Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Ramadan Diary #2

In my last post I spoke about the potential sadness that may surround a convert during Ramadan, but today I want to talk about the joy of being a convert in the month of Ramadan. After all being a convert to Islam, means we share a common bond with the Sahaba. They believed in Allah swt and our prophet sws. They left their comforts, their culture and sometimes even their family behind for a message.

Having the opportunity to talk to converts on a daily basis, I've come to learn that we have multiple similarities. Many converts come from Atheism or Christianity. Many lived lives of sin that they still carry with them today, but one of the most beautiful things about being a convert is that mutual love and respect for our deen because of where we have been and the things we may have gone through. 

The month of Ramadan is a time for reflection, and as some reflect on today, many converts reflect on their past. Although Allah swt has always blessed me with family and love, as an unbeliever I couldn't help but to always feel short changed or unfulfilled with what I had been given. My job was never fulfilling, or I never had enough money, or materialistic items. I saw people around me having things I wanted, and never understood why I wasn't getting those things too. Its still easy to think that today for many people, its a normal feeling, but mine as an unbeliever was different. My wants were most times based around something haram, and my somewhat rebellious attitude kept me wanting these things. 

Many born Muslims are raised to believe in Allahs swt. They are raised with a set of morals based upon Islam. They refrain from haram and grow up with a better understanding of what is good for them and what should be avoided. Yes, I know even Muslims stray, but I've noticed that the belief in Allah swt doesnt disappear. (From my experience, once the belief of Allah swt leaves becomes a whole different world out there.) Most times born Muslims stray from the faith because of the want for "fun" or rebellion. They become blinded by the dunya and their temptation for what "others" (western world) have. I understand, because I've been there, done that. Unfortunately when you live with Islam everyday, your whole life, there is a chance it will be taken for granted at some point in time. It may even be forgotten in many cases. So when Ramadan comes around, it may be just that...another Ramadan. But for a convert, this may be their first Ramadan; it is an entirely new experience. For many converts, Islam is a rescue, a center of peace or hope. So although Ramadan may get lonely, it doesn't matter because we felt alone our whole lives until Allah found us.

Ramadan for a convert is a sign that they have overcome, moved on and shed a part of themselves that wasn't befitting for their heart, and their character. We can humbly say "Allah swt has chosen us!" So we take this month to forgive ourselves and ask Allah swt to continue guiding us. Allah swt has stripped us of our shamelessness, or greed and desire for the dunya. We struggle everyday, just as others Muslims do, but its different. I don't want to go back to who I was 4 years ago. I don't wish for the things I did before. I've seen what its like on "the other side". So as Ramadan comes around, me and thousands of other converts look back at the comforts we may have left behind, our culture and maybe even family, and we still sit in sujood crying to Allah swt for showing us his mercy, his guidance, and we say Alhumdulillah for the things we may have taken for granted. 

With the help of Nouman Ali Khan's explanation of Surah An Nur, I've come to feel that the hearts of converts have always been filled with light, the light of a genuine personality, optimism or kindness, but it is not until that light meets with the light of Allah swt, that we truly feel complete. I no longer feel empty. Allah swt has saved me and many other converts from darkness. Ramadan is not only a Muslim holiday to us, it is an accomplishment, a reward, and a blessing. Alhumdulillah.

"Light upon light. God guides to His light who He wills. And God presents examples for the people, and God is Knowing of all things." Sura An Nur 24:35  

Chelsey Love

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Ramadan Diary #1

I wanted to start off by talking about Ramadan, but the more I wrote about Ramadan as a whole, the more I realized I was trailing off into a educational read instead of an emotional one. I'd love to sit here and talk about what Ramadan is, but I'm assuming if your reading this, your already a bit knowledgeable, more than likely much more than myself.
If you don't know me, my name is Chelsey. I am an American Revert alhumdulillah. I will have been a Muslim four years this August inshAllah. Within my journey to Islam I have had the pleasure of inspiring women all over the world with my YouTube channel where I discuss being a mommy, and a convert. I've read hundreds of emails from converts like myself expressing their anxieties, their difficulties, tragedies. I'm also reminded of their strength, their love and determination for the deen... MashAllah. I hear women's inner most thoughts and emotions, as I try to lend a bit of comfort or even advice as a friend, a woman and fellow revert to Islam. I resignate with these women because we come from many of the same struggles, obstacles in life and in the deen. Being a revert in many ways is a blessing, but this blessing also comes with a lot of emotion, understanding and difficulties.
As a revert, I find myself eager to learn and grow. I'm constantly educating myself and becoming more self aware. I feel like a Muslim, I look like a Muslim, so why when Ramadan comes around, me and many other converts feel sad, lonely or even depressed? For 335 days of the year I am all powerful Muslim hijabi woman, but two days into Ramadan and I'm crying, feeling lonely and even a bit sad. After expressing a bit of my feelings on Snapchat (chelshijablove) I received text after text from other Muslim reverts telling me how they can relate to my emotion. Although the text helped me to feel as if I wasnt alone, it also made me feel as though our blessing comes with more struggles than many think.
Ramadan is about many things, but I think the one thing that many born Muslims enjoy that is difficult for reverts in the sense of family and community. For myself, I come from a Christian family and I do not have one Muslim family member besides my husband, and 16 month old son alhumdulillah. Despite being very active on social media, I don't actually have many friends, and hardly no Muslimah friends. So as born Muslims break their fast with their parents, close friends and family, me and many other reverts break our fast alone, spend all day alone, and even spend Eid alone. We miss out on the community, the excitement and love for tradition, festivities and sense of belonging. For many woman who are married like myself, we also struggle with giving our husbands a nice Ramadan experience. This can be a bit overwhelming as many Muslims have cultural attachments to Ramadan like food. Most of us are ignorant to all of this and start to feel detached from the true meaning of what Ramadan should be.
As reverts we have to pick ourselves up, put a smile on our face and learn to be strong. We must find community in ourselves with Allah swt. So if you are a revert, try to make a new friend this Ramadan. Focus on Quran, learn a new sura, make up your own traditions... (thanks to all my fellow converts this seemed to be a continuous recommendation.) We as converts need to find our place in Ramadan.
Amd to all my born Muslims, show some love to a convert this year. If you see a girl in Mosque that seems alone, give salaams. Step away from your "group" or friends and ask her to join. You wont understand how much that could change someones entire Ramadan.
Chelsey Love