This year, we're returning to a Ramadan that we've truly missed for the last two years. All the things that we love to do from visiting bazaars to terawih prayers are back, and we're really grateful! ? Another ritual that has returned in a larger scale is doing umrah during this holy month. With Saudi Arabia further relaxing their social distancing and travel regulations, there's more opportunities for us to pay a visit to the Holy Land ?
If you haven't had the chance to do so this year, why not follow Ali's story, our fifth part of HHWT's segment Ramadan Experiences? The 21-year-old Syrian-American is currently a first year student at the Islamic University of Madinah, and he shares with us what's Ramadan like right now at Madinah ?
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P.S. Here's our previous features from our Ramadan Experiences series you should check out!
- This Singaporean Chinese Convert Shares His Experience On Finding Himself Through Islam
- This Singaporean Student Shares Her First Time Fasting In Melbourne
- This SG Chinese Muslim Hopes To Help Fellow Converts Navigate Through Their Journey In Islam
- Our Non-Muslim Colleague Tries Fasting For A Day And Here's Her Experience
Ali Shares His Ramadan 2022 Experience At Madinah
1. What made you decide to study in Madinah?
Coming from a place where Muslims barely make up 1% of the population, I learned the importance of being able to explain my faith to those around me. Most importantly, I want to further expand and strengthen my understanding of the principles and foundations of my faith, which is why I decided to major in ‘Islamic Propagation and Principles of Religion’ at the Islamic University of Madinah.
I will be studying here for about 4 years to complete my Bachelors and hopefully pursue a Masters in Islamic history, Inshallah ? While I am still unsure what exactly I will work as, I do have a passion for sharing Islam with both Muslims and non Muslims, so I hope I can be a means of guidance for others ?
2. How is fasting back home in United States any different than in Madinah?
I think the main difference is the fact that in America, more often than not, it feels like you are the only one fasting. Being in public school my whole life and working with non-Muslims made it very difficult at times to fast because everyone around me was always eating and drinking while I wasn’t.
But on the other hand, here in Madinah, everyone is not only fasting, but Alhamdulillah everyone is Muslim ? So not only are stores closed during the time of fasting, but you won’t even see a person eating in public! Also, everywhere you go, you'll find people giving out free iftars before Maghrib and taraweeh being prayed in virtually every neighborhood. It's really one of the most memorable experiences I've seen since I've lived here and I truly admire it because it really amplifies unity and a sense of love despite being total strangers ?
3. What are some of the challenges you faced whilst fasting in Madinah?
I must admit, the biggest challenge that comes with fasting in Madinah is thirst from the heat ?? It's over 100° Fahrenheit (~38°C) every day here, which is much hotter than what I am used to back in the States ? But Alhamdulillah, I've been adapting well as the days go by.
4. How do you balance between studying and spiritual activities?
To be frank, it has been a bit tough to balance between studying and spirituality, but then it became easier when I realized, studying Islam also falls under spirituality! So even if I can read a little less Quran or pray a little less at night, for the sake of studying, either way I am being rewarded by Allah swt insha’Allah ?
Alhamdulillah, since this is a almost 100% Muslim city, the entire schedule of every aspect of society changes, from store and restaurant hours to government offices hours to bus and taxi services to even school hours at my university! They have cut all class hours in half; so what was normally 4 hours of school per day became only 2 hours! All evening classes And of course all the evening classes end 2-3 hours before Maghrib to give us more time to prepare for iftar! You simply can't get such a peaceful experience elsewhere! ?
5. What do you hope for our readers to take away from your story?
I hope people can look at me and be inspired to learn about their faith and teach others. I came from a majority non-Muslim country and went to public schools my whole life so I never got to really study Islam, yet I was still accepted to study in this prestigious university! So this really shows that no matter the odds, if you really want something and make plenty of dua for it, Allah will grant you it ?
Ali makes educational videos on Islam and even shares his experience in Madinah and Makkah through his social media under the name Young Dawah (and he even filmed a video for us, so stay tuned! ?), so do check out these links below!