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An Eid without Muslims: A Muslim revert’s experience

135
FaithSociety

An Eid without Muslims: A Muslim revert’s experience

“I didn’t want to spend another Eid alone.”

135

“I didn’t want to spend another Eid alone.”

Non-Muslims must find it difficult to understand why every year Muslims gleefully anticipate the coming of Ramadan, a month of foregoing food and drink from sunrise to sunset. It must seem like a strange custom to rejoice self-inflicted starvation; if anything, I felt the same way before I became Muslim 20 years ago.

The first time I experienced Ramadan, I was Catholic. A friend of mine and I were invited to fast along with the Muslim Student Association for one day. We accepted it more as a challenge than as an opportunity for spiritual enlightenment, all the while, not knowing what to expect.

We set out with bravado, ready to power through our winter Ramadan fast. It went well until about 4:30 pm when weakness started to grip us and our minds started to go fuzzy. At first, we didn’t want to admit to each other we couldn’t make it. I don’t remember who spoke first, but we were soon discussing what to eat. We didn’t want to eat a full meal and ruin the eating ceremony at the mosque a few hours later, so we settled on sharing a flour tortilla that my friend’s roommate had in the refrigerator. I can still remember how delicious the tortilla was.

Since that first Ramadan, many moons have passed, (literally, as Muslims follow a lunar calendar) and I’ve experienced many Ramadans. I’ve been married, divorced and now I’m a single parent. It was challenging enough as a married revert to put together a decent Ramadan, but now alone, it became almost impossible.

In the Muslim world, divorce is taboo and it has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with culture. The divorcée is a social leper, ostracized from polite society. The stigma around being a divorced woman is an assumption that good girls don’t get divorced. So being a revert without a Muslim family means no community. Ramadan often felt more like a punishment rather than a celebration. Ramadan is a time of community; and joy and after returning to the United States after almost five years of living in the Gulf, Ramadan in the US was a culture shock. Add in a divorce and being in a new community, Ramadan was proving to be a challenge for practical and logistical reasons for both my children and me.

After returning home to Los Angeles after several years of living in Dubai, I made an effort for years to make Muslim friends and when Ramadan rolled around, I would take my children to the mosque for iftars to break our fast and be with a community. I tried to be part of a community, but everyone was too busy to include us in their lives and without a husband or Muslim father, we weren’t appropriate dinner guests. It was depressing at first, but like most things, I got over it and looked for a solution. Muslims were busy celebrating Ramadan with their families, so I decided to do the same. I have a family too and I was determined to make Ramadan work for me and my family, and knew I had to look for more creative solutions that required flexibility not only on our part, but from my parents as well.

My parents aren’t religious people, my step-father is an atheist and the mix of Muslim and non-Muslim living together in the same house made for interesting times, especially during Ramadan. I’m sure it was a challenging situation for my parents, but they were always accommodating and respectful of our differences.

Ramadan was a blessed month and I wanted to capture that. I wanted my children to experience that again so almost every night, my children and I broke our fast with my mother and step-father, and as we chose to spend this special time with them, it brought us closer. We still went to the masjid on the weekend and during the last ten nights of Ramadan. The difference was we no longer were dependent on anyone else to make Ramadan special.

The choice I made to stay home with my family also made Ramadan a lot easier for all of us. Even though we tried to be courteous, waking up to eat an hour before dawn to cook and eat made me feel rude. The calories and water we needed to eat throughout the night also challenged the dynamic in the house. Our schedules were too off, but after we started to share our Ramadan journey with my parents, it made them feel part of what we were doing and not like a foreign ritual.

I didn’t want to spend another Eid alone. I wanted to have a party of our own so my children could feel that Eid was not just another day. So I decided to invite our family and neighbors to join us for an Eid celebration. We are blessed with great neighbors and I could not think of a better group to celebrate Eid with than our neighbors and family. We sent out the invitations, prepared for the party and waited for our guests to arrive. It was a tremendous success. It gave us back a family and new friends to spend our Eid with.

Muslims didn’t have a place for us and I’ve come to terms with that. I had to find a space for my children and I. I know the purists out there will find this disturbing, but I found my place between worlds.

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22 Comments. Leave new

  • Akhtar Virani
    July 2, 2017 9:05 pm

    Feel sad about your experience. But see how many new friends you have made. You can deepen your friendship with them and get better experience about Islam

  • Salam alaikum,
    I am glad you took that approach, and I took the same even though I was born and raised a Muslim. I moved to a different state and a different city and the majority of Muslims in that community are from South Asia. I was quick to realize that to them community means people of same culture, country, race….etc, pretty much everything against Islam. But that that didn’t stop me to make Eid and Ramadan as amazing as It can be by reaching out to converts, and other born Muslims from less represented countries. We organized EId activities for kids and it was a huge success. I really find reverts to follow what the real islam is suppose to be and it may seem lonely but it takes you away from cultural Muslims which I found it to sometimes be disturbing. Sometimes you just have to take your happiness on your own hands and not relying on others to provide it to you, but at the same time reverts need also to speak out like she did in this nicely written article.
    Salam

  • There are three masjids around me i live in Glendale, all three surve iftar for evreyone its a jush a active vibrant and lively place with lots of activity, please try different masjid, whether Glendale, Burbank or north Hollywood they all have there vibe.

  • Lets get better organized and come up with a way to identify and reach out to the converts in our area.

