what Beyonce taught me about Ramadan

I’ve been listening to Beyonce’s “Jealous” on repeat for about a week. Jealously, or envy, is not a feeling I am familiar with but this Ramadan (when I first heard the song) I found myself tearing up at the lyrics. The song hit a chord (#pun) with me and today I am going to unpack a little bit of why I’ve continued to listen to the song to feel something this Ramadan.

This month has been very difficult and different for me for a number of reasons. One being that I am away from my family, committed and overworked with personal responsibilities, and without going into too much detail on the other reasons, I’ve felt distant in my relationship with God and uncertain about my relationship with the Muslim community.

When I think about Ramadans past, there was a real sense of excitement. That these were Holy days coming up, that God had honored me in participating in a month meant to bring me closer to His book, His Deen, His essence.

I remember getting off early from private school during Ramadan, my 13-year old self eager to sit at my table and read Quran. “Ramadan is the Month of Quran”. “The book was revealed in this month”. “Read a Juz a day and you will read the entire book during Ramadan”. I never was able to finish the entire book back then. Now the commandment to “Read! Read in the name of your Lord” (96:1) is all I ask of myself.

Expectations.

I think it’s these ideas, ideals, expectations — what ever you want to call them — have been messing with my Ramadan this year. I thought that there was only one way to do Ramadan — all or nothing. Devoted or disloyal. Every act is multiplied by 70x, SO MAKE SURE YOU GET ALL THE ACTS IN THIS MONTH. As if the seriousness of this relationship ends after this month.

I am disillusioned by the world these days. I can’t seem to stop thinking about the state of so many, being angry, hurt, upset at the ways people in my life have been wronged, continue to be unheard, the way I have been complicit in this oppression, the way in which communities of people in my faith have been turned away from God’s mercy, the way in which which I have been blind to systematic injustice.

Decolonizing the mind is exhausting.

So I am jealous. I am jealous of the time where I did not have to hold these mixed emotions, these mixed feelings, the pain of the people I am just learning have been wronged in the name of my Beloved. The pain of people I may have hurt with understandings of my Beloved.

I am jealous of my 13-year old self who was so upset at not finishing the Quran in the month since the present me has barely hit the half-way mark.

I am jealous of my family who gets to spend their days in the masjid. Like “good” Muslims. Completely disconnected from this world.

I am jealous of my friends that post hadith, ayahs , scholarly posts which I know are meant to be reminders, but I perceive to be mechanisms of shaming me into not doing more this Ramadan.

Sometimes I want to walk in your shoes
 Do the type of things that I’ll never ever do
 I take one look in the mirror and I say to myself
 Baby girl you can’t survive like this no

With my contentious relationship with food and what finally seems to be some growth in my learning of how to take care of myself, how to finally take responsibility in nourishing myself — God asks me to stop eating. I want to look in the mirror and say I will survive. I want to be believe She will spiritually, emotionally, physically, nourish me. I do.

But these days are long and when I look at myself
Parched, irritated, hangry, annoyed, “unproductive”

I wonder if God really wanted it to be this hard.

And I know I’m being hateful but that ain’t nothing
 I’m just human
 Don’t judge me

Beyonce had to remind me I am human. That perhaps my fasts are not as “perfect” anymore. But what is a “perfect” fast, or “perfect” Ramadan anyway? I no longer have the opportunity to help my mother around in the kitchen, to read a Juz a day, to attend all 20 taraweeh prayers at night. I could be nostalgic about that time. Or I can accept my responsibilities look differently now. That Ramadan is a time to reconnect and meet God wherever and whatever state we are in. She is what we think of Her. If I believe my God is Merciful and Forgiving and Understanding of my situation, why wouldn’t She be?

If you keeping your promise, I’m keeping mine
 

 Ya Rabb. Things are different now. Uncomfortable.

But if you keep your promise, I will keep mine. The reward of this struggle. The building of God-consciousness. I have hope in your promises and I will keep my promise to you. I will try to stay connected to you.

I will try to stay connected to you.

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