The mosque is more than a place to pray, especially during Ramadan. It comes alive with children playing, the soothing repetition of dhikr, and stories from previous generations and faraway lands.
Memory holds the power to trick. It feels like yesterday I was attending the mosque for Ramadan, but it was over two years ago, pre-pandemic. The countdown to Ramadan began a week ago for me and so many Muslims, and as the days edged closer to the holy month, I was reminded of the memory of the Ramadan ritual of attending the mosque.
The pandemic turned our lives upside down, leaving no stone untouched, including holy events like Ramadan. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that I stayed at home instead of going to the mosque during Ramadan. Ironically, it was one of the few activities I had committed to religiously, in all senses of the word.
Every year, in the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset, Muslims all over the world participate in a spiritual reform and a daily fast. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root word Ramad, which means burning or intense heat. A meaning that very aptly describes the Ramadan experience. I’m not only talking about the intense hunger, which can often feel like a burning sensation; but the burning that comes with a conscious re-attunement and realisation to your body and soul’s true desires.
“For me, the mosque is a community, it’s a sacred haven, a place of reclamation and strength.“
Ramadan is what I like to call a purification process. It’s an opportunity to realign with what is important and a shedding of hollow goals. It’s also a month of coming back. There’s a spiritual pull towards Allah, a fortification of faith and an end goal of becoming a more conscious self.
Though fasting is an incredibly personal act of worship, there is an undeniable focus on self-growth and an establishment of an intimate relationship with God. However, the community aspect is the foundation of the month. From immediate family to extended family and the wider Muslim community; Muslims come together, offering compassion and respite. Every year, I’m reminded and humbled that I’m part of something greater than myself.
There’s a special comfort the community provides during Ramadan. Hours in the kitchen made worth it when you share a meal with your family. Long hours of nightly prayers made it easier. With rows of individuals in the same position, there’s an understanding and compassion like no other. My very own support network. A Ramadan group if you will.
“If there’s anything that brings people together, it’s the promise of food and that last-minute rush to gorge on everything you can eat, racing against the sun.“
Ramadan in lockdown came with its difficulties and triumphs. It was ultimately an exercise in highlighting the actual key virtues of Ramadan. Congregational nightly prayers were replaced with solo prayers at home, logistically this made it so much easier.
There was no rushing around. We could always pray in the comfort of our own prayer area. Yet, for all the pros, it was no comparison to the joy of praying at the mosque. My mind and body yearned for it. I found myself lazier and less committed at home. It was as if we were each other’s fuel, motivating each other to go on, two rakahs after two rakahs.
The mosque is more than a place to pray. Especially during Ramadan. It comes alive with children playing, the soothing repetition of dhikr, and stories from previous generations and faraway lands. The last ten nights, when we stay there till the fajr prayer, the people aren’t just other Muslims that have attended the nightly prayer. It’s as if we’re one big family.
If there’s anything that brings people together, it’s the promise of food and that last-minute rush to gorge on everything you can eat, racing against the sun. That midnight feast, a selection of amazing foods from every household, every sense satiated even before the first mouthful, is the final seal. We’re wholly submerged into the experience as one team.
“If I close my eyes, I can visualise the mosque as a living and breathing thing, each connection made feeding more life into it.”
For worshippers, a place of worship is more than just a physical building. It’s bound up with our emotional and spiritual lives. For me, the mosque is a community, it’s a sacred haven, a place of reclamation and strength.
During Ramadan, there’s a spiritual shift. That feeling of safety and courage is heightened. The mosque is intoxicated with hope for new beginnings, empowerment, togetherness, and self-belief to achieve anything. If I close my eyes, I can visualise the mosque as a living and breathing thing, each connection made feeding more life into it.
A place where our cultures can live and thrive; the requirement to dim oneself removed, an archive of tales. A sign of a good place, according to the boundless wisdom of Audre Lorde, who wrote “it’s a sad thing when culture has to die”.
And so, my body and mind are vibrating with joy and excitement at my return to the mosque this time around. To be amongst the familiar strangers, to be charged up with a spiritual strengthening, to fulfil my religious obligations and come back to myself. Counting the days until I’m rushing, part ready, part dishevelled to be reunited with my safe space.
Zeynab is a London based freelance journalist working across culture, identity and beauty as it relates to marginalised communities. @zeynabmohamed_
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