Gender & Identity, Life

I will defend Ramadan Muslims

Ramadan comes with a lot of experiences besides gnawing hunger.

Between the rows of woven prayer rugs, stitched columns repeating again and again, lined up ever so precisely – there’s a squirming girl, hair sticking out from her hijab. Her neck burns from the curious eyes looking her way. If she’s lucky, a screaming toddler will pick up the car keys she’s placed at the top of her rectangular life raft and leave them for her in a puddle of unidentified goop. If she’s lucky.

More than likely, though, the toddler will keep his berth, since she’s the face that doesn’t belong.

She stays on her two-by-five patch of space in the prayer room, struggling through line after line of indiscernible Arabic calligraphy. It is not the calligraphy of her mother’s Qur’an. This one feels foreign in her hands, despite the familiarity of the space. The letters must be the same as those she memorized a lifetime ago, but they utter nothing back as she murmurs to them.

[bctt tweet=”It is not the calligraphy of her mother’s Qur’an. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

The mosque feels like home, but everything is just a little off. It’s as if she walked out of the house without her glasses that morning. Despite knowing how the performance will be orchestrated, how every last inch of space will be occupied, it somehow feels unreal to be there. She must be sleeping.

Ramadan comes with a lot of experiences besides gnawing hunger. For Muslims around the world, it is represents a revitalization of their faith. Yet every year I attend at least one mosque function or lecture mocking ‘Ramadan Muslims’ for their efforts to connect to their religion.

[bctt tweet=” Listen: I don’t care if I see you doing shots on top of a bar the weekend before.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Ramadan Muslims are the faces we never see at weekly jummah prayer, or the monthly lecture series hosted by the mosque. Sometimes they are spotted at a social event when food is sparse, but otherwise they live quiet lives apart from the Muslim community. We assume they aren’t practicing Muslims, because we see them associate with unsavory crowds who stray from the strict tenets of religion we live by. We look down on their hypocrisy when they dare to emerge from the woodwork during the holiest month of the year. These are the Ramadan Muslims.

The term ‘Ramadan Muslim’ assumes there is only one way to practice a religion, and that we are privy to the internal faith of individuals we know nothing about. Listen: I don’t care if I see you doing shots on top of a bar the weekend before. It is still equally important to embrace one another during Ramadan as we all work towards our goals for the year.

Now there are a few things that come easily to me, but I don’t particularly enjoy them. Working towards a goal forces people to understand and truly respect the end product. Religion might not be a barbecue sauce I can bottle up and sell, or a bookshelf I can varnish, but it is still a part of my life that I have to work towards. I have to play with the ingredients, try different logo designs on for size, sand down preconceived notions and built on the foundations before putting books on the shelf. It’s something a lot of people struggle with, work at constantly, and evolve into. This is the perspective of Ramadan Muslims we all forget.

[bctt tweet=”Maybe people do see me as a Ramadan Muslim.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Despite our own internal struggles, we condemn those who dare to try. I’ve never considered myself a Ramadan Muslim, but I certainly know people who’ve been labelled as such. And while I’ve visited enough mosques to know what it is like to be an outsider, I’m as guilty as anyone for sticking to the people I know at the mosque and excluding the so-called Ramadan Muslims.

Being part of a community of Muslims during Ramadan is amazing, but being immersed in a community you don’t know is intimidating to say the least. Alienating Muslims who may practice differently is one of the worst things a community can do.

[bctt tweet=”That doesn’t mean my faith isn’t part of how I live my life.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Maybe people do see me as a Ramadan Muslim. I’m often too busy to frequent the mosque, and I move around enough that I don’t have ties to any particular Muslim community. Ramadan helps me reorganize my priorities, and gives me a concrete time to be at the mosque that doesn’t disrupt my class-work-life schedule.

That doesn’t mean my faith isn’t part of how I live my life. Maybe it doesn’t always manifest in a way easily that fits easily into What It Means To Be Muslim, LEGO Edition – but it’s still there. Calling someone a Ramadan Muslim does nothing but alienate them and drive them a way from the community that should be supporting her growth. Condemning others for alleged hypocrisy is so seventh grade.