RAMADAN AND I: YEAR 1436

There was a version of this post that I wrote during Ramadan and a version that I present to you now. It contains a lot of changes and I guess you will come to understand why it has taken me so long to post it. I do however, apologise for the delay. Here is the conclusion to my Ramadan and I series.

Unlike previous Ramadan’s, this Ramadan was not throwing me into religion. By that I mean I had actually started improving myself before Ramadan came around; I was praying more consistently, even whilst I was at work. I was making an effort to start my day with doing tasbeeh and a dua, it helped improved my positivity and mental attitude greatly. I read Quran translation in order to gain a much deeper understanding of my faith. I was so worried that if I turned away from Allah he would turn himself away from me so I desperately started seeking him out so that he would hear my prayers. So my Ramadan started off great because I was already doing everything I was supposed to. It was going well.

Two weeks in I received news that my grandad had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Not only that but it was stage 4. The cancer had spread to his blood and they said that he had an infection so they couldn’t start any treatment until that cleared up. I felt extremely helpless like I couldn’t do anything. But I just kept praying, kept hope that he would fight it off. There was just so much against him, the infection, his age, the stage that the cancer was at that sometimes I found myself praying for him to have a peaceful departure from this dunya as opposed to recovering. It wasn’t something I was thinking about when I would do it but moments after the words had brushed past my lips I would feel this sudden guilt. Was I supposed to even be praying for something like that? But his pain and discomfort was so unbearable to me.

Eid came and for the first time in my life, I can happily say that I was pleased with the effort that I made during Ramadan. I made the most of the time and really outdid myself in comparison to every other Ramadan. I was so much more passionate this year and tremendously serious about becoming a better Muslim. Eid really felt like a celebration this year. I can only hope that future Ramadan’s feel the same and I always continue to better myself and improve upon the previous years.

I became increasingly convinced that Allah was out there listening to me and it’s true because I know that each step I take towards Allah he takes another towards me. I never felt so spiritually whole or so calm. I felt so much unity from Muslims and I guess that was through not only family, but through social media and through my colleagues at work. It really helped working in an environment with so many Muslims because we all encouraged one another to pray, all shared knowledge etc. it was truly wonderful. This continued after Ramadan as well and I’m so happy I have this network of great Muslims to connect with and discuss religion with.

After Ramadan, my grandad’s health just seemed to be deteriorating so quickly; he was struggling to go to the bathroom by himself, he had to stop and take a breath after taking two steps – there was no energy left in him. Then a time arrived when he no longer could get out of bed. His speech became slurred and then he stopped responding to us all together.

There was a day just after he had stopped responding where I went to visit him. The whole day I spent there and the whole day he didn’t look at anybody. Not a word left his mouth. His eyes were barely open and you could tell his lungs and heart were working so hard to keep his body going. For some reason everybody had left the room except for one of my younger cousins. I went over to the side of my grandad’s bed said salaam.

“Barre abuji, it’s Humaira – how are you today?” Now, seeing as his body was riddled with cancer and he was probably in immense pain it was a very stupid question to ask. But when you’re there in that situation, you feel as though you need to keep as much normality in your speech as you can. So that’s exactly what I was doing. I didn’t want him to feel like I was visiting him on his death bed. I just wanted him to feel comforted. I stroked his wrist for a moment and then lifted his hand and held it in mine. He didn’t respond and I started to get deeply upset and because I refused to cry near him I put his hand down. I was about to walk away when he turned his head, opened his eyes wider than I had seen them in days, mustered up the strength to lift his arm up and with his eyes motioned that he wanted me to hold his hand.

My eyes began to fill with tears (almost as quickly as they have as I’m writing this), and I gave him a great big smile because there were no words left to be said. What could a 20 year old girl say to a 78 year old man in that one moment that could possibly sum up all the appreciation she had for him? How was I going to find the words to tell him I adored him so much, more than he would ever know? I’m struggling to write this up now just thinking back to that moment, so really there is no possible way I could have said all the things I was thinking at that moment. I just stared back into his eyes and smiled. His mouth looked like it moved a little and I’m not sure if he was trying to smile back but I’d like to think he was. And he gripped my hand slightly tighter for a brief moment before someone entered the room, he turned away and let go of my hand. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.

