By Chaimaa El Azraak
I tried to string some sentences together these past few days as I wanted to capture my feelings and thoughts from the past month or so but I often stopped typing because nothing I was writing was making sense. I was trying to make sense of everything but it wasn’t coherent. I can’t really explain how this past month has made myself and so many others feel as it’s been quite overwhelming but here’s a attempt.
I’ll start with Taraweeh. Taraweeh is hosted by all mosques around the world and both males and females of all ages make their way to the mosque each night to join in these prayers. It hasn’t always been a simple task performing them at the mosque, so every opportunity to visit the mosque is a treasured gift to me.
Taraweeh left me with this indescribable feeling every night.
I’m hyping it up quite a bit. It was nothing extraordinary and it was no feeling different from the majority of others who prayed it: a feeling of contentment and a feeling of being present and in the moment. I won’t lie, I wasn’t focused 100% on my prayers at all times and I wasn’t always following the imam. At times I drifted with my own thoughts but would snap out of it by following the reciters voice. I never cried during the prayers as a lot of others do when getting emotional from pondering over the words of the Quran. In fact I didn’t even cry whilst making Dua. I didn’t feel the need or maybe I just didn’t feel teary. Doesn’t mean the emotion wasn’t there.
I did find myself crying though, on the 27th night when the imam made a small announcement on the microphone before he proceeded with the witr prayer. His words were so simple and nothing he said was unbelievably inspiring, but he asked the fellow Muslims who prayed at the mosque every day to forgive him. He asked for forgiveness before he made his way to the Umrah pilgrimage.
I cried because his words held so much weight in that specific moment. Seeking forgiveness from people – as who knows if we’ll ever meet again. There’s a promised reality that when we are parted, there’s no guarantee that we’ll meet again. There’s no guarantee that we’ll see Ramadan again and this is what makes me feel emotional.
There are some stories of losing loved ones that I’d like to reflect on:
My mum’s cousin died in 2009 in a plane crash. I was 13. She was an airhostess and we saw her more than her own family. I remember the last time she visited. She was visiting my family and also babysitting my siblings and me. My mum went abroad and left Khadija with us and I was crying all night. Obviously I was just an exaggerative child at the time, who didn’t want to say goodbye to her mother for a short period of time but I had Khadija with me and she calmed me down and watched a movie with us the next day and told us that mum had reached abroad okay and she was fine. It was a plain day. The next day Khadija left. We all bid her goodbye and we exchanged “salams” and hugged her and told her that already we couldn’t wait until she came back and would take us to the park and watch movies with us.
But she never came back. Khadija’s plane crashed 15 minutes before landing time a few months later and we never saw her again. I can’t lie and say that the last time I hugged her it felt like the last time, because that’s false. It didn’t feel any different. She was gorgeous. Khadija was 27 and upon the news reaching the whole family, there was a false sense of hope that she’ll be alive. Her body was yet to be discovered so it was a horrific waiting game. Khadija’s body was discovered a few weeks later by her nametag. It was a plane of 153 passengers and all died apart from 1 survivor, a girl who didn’t know how to swim but kept holding onto the wing of the plane. Khadija was a fantastic swimmer but that didn’t mean anything. It was her time to go and frankly there was simply nothing we could do to bring her back. Some were so sure that she was alive until her brother told everyone to come to their senses, and come to terms with this tragic incident that had taken the life of our Khadija.
This event is one of the things that shaped my life. It taught me the importance of forgiveness because we could go at any time; and the imam also knew that reality. Although it was so simple and didn’t hold much meaning to many others, really meant a lot because he recognised the importance of fathoming the temporary, unstable nature of this world. What a noble man to be asking for forgiveness when all he did was so much good for the past month, leading prayers and inspiring others with his recitation of the words of God. Forgiveness is key.
Another key thing that will also be missed about Ramadan is reflecting on our surroundings. Ramadan forces you to think twice about every action you’re about to take and forces you to remember that this is a month of striving for goodness and minimising the bad. It’s sad bidding Ramadan goodbye; what is now there to stop us from sinning, and what is there to force us into picking up the Quran a few more times a day, forcing us to ask our Lord, and remember Him, and plead, and beg, and cry, and pour our heart and soul out to Him? It scares me because, well what’s there to remind us that we’re too far fetched from our deen and too immersed in the dunya?
Grenfell. Visualise this:
There was a man who went to sleep after night prayers, setting his alarm for morning prayers. He never woke up. There was a woman who tucked her children into bed and bid her husband goodbye as he left for the mosque and went to sleep thinking about what she was going to cook for her kids tomorrow, or perhaps what work emails she had to reply to. There was a mother with her twin babies who lived on a very high floor and was very awake whilst the building was engulfed in fire. Her children were very small and very frightened by the fire that they were witnessing but she calmed them both and said her prayers. She notified the world of her situation through social media so that we may never forget about the peaceful woman on the 23rd floor who stood with her two children by her side, whilst our hearts still bleed for her. My heart aches for Rania and her family. There were many more men, women and children. There were many more untold stories. There was so much good and it was snatched away in one night. In Ramadan, how lucky must it be to return to your Lord on the holiest month of the whole year. A month whereby every small reward is doubled, tripled, who knows? The highest level of heaven for all of the lost lives. InshAllah
We drove past the Grenfell tower on Eid day and it looked like a scene from a Hollywood movie or perhaps a video from one of the media outlets covering the Syria crisis. It felt so real as we drove past because this was our city and this is our home and these were our people. And it reminded us the biggest lesson, that we may not see Ramadan again, and that in a fraction of a second we may lose the opportunity to do good.
As long as we reflect though, we aren’t missing the opportunity to do good and as long as we remember to do more or at least strive, then we are still living and not merely existing. THIS is a message to the mothers and the sisters who work so hard all day long in the kitchen and yearn to take time out during the day to recite some Quran but struggle doing so because of the housework. This is for my fellow humans who tried so hard to make it to Taraweeh but end up sleeping after such a long day at work and barely even managing to eat before Fajr. This is for the mother who comes to taraweeh prayers at the mosque and brings her baby and attends to her baby when she/cries and gives them her undivided attention and cares for them but then also gives God undivided attention through coming to pray in the mosque. This is for my close friends who felt so horrible for not making enough time to truly submit to hours of ibadah this month because of how busy they were. God sees you and knows how much good you want to do and understands that it’s hard for you and I pray you reap the rewards according to your intentions because actions are judged according to intentions.
This is to never forgetting and never losing focus of the bigger picture.