  • I am so sorry to hear that but I am glad you found what you were looking for. Just want to let you know that what you experienced is not a norm. I wish I knew you when you were at Stanford (I live in San Jose) so you can become part of our big family.

    • Raheli Safiyya
      June 30, 2017 10:22 pm

      Sadly, you are uninformed, brother. The issue is not even being a divorced woman, it’s being an American revert. Every masjed has a cultural personality, and reverts who are not part of natural families in the group are (possibly) greeted politely and then ignored.

  • This is true, unfortunately! I don’t have a Muslim Family either I don’t get invited to Iftars or Eid Parties, but I go to different Mosques for Iftar with my kids, and I go to different Eid Celebrations held my masjids. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself from your Muslim Community because if Muslims are not influencing you and your kids than Non Muslims will. I have seen many sisters that choose to do this their iman gets wicker overtime and don’t even noticed. May Allah protect her and kids from this fate, Ameen.

  • jubeda momonait
    June 29, 2017 3:51 pm

    I am so sad that you had to experience this sort of life…
    Please remember that most muslims would have welcomed you and your children into their lives and family..

  • Oh dear , am so touched. Am a convert too facing challenges fitting in the Muslim community, I love to be with people but too sad for me none seem interested . it’s like they don’t see why am so excited and zealous about Islam .I think only a convert would understand. Take heart sister

  • This was my first Ramadan and I’m in the process of reverting. I’m divorced with grown kids and I had the opposite experience. I was welcomed into the community almost immediately. I went to the masjid on the first day of Ramadan and was invited to attend iftar that night. I attended at least five days a week for the remainder of the month and was welcome all seven. At Eid prayer I was greeted warmly with hugs and smiles by so many new friends and felt like I was truly part of this wonderful community in such a short time. I then spent the rest of the day with a Muslim family I grew close to in that same short span of time.

    I hope your story will not discourage others from seeking Islam. There are judgemental people everywhere and I’m sorry for what you went through. Try inviting some women over to your home for a meal and get to know them better. Sometimes we need to make the first move.

    • Raheli Safiyya
      June 30, 2017 10:26 pm

      Speak again with the wisdom of experience in a few years, Insh’Allah please sister. You’re too new to have experienced isolation yet.

  • What a beautifully touching article.

  • Salisu Garba
    June 29, 2017 9:59 am

    You have the strength to built an all inclusive Muslim community around you devoid of such cultural biases and ignorance. May Allah strengthen you and your children to set good examples for others.
    .بارك الله فيكم.

  • I feel sad not of your experience but how, our brothers and sister acted, no giving you the opportunity to be part of the iftar dinner, mixing culture norms with the way we as muslim have to behave. is not correct, please brother and sister, do not be judgmental, Don’t you know that Allah is the only ☝ one who can judge, who we are to judge anybody. Don’t you all know best. I am a revert muslim for 12 years now Alhamdullillah, I do not allow nobody to make feel I don’t belong, I am always smiling, helping, and trying to be the best person for the sake of Allah even when sometimes people of our own muslim community see me different in some way. I am glad that your Ramadan ended beautifully Alhamdullillah, May Allah(swt) bless you and reward you, accept your fasting, Duas, prayers and good deeds, Amin Eid Mubarak sister 🌹🌙⭐✨🌟

  • Assalamualaikum sister
    U r amazing sister. You have the potential to be a leader..

  • in any relationship, 2 ways communications is always the key approach to make a successful relationship whether we are communicating with our family, neighbors and the community.

    Islam give us guides to be a better person and to have better community, but its our lack of knowledge, lack of good practices and wrong culture hindering us to enjoy the good values

    What the sister is doing is a good approach as she change herself to respond to the challenges she is facing from the community, she need time and more activities in order to be close with the Muslim neighbors, at the same time she already has a close relationship with her family who are non Muslim and good friendship with the non Muslim neighbors, but her family, the neighbors and her friends are not sure on how to respond to the different culture…..

    so she has decided to focus on her strength, ie get connected with people who are already close with her, by opening warm arms and repeat what she experienced, ie share her activities as Muslim with her non Muslim family and her neighbors.

    in addition to that approach, one of our core strength as Muslim come from duas, let continuously ask guide and strength from the God to make our life better and our after life the best. May Allah give peace and blessings to our sister and us.

  • Well individual differences plays a massive part in this and the society too has it’s influence in affecting the behaviour of people.perhaps a different society will have given you a different idea even in the same country yet with the same Muslims. Wish you and your family are with me here in Africa. May Allah bless your deeds and that of your children’s

  • This was so sad to read, I wish you lived in London, would of loved to have you round for iftar, your loving Muslim sister

  • As a “purist”,I do not find your experience disturbing at all.We are all human in the end and the spice of existence is in the difference of our experiences.I wish you warmth of life and the sweetness of faith,sister.

  • So sorry to hear you plight sister. Wish Muslims really understood the meaning of the holy month of Ramadan, and wish they were not so entrenched in their cultural norms all the while ignoring the needs of other Muslims within the community!!!!

    • Jacqueline Smith
      June 28, 2017 11:51 pm

      I feel the same way.

      • Sister, please go to different masjids, meet sisters, make Muslims friends. Your iman is stronger when you are amongst your Muslim people. I’m a revert as well and have no Muslim family but the Ummah is my family now. There are many reverts like you, start a group yourself. May Allah Ta’ala increases your iman, Ameen.

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