- Because of its long hours (19 hours)
- Well honestly, I see Ramadhan as a mean for me to boost my iman and I see that the long hours could help me get that boost. Otherwise, does that mean that Ramadhan is just for the sake of feeling hunger and thirst that I should be put off simply because I have to fast for a longer time (well, 7 hours longer to be exact)?
- Are we even sure that we would be around to have another taste of Ramadhan next year? Besides, even if we get to experience it inshaAllah, it would be during the exam season. It won't be much of a festival of ibadah by then (more like festival of study).
The main reason why I want to experience Ramadhan in the UK this year is because I want to get that spiritual experience that I feel lacking throughout my years of fasting during this month. Malaysia has its own culture of Ramadhan (which is beautiful mashaAllah!) but I would like to break away from doing Islamic things culturally and truly get the essence that Allah wants me to get from Ramadhan. So I sought on my adventure of having a third of the Ramadhan month (10 days) in the UK this year. No study, no commitments, just me and my Lord.
Despite the long hours, I never actually really feel hungry. Honest! Yeah, my tummy grumbled, my throat felt dry, and I feel drained at the end of the day but I never actually feel hungry for food. It is strange because I usually have this behaviour of having food cravings and imagining food (even regularly having dreams of eating food during my naps) while I'm fasting, be it in Ramadhan or voluntary ones. Yet, I don't get any of that nonsense throughout these few days. Amazing. What's more amazing is that I eat very little food during iftar. I am never excluded in being one of those people who stuff their face with food right after the Maghrib azan and eat till their tummy can't take it anymore but this time around, I ate just what I needed. I had iftars at different people's places and all they do is feast me but yeah, I had only tolerable portions of dishes. The only thing that is a problem to me is that how short our nights are. Maghrib is about 9.45pm and Isha' is about 10.45pm while fajr is about 2.30am. The amount of ibadat that can be done is very limited that I try my best to not sleep at all until fajr so that not a single minute of the night is wasted.
*now don't go all "you shouldn't sleep after fajr" with me. How else do you think I should get my sleep.
In the first three days, I need not to think about having to cook at all since we kept getting invitations to have iftar here and there. From here I get to feel the sweetness of brotherhood in Islam and how everyone rushes in doing good deeds this month (especially in the part of feeding people who are fasting).
Starting from the 2nd of July (my birthday) till the 6th, I planned on following a friend to go on her North tour. This friend of mine is an Alimah so she gives Islamic talks at different places. She was having programmes all over North in the first few days of Ramadhan so I asked if I could follow her around and she said yes. I had no idea what to expect. I even bought my train ticket just a couple of days before departing. For all I know, I just need to get to Preston and from there, all my accommodation, food, and transportation would be taken care of. Little did I know, that Allah planned my 5-days journey to become a beautiful story.
Story build-up: Getting to know people in the North.I headed towards Preston from Manchester, of which I spent the whole day in a city with the very usual sightings I get everyday. Preston was different. While I was waiting for someone to pick me up at the train station, I saw a number of women in niqabis and abayas. In other places, a niqabi would be seen as someone who looks very different than other people that they would get stares etc but here, there are so many of them that people don't really take note of them. Later on I found out that the places that I would go are the places that the central asian muslim community is so strong and big that occasionally I forgot that I'm actually in the UK.
My friend is a Pakistani whose mother tongue is Urdu but speaks fluid English. Most of her talks are in English since the community are largely British Asian (which can be of Pakistani or Gujerati or other ethnics) but she would occasionally slot in Urdu sentences or do it bilingual when there's older people in the audience who generally speak less English. Ever since I know her and my other friend who's also an Alimah, and after spending some time with them, I realised that my brain could automatically comprehend some Urdu words due to my basic knowledge of Arabic and my history of growing up with Hindustani movies. Despite being more comfortable speaking in Urdu, these people are so nice to speak largely English in their conversations because I was in the room with them. And they are always apologetic when they speak full Urdu in front of me. Some even made the effort of explaining what the conversation was about. Truly, they live up to this hadith:
Abdullah reported Allah's Messenger (pbuh) as saying: "If you are three, two should not converse secretly to the exclusion of your companion for that hurts his feeling" [Muslim]
And speaking of sunnah, these sisters I made friends with are just amazing pious people who live with sunnah in almost everything that they do. I feel so undeserving to even be around these people and never have I ever thought that I would meet such people. They say we should be around pious people but it seems that Allah is putting pious people on my plate. Truly, Allah never gives you less than what you asked for.
The Climax: Malaysia DayIt was the end of the third day of my trip and I was so tired after all the travelling etc. I have to admit that that night, I grew tired of seeing people with dark clothing (since Malaysians are known to be all colourful when it comes to clothing) and the Urdu language. Yeah, I do understand some of the conversations in context but it's not a language that I speak. Hence that night, involuntarily, the voice in my heart went "I miss speaking malay".
