Written by Anonymous
I don’t hate or dislike anything about Ramadan. Despite the long fasting hours and the caffeine withdrawal headaches, I love everything that this month represents. We’ve been given the gift of this month by Allah (swt) to dedicate ourselves to the Quran and everything He (swt) loves. We are encouraged to spend our time offering prayer, supplication, giving charity, and being of service to others all for the sake of God. We spend more time with our family, friends, and loved ones during this month as we share meals together and pray in congregation with members of the community. It’s a time that brings unity and peace to the Ummah. Unfortunately, my ‘picture-perfect-on-the-outside’ family doesn’t get that memo since Ramadan always brings out the UGLY in everyone.
We’re nearing the end of Ramadan, and people in my family are barely able to muster up neutral conversations with each other, and the tension in the house can be cut with a knife. My sister and I set the table and prepare dinner while my parents sit across from one another in the living room, neither having spoken a word in hours. They’ve fought every single day since Ramadan started except the last few days when they’ve stopped speaking altogether. The entire day consists of silence that is only broken by snide comments and passive aggressive remarks about the most benign things. The Maghrib athan (call to prayer — and in Ramadan, the cue to break your fast) sounds on everyone’s phones and we gather around the table. Still, no one is speaking. We begin to eat in silence. I look up to see my mother wiping a single tear coming down from her eye. Clearly, whatever conflict she and my father have managed to get themselves into this time refuses to stay hidden.
My sisters and I manage to make a few comments back and forth that could be strung together and considered a conversation, but it’s really just our awkward attempt to make everything seem like it’s fine. My brothers spend our meal time constantly asking for one thing or another, refusing to notice that everything they need is either already on the table or only a few steps away. Because they’ve been socialized to be entitled and insensitive gentlemen, they insist on bothering and inconveniencing others despite the fact that they’re not even fasting. And in my family, if you end up with the short end of that stick, everyone comes up with requests and needs that somehow manage to take you away from the table long enough for your soup to go cold. One by one, everyone else finishes eating and leaves the table to pray or drink their long-awaited cups of coffee while you’re still trying to get in some sustenance before your plate gets tossed in the trash.
Cleanup duty is on my sisters and I, so Maghrib prayer for us is delayed until the kitchen is spotless and dessert has been served. By the time we can finally breathe a sigh of relief, the clock reads just a few minutes shy of Isha prayer. At that point, without having gotten any rest since Iftar and not having offered Maghrib prayer yet, I make the same decision I’ve made every night not to attend Taraweeh prayer at my local masjid despite how desperately my soul craves to participate in it. But after standing for hours on end and the opportunity to nourish my body stolen from me, my legs are weak and can barely hold me up when I pray at home, by myself, let alone to stand for an hour at the masjid. And even more so, neglecting my household duties as expected by my parents so I can rest and prepare to attend the night prayer in the masjid is not an option. They believe that worshiping Allah (swt) has its limits, and choosing these “optional” or “extra” methods of worship over them and their needs is an act of sin.
…I make the same decision I’ve made every night not to attend Taraweeh prayer at my local masjid despite how desperately my soul craves to participate in it.
For them, this month, like everything else in life, is all about their individual selves. My parents and siblings each act as though they’re the only people fasting and the only ones who’ve ever fasted. They want to be catered to their every whim and they want to be approached with gentle ease by others, regardless of how brash and irrational they are towards them, because they’re fasting. You may be fasting, but fasting is harder for them. And everything is harder for them than it is for others. You can’t be tired because they’re tired. If they took a nap, it’s because they needed it. But if you take a nap, it’s because you’re lazy and want to sleep away the day to avoid the purpose of fasting. There’s no competition because any negative thing you feel, they feel on a more intense level, and they won’t be overshadowed. Therefore, your needs don’t matter because their needs will always be greater. And during Ramadan, you should be more willing to support their needs because that’s part of your duty to your family. Never mind that their actions impact your own ability to worship and participate in this month the way you want to because, according to them, Allah (swt) will forgive you for that, but He (swt) and they will not forgive you for not being dutiful to them.
I really wish I knew why anyone in my family participates in Ramadan. According to the Islamic lectures I read and listen to, all of the behaviors they exhibit during what is supposed to be a peaceful month should be left behind — completely — not just put on pause until the month is over. Ramadan is a time when we are supposed to put all of our efforts towards being and becoming our best selves. And if we genuinely submit ourselves to the tenets of the month, we shouldn’t even have the energy to engage in conflicts with one another or make things difficult for everyone else just because we’re tired and cranky. But that’s not the case with my family. Ramadan in our house is marked by constant bickering, people interfering with one another’s methods of worship, and an overall aura of negativity that puts a stink on every passing minute. So, as much as I look forward to the month of Ramadan each year as a time to heal and revive my soul, too soon am I reminded why I will never get out of this time what I sincerely hope for, and I begin counting down the days until this misery is over.