Ramadan is an exclamation mark of sorts for many. For most Muslims around the world, there is no other time of the year that's as completely enveloped with distinct memories as this month. Ramadan is about the wafting aromas of oriental staples, circus of plate-juggling at the dining table, and unsettled wives-and-aunts debate around all 54 of this year's must-watch mosalslat (series). It's also about generosity, community, and spirituality. 

It's the only month when the once sacred act of dinner time returns to its natural course of being ritualistic. Of course, nothing uniquely marks the season more than its people. Family & friends – close or remote – along with every second cousin and their mother cross your path during Ramadan. Simply put, the holy month evokes the tradition of togetherness.

This year, though, feels different. This Ramadan, we're feeling a new type of void; the usual social nuances have been omitted, no bustling markets, no full houses, no street decorations, and a lot less people.

The "no people" part is where my burning sense of nostalgia stems. Even though the holy month is upon us, I am invaded with a nostalgia for its familiar form. I was feeling a little inside out and unsettled, slowly trying to situate myself with this other kind of Ramadan. The past couple of months have already been a whirlwind of emotion for most us as we try to navigate through the realities of our new normal and befriend solitude. But the thought of Ramadan in quarantine feels like a whole other chapter in this somewhat grim book of isolation.

An arial view of an empty Kaaba in Mecca. Source: Arab News

It's clear from everyone around me that apprehension has taken over the usual excitement for the holy month. While it's daunting to think about how further isolated we may feel, the question remains: How do we dispel the gloom and silence that falls upon us this season?

The not-so-simple answer I am personally accepting is to embrace it. 

I was talking to my mother the other day, and as I dwelled on my worries, she intercepted with a sharp "This is not what Ramadan is about!" as she argued my need to abandon this negative frame of mind and step out from the brain fog. She reminded me of a strange dichotomy in my thinking. Ironically enough, just last year, my tension with Ramadan was the sea of distractions swallowing me away from its true essence, spirituality. 

It's true, I often complained that my sense of spirituality is wrestling with all the worldly attractions of Ramadan, which are usually the back-to-back gatherings, around-the-clock entertainment, and reversed sleep cycle. All of it piled up to a big enough reason to excuse my disconnect with God during the holiest month of the year.

A communal iftar in 2019. Source: Twitter/MWLOrg_en

So, in a very unexpected turn of events, I've decided to U-turn with my train of thought. What if quarantine is the best possible thing to happen to me during Ramadan? With the core spiritual pillars of the holy month being reflection and willpower, this is a unique opportunity to fully indulge in the real atmosphere of Ramadan. In hopes of a stronger devotion to take root in my heart, this could be the outlet to reframe how I look at solitude instead of trying to escape it. Maybe leaning into it will bring me closer to the inner peace I am seeking. 

I would like to think that the freed up space in my schedule will make room for a more stimulated mind and soul. So yes, this Ramadan will be different, but possibly for the better. Though nothing can quite replicate the feeling of celebrating with friends and family, I will choose to embrace the lack of over-stimulation this month to reflect a little deeper.

I will admittedly say these are trying times and I have not typically had the religious discipline pounded in me before, but I am equally ready to exit this deep funk and look at Ramadan in a different light. With my intentions in full alignment, maybe I'll find the light that is spirituality at the end of the tunnel.

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