Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.A. – It has been about a year since some states initiated pandemic lockdowns in America.
As of April 11th, 2021, it has also been a year since the previous Ramadan, which was spent in the strangest circumstances imaginable.
This anniversary marks a year of reflection, of learning, of hardship, and most of all, the start of recovery.
A great deal of the Ramadan experience is defined by the group iftars, when the fasting stops at sundown; the congregational taraweeh prayers, and the overall sense of peace and community that this blessed month, which began this week, brings.
Last year, we had to make do without so much of the shared aspect of the holy month.
Of course, it was still a beautiful and rewarding month regardless, and in a way, far more peaceful than any other that I had experienced. But Muslims around the world – including myself – keenly felt the loss of the communal aspect, of the opened mosques that we had seemingly taken for granted.
Many of us had not realized just how important these traditions were until they were suddenly out of reach.
Because of this, to me, Ramadan 2021 is just as unique as the last one.
Tonight, I get to enter the mosque for taraweeh once more, now possessing a full awareness of how valuable this practice truly is. And even greater than that – I get to understand what Ramadan truly means.
Ramadan is not only about worshipping God, though that is the most important aspect. It is also about exercising restraint, the value of which has become clear over the past year while having to quarantine and isolate ourselves from the people, places and activities we love.
It is about approaching our lives and circumstances with a mindset of patience, a concept that I did not fully appreciate until I had to constantly implement it this past year, lest I risk losing my sanity.
It is about purifying our souls, bettering ourselves, and establishing good habits. Another quality I am keen to establish in myself is that of gratitude for all of the blessings in my life – those I am aware and unaware of, those I value and those I may take for granted, those that were taken from me and those that replaced them.
I start, today, by being grateful for the freedom with which I can express my religion – something that should never, ever be taken for granted.
Today, I think of the Muslims in France who are subject to the restrictions of Islamophobic legislation, of the girls whose right to wear the hijab is at risk.
Today, I think of the Uyghur population in China who are subject to ethnic cleansing and genocide simply because of their beliefs, of how they are prohibited from observing Ramadan.
Today, I think of all of those people persecuted for their identities and beliefs and thank God for the ease with which I can practice my own.
Salma Amrou is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.