The next day, we went to a masjid for another talk. As usual, we met people, we gave salams, and we hugged each other. A little lady in niqab came to me and gave me salam etc and after all that, she said "Melayu ke?" (Are you malay?) and I was speechless. My jaw literally dropped and I didn't know how to reply "Err...haah. Are you malay?" *you can see how I was even unsure of which language to use*. Then she opened her niqab and exclaimed "Makcik melayu jugak!" (I'm malay too) and almost immediately I hugged her so tight and later on I did not speak even a single English word with her. After the talk, we had a long discussion over a matter that I can really relate to. You have no idea how she is the answer to a lot of my duas. Allahu :')
Later on, we reached a place where it seemed like everyone thought that I flew straight from Malaysia just to follow my friend. Hence, I got a number of people coming to me, telling that they went to Malaysia before, discussed with me on issues relating my country, etc. It was so nice although I cleared the misunderstanding that they had (that I was in fact travelling from Coventry, not Malaysia). It was mindblowing to think that I had only a brief thought in my mind in regards of Malaysia, yet Allah gifted me with more than I could ever ask for.
Denouement: Something to remember byOn my last day, I got to spend a little bit more time with some people and we got to meet each other more than just once. My trip was surely memorable, no doubt, but Allah decided to give me more than just memories.
I found out that there's this craze among children of making bracelets out of loom bands and I was interested to find out how they do it. Since I "took lesson" from a couple of restless 7 year-olds, it didn't really work out well. The next morning, a mother gave me this beautiful finished one that her daughter did as we were talking about it.
Again, it was just a mere passing thought when suddenly on the last day of my trip, a sister gave me this clever miswak container. Needless to say, I feel so much love from my Lord that day.
.......................................................................In fact, I felt so much love throughout my journey. The trip wasn't entirely planned. I went to Preston with very little idea of what would be happening. All I know is that I do it for the sake of Allah, not even knowing what to hope for. I learned countless things but these are of the main ones.
a) I have always known that I have this problem of having attachment to people. I've been trying to get myself fully detached from the world and alhamdulillah, I think I managed to get myself detached from other things (materials, success etc) but people. When I love, I just couldn't let go. And throughout this year, I can literally feel that Allah is training me to love for the sake of Allah and empty my heart from such worldly attachments. That I should only attach myself with the people that make me closer to Him yet willing to let them go when I have to, in the protection of Allah. It had been a tough training all this while but I can say that this trip was the ultimate climax of this tarbiyyah (teaching from Allah). I met so many amazing people that made me fall in love almost instantly yet I was able to say goodbye whenever necessary, praying that if we don't get to see each other again in the future, Allah shall reunite us in Jannah inshaAllah.
b) The hadith "be in this world as if you're a traveller" makes so much sense when you really travel. Besides not being able to have any attachments towards anything, travelling also taught me that I should make do with anything I have and put full reliance on Allah. Travelling is where you get your plans not able to work, and you don't know what exactly would happen at the place that you're going to that most of the time you would have to make sacrifices in terms of time and money and pray so much that everything would go well. I missed my bus, left my bag at another person's house, woke up later than I should and so much more. Travelling made me creative, developed my ability to make snap decisions and ultimately have full redha (satisfied) of whatever befalls me. Especially if you're the type who's always organised and wants everything to go your way, there are things that can never be learned if you don't travel.
c) Before going on this trip, I was doing 3 istikharahs. Basically there are 3 things in my mind that I need to decide on, that I seek Allah's guide. One thing about istikharah is that, I believe that we should do it more often (not just when we are deciding who to marry) so that we can develop the habit of thinking that our fate does not lie in our own hands and so that we can get used to how Allah gives us signs in answering our prayers. Anyhow, my point is, Allah answered all of my 3 istikharahs while I'm on this trip. With one even felt like Allah is telling me "What else do you want me to show? This? This? Isn't this clear enough?" lol.
d) Being a mother. My friend is a mother to an 11 months-old girl. Often when she's doing the talk, I would indirectly be the babysitter to the part that the girl already recognised me and got comfortable with me. I've been dreaming of having children ever since I was 12 but I had no idea how exactly it is to be a mom. The sisters that I met are mostly mothers that occasionally I would be asked whether I'm married and I would have a scripted answer "No, not yet. Make dua for me." hahah. I love to observe people so I truly understand now why they say that when you educate a woman, you're actually educating a nation. These mothers that I met are amazing people with such strong faith and you can see how that resonates in their children. With just one single pious mother, you can produce another 3-4 pious people for the next generation! Besides that, I learned about the high level of patience a mother would have especially when I get to experience it first hand. I need to bear having saliva all over my face when the girl gave me wet kisses, to not bother how messed up my hijab looks like after being constantly pulled and to not mind that my clothes smells of whatever food that the girl ate. But I was lucky because everytime the girl refused to stop crying, I can just pass her to her mother. My friend (along with other moms) is absolutely a Wonderwoman. Not just that she needs to handle the crying, but she also needs to struggle on putting her child to bed every single time, constantly waking up afterwards because her child suddenly wakes up at night, never able to rest during the day because the child would always do something and never be quiet, dehydrated because she would need to feed her and at the same time fast, and the list would go on and on. I'm not sure why Allah is showing my all this. Perhaps it's about time for me to get a heads up of being a mother? ._.
My friend's last words upon our farewell was amusing though. "I hope you get a husband as awesome as you and kids as awesome as Nukhbah (her daughter's name)" and well, what can I say. Ameeeeen :P
e) Last but not least, the barakat (blessings) of doing things for the sake of Allah. I stayed back in the UK simply for the sake of getting closer to Him and He showed mercy to me with all the unthinkable ease He showered. I mean, 19 hours of not feeling hungry is not normal, man. And in the middle of my travel, I was supposed to get my monthly back pain and cramps yet there wasn't a single sign of it. Not even until now. When they say count your blessings, truly, mine is countless. Allahu Akbar!