And there was no Eid…


Although I normally spend the holidays with my fellow convert friends, this year it was different. As Ramadan arrived, I was getting ready to travel to Mexico. It had been quite a while since I had not made it home for Christmas or any other occasion. It was long overdue, with my family members growing, multiplicating and getting older I felt a filial need to go back home.

20130726_194614

Huatulco Beach. I spent some days in these area. 2013.

Few days before I traveled, I had the chance to start Ramadan on my normal routine: the fasting, the converts, the taraweeh prayers and the late, inexplicable nights, in my family’s eyes. I started fasting along with some of my fellow converts. The fasting was hard. Nineteen hours in Northern Canada. Knowing that I would travel to Mexico and that fasting would no longer be possible, I had trouble finding the strength to fast at all.

Since it was my last Ramadan in my current city, I decided to attend taraweeh and spend some time with other Muslimahs before heading south to my home-country. My only visit to the mosque happened with a close convert friend. We headed to a recently renovated mosque; but some things don’t change.

mosque

This is a picture taken at my local mosque in Edmonton. It was published by the Side Entrance.

As my friend and I approached, we noticed that the back alley was still the sister’s entrance and women were forbidden from entering from front or side doors. Upon entering the mosque, we removed our shoes and were directed upstairs where the regular one-side mirror had been replaced by a solid white wall, a tv screen to watch the imam and an imperfect sound system that made it difficult to hear what was happening.

The women were eating. There were very few women, perhaps only ten. They were breaking the fast with deep-fried food, milk and Coke placed over garbage bags that they had arranged to protect the already dirty carpet. Despite the efforts, the kids kept knocking plates and cups, so the carpet was wet and dirty.

Taraweeh was a mess. Praying in a crammed room, seeing how women with children were relegated to a completely different area so they wouldn’t disturb the single women, and experiencing the Canadian summer heat in an unventilated area with a little fan that didn’t work was not my ideal prayer experience.

Half way through the prayer I gave up. It was too hot, I couldn’t hear the imam or even watch what he was doing, and I didn’t feel welcomed. As the sisters took on a second round of prayers, my friend and I headed home. That was my last taraweeh in Northern Canada… a “memorable” experience I often think sarcastically.

After few days, I took off to Mexico. No fasting, no abaayas and hijabs… Ramadan did not exist in there. Although I attempted to contact small and, apparently, invisible Muslim communities in Mexico, I was reminded that the cross of the Catholic Church had more weight than the laws that protect religious pluralism. Invisibility is the rule of the non-Catholic back home.

Traditional huipiles at the Juchitan Market. This picture, that I took, was published at Muslimah Media Watch.

For me it was not Ramadan anymore. My family would neither accept nor understand the fasting, and I had to make a decision… To fast or not to fast?… Not to fast was the answer. As the Ramadan countdown approached, I noticed I was completely disconnected. I dreaded the mosque, I was away from my community and I was alone.

Once Eid came… I felt nothing. Few “Eid Mubaraks” filled my Facebook page, but nothing really meaningful. I was alone in my faith… praying not to have another empty Ramadan like this one.

The question remains… why did I feel so empty?

My limited Ramadan experience has left me feeling unwanted and unwelcome in sacred spaces. Also judged by the life I live, in which I still play among the Muslim congregation and the crosses of my family. And hurt, by the explanations I often have to give as a convert…

After much thought I think it is because I am still an outsider… a member of a non-existent Islam. I am an outsider within and an observer. Is that my rightful place as a convert?

About these ads

3 thoughts on “And there was no Eid…

  1. Asalamwalikum. You may feel distant or feel brushed off from some of the people in the muslim community, not all but some and it is likely due to some people being close minded. It goes back to having segregated churches. If an all white church has a black attendee, they feel awkward and vice versa. You know what I mean? You said you are from Ontario. I know a sister who had converted to Islam, who I helped with a few things and Im sure, by now, she is extremely knowledgable about Islam and can introduce to some of her friends as well, as they are Muslim. If you are from Toronto, let me know. I’ll speak to her and Ill get back to you. She resides in Toronto. She can help you out.

  2. Dear sister Eren: a big thanks to you and your blog – for both have touched my heart in faraway Bangladesh. I am a born Muslim and living in a city of mosques. Yet I needed to read your post to understand how truly privileged I am. Your striving and Imaan is of a much greater stature than mine.

    I can’t begin to imagine a Ramadan or Eid without my family supporting me all the way through: waking me up at Sahari, helping prepare Iftar and the moral incentive for abstinence. I’m forced to reconsider how difficult this journey would’ve been without a Muslim family – not to speak of a non-Muslim country. And it makes me doubt my strength.

    I do hope you will write more. Because in your experience and difficulties – there are lessons not only for non-Muslims and reverts – but also Muslims like myself. I’m truly sorry you had such a empty Eid. If I could, I’d send you sweets to celebrate :) Belated Eid wishes and all the best.

  3. being a convert is certaintly a struggle, people just look at you differently but mostly its because they just dont know how to approach you. it really can see how its a struggle in a non muslim community. iA youll have better ramadans coming

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s