mochi cakes, and cooked a Gujarati sponge cake that my my father in law taught me how to make. I managed to take a class on parenting (thank God for Zoom), listen to a women’s recitation, and stop by to see a neighbor who I haven’t seen in months.
The first day of Ramadan feels like the beginning of the new year, like anything is possible. It is a day when the house is relatively cleaner than most other days; when the twinkling lights decorating my prayer room are on full display; the ramadan basket for the kids full of great reading materials and coloring pages. It feels like anything is possible on the first day of Ramadan.
The month is a moment to reconnect with the word of God, but also to reconnect with what is most important.
In the Muslim tradition, the first day is often the hardest.
Our body adjusts to abstaining from caffeine, food, water and many other things. There is also the extra prayers, extra obligations, and worship schedule to maintain on top of everyday obligations. Yet, it’s the beginning of what is new. There is not only the fasting of the body, but there is the fasting of the tongue– abstaining from speaking ill of others; fasting of the limbs, etc. There are multiple levels of fasting, and at the beginning it feels like this might be the year that I get to all the levels.
My husband is away for the first 10 days of this special month. Even leading up to this month, he has been absent due to the intense work load and a few deaths in the community.
This is the first time he has been away during Ramadan.
My kids miss him a lot. The moments he spends with them is quite special to the kids. They talk about how he throws them in the air, how he greets them in the morning, and says goodbye to them at night. The moments are sparse, yet he has a profound influence on their upbringing, on their preferences. He is the one who sings, who organizes the social calendar, does the dhikr. I remember he was the one who bought the first Quranic artwork for the kids. He introduced me to so many wonderful things. He is “our sheikh” the kids say. Without him, my kids say, we would be lost. When I look at his face, I see someone who is close to God, a real sheikh– says our daughter. His voice and laugh fill the entire house. His Scrubs reruns I can hear from upstairs… He is always on the phone talking to someone way longer than he needs to. He recently got a job offer doing a job that he has never done before because his law school friend is now a dean. He has a lot of skills, most of which is his ability to influence.
Right now, he is in the most beautiful place, with the most beautiful people, doing the most beautiful thing. Alhamdullilah.
Meanwhile, I show up unannounced at my in-laws house, bearing some half-baked goods. His parents greet me and the kids with love; we eat together, things like salad with chili peppers, goat biryani, and Turkish bread. Mom jokes about my son feeding the floor more than himself. Dad says he has a hole in his hand. I laugh. Dad shows him that there are gaps in his hand, and that is why so much of the food drops out of his hand. These everyday moments of shared meals, conversation, and laughter are what keep us going. I am happy to be accepted as I am, to have a place of refuge and comfort, where I can simply be. I will write more about this feeling of home in my next post.
May God accept my husband’s worship and bring him back home safely.