The next day my sisters and I planned to stay at home because the journey’s back and forth to London were taking a toll on us all. I had become ill and our emotions were starting to get the better of us. We needed a day at home. Only moments after I had woken up, mummaji called to tell us that we should make our way down. Our family spent the whole day by his bedside, unable to control our tears we would have to leave the room and only return once we could hold it all in. With each breathe he took, his whole body shook. The nurses that came to the house had told mummaji that this was the end now.

The whole day is a blur because I just spent it crying or comforting someone else who was. I prayed and prayed that Allah would take him peacefully and that he would be forgiven for his sins. I listened to abuji reading the Quran by his bed and closed my eyes telling myself this is Allah’s will and I would have to make my peace with it. The whole day went by and just after 9pm in the evening we decided it would be best to go home and come again tomorrow.

When I said goodbye to him that day it felt very final. I told him I would come and see him tomorrow and fat tears rolled down my cheeks because my gut instinct was telling me that that wouldn’t be the case. That’s why when my sister had told me we were going, I just hung about his bed as long as I could. Getting one final look at him…I gave him a kiss on the head and we left. We made our way home, I changed into my pyjamas and we received another call. This time from our cousin. He told us to come quickly because it wasn’t looking good.

We all ran out the door and into the car, my sister driving stupid speeds down the motorway. As we pulled into the road, I could see the ambulance and I just knew but I denied it. I walked in and my cousin ran up to me crying and said, “Humaira he’s gone, he’s left us.”

I hugged her. Whereas she was wailing like a big baby, I was quite the opposite.

I was in shock.

No tears left my eyes.

My face just felt hot.

I needed my sister.

I walked out to see where she was and I saw her coming out the car. I wanted to tell her before anyone else did. In hindsight I think I needed to say it out loud in order to be able to believe it myself.

I told her.

I think that was the shittest day ever.

It’s hard for me not to cry as I write this post because of the intensity of the emotions I feel when it comes to the loss of my grandad. It’s weird because I never thought it would have such an effect on me. Probably because I barely ever thought about losing either of my grandparents. I had this sort of expectation from my grandad to always be there to take me the corner shop and buy me sweets. To be at my wedding and be holding my hand as he was giving me away to start a new part of my life. I thought he would be there to see me with a child. Maybe if I thought about the reality of it earlier and not have expected so much, this would all hurt a lot less.

I’m grateful to have been able to live through this Ramadan and experience it how I did because if it wasn’t for the help of Allah and my belief in him I would not know how I would be coping right now. I’m so grateful to all those who listened to me (during that month and after) when I was feeling down, who went out of their way to give sadaqa in my grandad’s name and to do dua for him – whether that was on their own or as one individual so kindly arranged, at a mosque after jummah prayers. I will be forever grateful to you. I say this because my grandad had such a peaceful death and I believe all those prayers helped that.

I feel like Allah has put some great people in my life to help guide me and support me during my times of need. And some beautiful Muslims who have helped increase my knowledge and strengthened my imaan even more. I know I in no way have all the knowledge I should have about Islam but I am looking forward to continuing this journey into becoming a better Muslim woman and trying to find inner peace through the help of my religion. I read somewhere that me being a good person and a good Muslim will on the day of judgement also be a reflection on my grandad. So I have even more motivation than ever to be a better human being. It’s vital that I don’t let him down.

I still can’t believe it was my grandad’s last Ramadan. I miss him.

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And that was the conclusion of my Ramadan series – better late than never. 

As always I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment below, drop me a tweet on my new blog twitter account @SOUTHALLYAT or if you’d like to write me an essay and have a chat you can always email me at hello@humairaaslam.com

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