All relationships, no matter how slight or intimate, need work to be maintained. Especially if, as I have come to discover, that relationship is with the divine, with Allah (swt). So this year, the one word that will encompass Ramadan for me is IBADAH.
Being born Muslim, I often felt shoved into a religion everyone assumed I knew but which, in reality, was still an enigma to me. As a child, I had questions but the people who ought to have answered them often made me feel bad for daring to ask them. All dialogue was shut down with threats of hell. All the bayaans I heard reiterated how terrible people (and to my young mind, I) were and how we should spend every single moment of our waking lives penitent even as we knew we wouldn’t be forgiven.
Being very young at that time, I didn’t understand how I could have managed to commit unforgiveable sins in the short time I had been alive. Instead of cultivating a relationship with God, I decided that since I was bad, I might as well stay bad. Obviously, this was within limits as there are not many opportunities (or much courage) to be bad in a small village in Lautoka, Fiji.
Pursuing my faith was a conscious decision I made some years ago as I grappled with identity and the hatred that this identity seems to provoke in people. And it is never so easy as to pursue this faith, this relationship, as during Ramadan. The beauty of Islam is visible always to those who seek to see it but the peace of it is almost tangible in the thirty days that make up Ramadan. Ibadah during this month is inordinately smooth. Ibadah is not just praying five times a day or reading the Quran or doing zikr. Sometimes patience can be Ibadah. Smiling at a stranger or suppressing your anger can be Ibadah. Giving of yourself without expecting anything in return is also Ibadah.
As a writer, I often need to stop and refill my creative wells before I continue creating worlds. During this month of intense reflection, spirituality, and worship, I can be flawed and human without hating myself, knowing and comforted by this knowledge that Allah (swt) will accept and love me as I am even as I try to become a better person.
Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple. Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in British Columbia, Canada where she reads too many books, watches too many K-dramas, and writes stories about girls taking over the world. Her debut YA fantasy was the Morris Award–nominated The Candle and the Flame. The Wild Ones is her second novel. You can find Nafiza on Twitter @Nafizaa and Instagram @nafizaaz.