This is year is the first time I have ever spent my Ramadan away from my family and my home. For the past few weeks, I have been in Morocco studying and I will be here insha’Allah for the remainder of Ramadan and Eid-AlFitr. These are a few early (and slightly random) Ramadan reflections of mine:

1. Family is incredibly important to my Ramadan

I woke up for Suhoor on the first day of Ramadan to a dark room and a dark house and I ate alone in silence. No one was praying near me while I stood for Qiyam. I prayed fajr alone for the first Ramadan of my life, after my entire life of praying fajr behind my father and brothers, next to my mother and sisters.

Family’s importance to my Ramadan experience is the result of my parents’ working hard over the years to make Ramadan special for me and my siblings. May Allah shower my parents with Mercy. From my mother cooking us our favorite dishes for Iftar to decorating the house together the night before Ramadan to attending Taraweeh as often as possible as a family; Ramadan and family has become very closely linked for me, although I did not realize until now. Probably my favorite Ramadan family feel: Suhoor. Early, early mornings praying Qiyam beside each other and reading Quran while the food was being prepared and then chatting and joking with my family over the pre-fajr meal (and the gallons of water consumed).

2. Community is just as important to my Ramadan

Over the multitude of Ramadans in my life, my family has alternated between breaking fast in the masjid and breaking fast at home. Either way, we always made an effort to be at the masjid every evening. When I was younger, it meant seeing my friends and playing together as the Quran echoed throughout the masjid. As I grew older, it meant standing in prayer with my fellow Muslims, shoulder to shoulder, facing the same direction, for the same purpose: reaping the spiritual benefits in Ramadan.

As a woman and a foreigner, there is less mobility for me here than there is in the States. As a result, it’s difficult for me to make it to the masjid often. In addition, praying in Jama’ah doesn’t seem to really be popular in my host family. Although many of us break fast and eat together at maghrib time, the television is on the in the background, which really takes away from a communal worship feel that normally emerges for me while breaking fast with other Muslims.

3. Islam is truly a message that resonates with all of humanity

I believe with all my heart that Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as a Messenger to all of humanity:

وَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَـٰكَ إِلَّا رَحۡمَةً۬ لِّلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ

And We have sent you (O Muhammad SAW) not but as a mercy for the ‘Alamîn (mankind, jinn and all that exists). [Al-Anbiya 21:107]

Every now and then, I find little reminders dispersed throughout my life. A reminder in standing for Salah five times a day in front of my Christian roommate, who has not only accepted it but has also been curious. A reminder in her trying fasting for a day – going through the whole process, including getting up for Suhoor at 3 AM and going without water while in direct sun for an hour during the hottest part of the day. A reminder in her finding beauty and appreciation for the struggle and faith of Muslims around the world through times of hardship. A reminder in the fact that already, in the few days that have passed, Ramadan and Islam with its beauty has touched hearts, both Muslim and not.

4. Despite being alone, for the most part, this may be my best Ramadan yet!

This is the first time in my life I am spending Ramadan isolated from my family and my community. This is also the first time I’m spending Ramadan in a Muslim country. More than that, though, this is the first time I am being forced to build the spirit of Ramadan for myself. I may not be able to attend the masjid for Taraweeh every night and I may not have my loving family and my community around me, as constant reminders to increase my ibadah and do what’s right, but that just means that I’m figuring that out for myself.

In a way, that makes this Ramadan more meaningful for me, because I’m not engaging in Ibadah and feeding my soul because others around me are too. I am doing it alone, when no one is around and no one sees me but Allah (SWT). This Ramadan is less about the friends and building memories with family. It is more about my deen, my eman, and building my connection in my heart with Allah (SWT). In the end, that is exactly that which matters anyway.

May Allah (SWT) help us to make the most of this Ramadan and to end this blessed month with Eman that is stronger than ever before. Ameen.