About 4 years ago, I spent my first Ramadan away from my home, my family, and everything familiar for the first time in my life as I studied abroad the Summer between my Sophomore and Junior years in undergrad. Check out my reflections on that experience here: Ramadan Away from Home – First Impressions and Reflections. Today, I am in social isolation a mere 40 minutes from my family, but I am not able to go home. Our masajid are closed and our normal community traditions are interrupted. Coming into Ramadan and in the first 10 or so days, I’ve spent a lot of time writing down my impressions and reflections of Ramadan at home, in social isolation, and I look forward to sharing some with you inshaAllah.
On the Opportunity in the Hardship
I stared at the (figurative) reflection of myself early in 2020 and realized that I’d fallen prey to the tendency many have: I had built my spiritual state – my eman – around spaces, and specifically, the ones I operate in as an islamic worker. Take away my ability to do work and suddenly I’m struggling to perform my basic salah, and I’m aching to jump back into the work to be around people and in environments that spiritually uplift me. I don’t have a strong relationship with Allah to uplift myself despite my circumstances.
Coming into Ramadan with social isolation – physically removed from the spaces and people that uplift me spiritually – I realized Allah was providing me an opportunity to work on this challenge.
My mentors reinforced this. During a virtual forum by Boston Islamic Seminary and MAS Boston, Br Basyouni Nehela reminded us that prior believers such as Muath Ibn Jabal took forced isolation during plagues and such as the opportunity to thrust themselves full-force into Tazkiyyah Al-Nafs (purification of the soul) and into cultivating a relationship with Allah. They committed more than ever to worship, to turning to Allah, to cleansing themselves of sins of the limb and especially that of the heart. Dr Basyouni encouraged us to see this hardship as an opportunity, to take the example of our righteous predecessors and recommit with new fervor to our submission to Allah as individual worshippers.
I recognize I have been given the same opportunity today to build my relationship with Allah, to work on myself, and to purify myself, something I know I am in need of.
Not only do I have forced isolation in which I can cultivate my relationship with Allah, but I have it during the most blessed time of the year: Ramadan.
Shaytan is locked away and my only fight is with myself. Allah has promised us mercy during this month. This means mercy in terms of forgiveness and guidance, yes, but also in terms of making the good and the worship EASY. There is no excuse…
Among the many aspects of social isolation this Ramadan that make this a golden opportunity like no other: it affords me the chance to engage in worship away from prying eyes, away from social judgment, and away from reputations and rumors such that I can focus on my hurting soul yearning for Allah in this month of Mercy. I am reminded that one of the characteristics of a genuine believer is that s/he performs ibadah in secret, sincerely for the sake of Allah. Frequently, in my Islamic work, my mentors remind me to take on forms of worship, even if small, that I do completely in secret, solely between myself and Allah. This Ramadan in solitude is by default “secretive” ibadah during the month in which Allah in His Vast Mercy has made ibadah easy for us, thus providing a powerful chance to cultivate a sincere and strong connection to Him unlike any Ramadan before.
The ability to see the opportunity and benefit from this difficult time is not always so accessible. I’ve struggled to see the good more times than I can count, even recently. For the days I struggle to see the opportunity through the haze of hardship, I remind myself of the virtue of a beautiful patience during trial and this:
“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.”
I ask Allah to allow us to always see the opportunity in the hardship and take full advantage of it. I ask Him to purify us and pull us close to Him. I ask Allah to accept from us this blessed month and allow us to benefit to the fullest extent from His Mercy, Forgiveness, and Blessing especially placed for us in Ramadan. Ameen.