ASSALAMUALAIKUM and greetings to all my friends and family.
My Ramadan experience this year was different from any other because for the first time ever, I spent it in the United Kingdom, away from my family.
I did wonder how I would survive on my own as a Muslim in a foreign land. I’ve heard people complain how one month is way too long, how the weather is way too hot, or how lonely it gets with no family to fast together with.
I decided, however, to take this as a challenge as I believed God had his reasons.
Would fasting be easy in a non-Muslim country? Would I lack the motivation and support I usually get from other Muslims back home? If I was the only Muslim left in this world, would I be able to protect my own iman?
I started with a simple challenge. I decided to travel around UK during fasting month. Some people said I didn’t have to fast because I was amusaffir(traveller) and could shelve fasting to another time. Others said it would be difficult to pray and eat halal food if I travelled or stayed with a non-Muslim.
On the first week of Ramadan, I travelled with my non-Muslim friend to visit other non-Muslims. I was the only one fasting.
Before we started, my friend surprised me by saying he would fast, too. I tried to disuade him, saying it took me years to practise fasting and that it could be tough on the stomach if one fasts without following certain rules.
He insisted all the same. He wanted to prove he was as strong as the Muslims. Finally after 19 hours, we broke fast together.
I thanked him for respecting me and my religion. The lesson learnt was that life must go on because you are actually stronger than you think.
Some time later, I slept over at my friend’s house. He is a Christian and lives with his family. We cooked dinner together.
He showed his thoughtfulness by buying halal chicken and his aunt ensured that I had drink and food for mybuka puasaandsahur. They also provided me a place to pray because I had brought my praying mat with me. I still recall his aunt asking me to include her in my prayers!
These kind gestures made me realise we may have different religions, but our hearts are the same. I may not be poor, but on that particular day, I was very “rich” because a Christian family provided me food, shelter and a place to pray for one night in the holy month of Ramadan.
A week before Raya, I sent a non-Muslim friend and her family to the airport. Since it was a night flight, I had to break fast in the tube on the way home.
Before bidding each other goodbye, her mum asked if I had food forbuka puasa. Despite telling her I’d buy a snack later, she handed me a bag of chocolates so I would have something to eat on the train. I was very touched. It may have been a simple gesture but it meant a lot to me. Another non-Muslim family made sure I had some food forbuka puasa.
My experiences during Ramadan made me realise that God sent down His religion not just to guide society but to guide us as individuals.
I learnt that I didn’t need other Muslims around me to practise my religion. I only needed my faith in God. I also know that God will judge my deeds as an individual, not as someone who is part of a group.
Being a Muslim is not difficult. It does not stop you from mixing with people of different races and religions. All that is required is tolerance.
I also believe that Islam is not just for Muslims but for all humanity. If you respect others, others will respect you in return.
If Muslims deserve to be in your prayers, then non-Muslims deserve the same. God created us and loves us regardless of our beliefs.
To those who touched my heart during my Ramadan in UK, you know who you are. Always remember that you are in my prayers. Amin.
Have a good Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and may God bless us all with peace and happiness, InsyaAllah.
Maaf Zahir Batin.