The online student newspaper of Vandegrift High School

Vandegrift Voice

The online student newspaper of Vandegrift High School

Vandegrift Voice

The online student newspaper of Vandegrift High School

Vandegrift Voice

Ramadan Reflections: Holy month inspires, unites

Submitted Photo
On March 31, at 4 a.m. several Muslims gathered at Islamic Center of Lake Travis to worship and take advantage of the benefits that Ramadan offers. This optional prayer is qiyam, which can be completed any time in the night before sunrise, preferably in the last third of the night.

The melodious adhan echoed throughout the mosque, where hundreds of Muslims across Austin gathered every Saturday of the month, sitting beneath a sunset of dazzling colors and breaking our fasts on syrupy dates. The sacred time of the year that holds a special spot in the hearts of all Muslims had come: Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar in which Muslims fast from sunrise till sunset, abstaining from food, water and bad habits. It’s meant to serve as a momentous time for Muslims to grow spiritually and get rid of normalized sins, as well as foster gratitude among those who are fortunate enough to have the luxury of food on a daily basis.

This year, Ramadan began on the evening of March 10, when Muslims throughout the community filled up the mosque for our first taraweeh of the year. Taraweeh is a voluntary prayer performed after Isha (the last prayer of the day) every night before fasting. I made it an intention of mine to attend taraweeh every night this Ramadan; this was an ambitious goal, especially considering taraweeh was from 9-10:45 p.m. and I had to simultaneously remain on top of my heavy load of schoolwork. As exhausted as I was after school and breaking my fast everyday, my love for Islam, my local mosque and my community brought me back to taraweeh every night like magnetism. My family’s daily taraweeh routine consisted of picking up a friend or two on the way to the mosque, arriving at a full parking lot and going to the prayer section where we would meet all of our friends, greeting each other and exchanging compliments regarding our elegant abayas and hijabs

In between every prayer break, my friends and I would slip into the babysitting room and play with our favorite toddlers. The pandemonium the kids caused throughout the mosque may be deemed as an annoyance to outsiders, but as Muslims, we admire the innocence and passion from the exuberant children and go by the saying, “if you don’t hear children making noise at the back of the Masjid (mosque), worry for your future generations.” 

On April 6, Islamic Center of Lake Travis hosted a qiyam for kids with several engaging activities including a bonfire. Qiyam al-Layl is the prayer done in the night, before sunrise (the most rewarding time to worship in Islam), but the qiyam events held by mosques are lock-ins where youth are invited to a night of worship and fun.

In fact, interacting with kids this month were some of the most wholesome parts of my Ramadan. On the first night of Ramadan, two of the most kindhearted little boys that I teach at my mosque’s Sunday school showed up at my doorstep with a box of scrumptious sweets as a Ramadan gift. Days later, they gifted me with a Ferrero Rocher and a handwritten “Ramadan Mubarak!” card which, according to their dad, they had been working on for days. The next instance was when a group of young girls who I saw repeatedly at mosque events approached me, asking if I could “adopt” their adorable baby sister. Obviously, I said yes, and throughout the month they would give the little girl to me each time they saw me, claiming we were “meant for each other” and assuring me that they would organize the adoption documents soon. These kids’ presence at the mosque encompassed the high spirits and cheerfulness of everyone throughout our beloved Ramadan. It overflows my heart with happiness to see these children genuinely appreciate Ramadan and admire their religion; it’s like watching them grow into their faith.

On March 22, Muslim Culture Club celebrated Ramadan by meeting at John Simpson Park for a potluck iftar. This has become an annual tradition for the club, as they met at the park to break their fasts last year as well. (Submitted Photo)

By far, my favorite part of this holy month was seeing the mosque so packed. Regardless of whether you’re the most pious Muslim in the city or you only attend the mosque on special occasions, Ramadan offers an opportunity to renew your spirituality; a reminder of the beauty of Islam. My local mosque, Islamic Center of Lake Travis (ICLT), hosted iftars (dinners where we break our fast) every Saturday night, where a multitude of new faces appeared. Aunties new to the mosque would often come up to a group of my friends and I, asking if they could sit with the teenagers, as it’s pretty intimidating to dive right into a group of hundreds of ladies who are already familiar with the community. Nevertheless, I made sure to introduce these apprehensive aunties to my mom, and in no time, they fit right into the group. The community at ICLT is truly like none other; the welcoming aura gives me and many others a sense of profound comfort. Since I moved to Austin, I’ve practically grown up there, so I cherish each and every one of the mosque regulars as if they’re members of my family.

Each mosque around Austin tends to hold a youth qiyam every Ramdan. Qiyam al-Layl is the prayer done in the night, before sunrise (the most rewarding time to worship in Islam), but the qiyam events held by mosques are lock-ins, where Muslim youth attend from midnight to sunrise to listen to Islamic talks, eat snacks and play sports in addition to prayer. If you’re wondering why all the Muslims you know have especially dark eye bags during this month, you’ve found your answer. 

The qiyams that I attended this year were some of the most insightful, spiritually refreshing and fun days of my life. I often find the most benefit from listening to the halaqas (Islamic talks) given by religious figures in my community who are some of the most understanding and inspiring people I’ve ever met. Covering important topics that our community struggles with as minorities in America, such as peer pressure and conforming to societal standards, finding the right people to surround yourself with and hitting spiritual lows, these talks made a lasting impact on numerous kids. Aside from this, my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed our time throughout the lock-ins, skipping across parking lots, playing pickleball, devouring every other sweet treat we caught sight of and discussing our own Islamic experiences; core memories were certainly made.

Pulling several all-nighters may have reduced my already deficient sleep schedule to a solid 3-5 hours per day, but I believe it was worth it – even if I fell asleep in half of my classes. Many people tend to assume that fasting during school is some strenuous activity, but personally, I see it as a blessing. Amid the bustling environment of school, I’m distracted, and I forget my hunger for a good amount of time – if I sat at home the whole day I’d be glued to my phone watching mukbangs that accentuate my cravings. In general, I don’t perceive the literal fasting as the difficult part of Ramadan. As long as I eat an adequate meal before sunrise, refraining from food is relatively elementary. 

The real test in Ramadan is how much you are willing to strive for Allah throughout the month. Will you change the topic of conversation once it gets to backbiting? Will you sacrifice your sleep schedule in order to worship throughout the night? Will you make use of your time and devote every spare moment to reading the Quran? Allah appreciates all of your efforts and intentions, so don’t feel discouraged if you didn’t complete your Ramadan goals – what sincerely matters is if you endeavored to become a better Muslim, as you are rewarded for all your intentions.

Juniors Samar Khan and Aisha Rashid broke their fasts at an iftar party on March 17. Iftar parties are common throughout Ramadan in order to celebrate and cherish this holy time. (Submitted Photo)

Attending iftar parties with the most mouthwatering menus, exchanging the most delicious snacks with our neighbors, and carpooling practically everywhere together emphasized the theme of friends and family throughout Ramadan. My friends and I often went on post-taraweeh ventures consisting of 1 a.m. pancakes at IHOP, midnight snacks and some of the best, most fulfilling conversations I’ve had yet. In addition to the countless social events in the month, Ramadan is the perfect time for self-reflection and weeding out all of your bad habits to shape yourself into the ideal Muslim and person. Ramadan is a time not just to strengthen your relationship with Allah, but to strengthen your relationship with your community and yourself.

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About the Contributor
Aisha Rashid
Aisha Rashid, Editor
Aisha Rashid is a junior, elated to be Feature Editor this year on the Voice. She is the president of the ConnectHER club, secretary of Muslim Culture Club, secretary of NEHS and treasurer of MYNA Austin. In her free time, Aisha loves spending time with family and friends, baking, volunteering and traveling.

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