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Ramadan In California: An American-Muslim Revert's Experience Fasting In The United States

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Ili  •  May 21, 2020

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With less than a week till Eid celebrations, Ramadan is almost at an end. This holy month has been filled with a time of self-reflection for many of us, and for some, it's even a period that challenges our faith and strength as a Muslim. As part of our Ramadan Around The World series, we bring you an inspiring story all the way from the United States - Candace, an American-Muslim revert shares how it's like to celebrate the holy month in America and what her revert journey has been like so far ❤️ Read on to find out more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Candace, and I live in Southern California in an area called Orange County. It is an hour south of Los Angeles and an hour north of San Diego. I reverted to Islam a little over two years ago, so this is my second time fasting Ramadan, Alhamdulillah.
How is Ramadan like in your country?
 My first Ramadan was last year, and it was actually my first time that I went to the masjid and got to pray in congregation. I was very nervous and felt timid about going for the first time because I was worried I was going to do something wrong (it was kind of scary being the new person). I prayed Taraweeh all Ramadan, and I felt very comfortable and at ease about it by the time the month was over. I really loved feeling a sense of community and belonging, and it was great being able to pray alongside my fellow sisters!  This year is much different because of the fact that we have to social distance and quarantine at home. As a revert, I am always practising Islam alone (none of my friends or family is Muslim), so it really doesn’t feel much different from my everyday life as a single Muslim. I have been fasting in secret because my roommate doesn’t know I’m Muslim, so I spend the majority of the time, keeping quiet in my room and have been staying busy with my Deen! I’m focused on memorizing new surahs, learning the 99 names of Allah SWT, reading the Quran, and listening to Islamic lectures online. I am so thankful for Islam and for my second opportunity to fast Ramadan. Alhamdulillah!
What are the timings for suhoor and iftar like year-round? Does it vary much between seasons?
 In the winter months, our days are pretty short. We typically pray Fajr around 7 am and pray the Maghreb around 5 pm. It feels like we are praying back to back during those months!   We are now approaching longer days in Ramadan, so my suhoor time typically starts around 4 am, and I break my fast with iftar around 8.10 pm. The United States is pretty big, so the times range depending on your location.
How do the different seasons affect fasting?
The region I live in is sub-Mediterranean climate, so we always have very moderate weather Alhamdulillah. Our temperatures typically stay between 50-80 Fahrenheit year-round. I love it because there isn’t any extreme weather, making for beautiful landscape SubhanAllah and the ability to go outside all year. It’s obviously easier to fast in the winter because the days are much shorter, but the weather doesn’t really vary much, making every day almost like summer.
What’s a typical day like for you in Ramadan?
I pray my Taraweeh prayers in the last 1/3 of the night, read Quran for about an hour, and then have suhoor. Since it is quarantine right now in California, I am not working and have the ability to rest after Fajr.  We aren’t supposed to leave our houses unless it’s for something essential, such as going to the grocery store for food, so I spend most of my days at home. I focus on Islamic studies throughout the day, which keeps me busy and distracted while I am fasting. I am in the process of trying to learn Arabic so that I can in sha Allah be able to read and write the Quran one day. Until then, I read transliterations and learn my Quran recitations by audio. I’m really excited because I just memorized Surah Al-Naas and have begun reciting it during my prayers this Ramadan, alhamdulillah!  I also spend time using my social media platform to reach out to other revert sisters, so I spend a portion of my day communicating with other girls that are also fasting/praying in secret. I have a psychology degree and am trying to use my education and experience to provide help and support to girls who are struggling due to difficulties that arise from judgment/bullying that occur within our homes and communities. I keep praying that I can help those in need and be a friend to all of the sisters who feel alone or isolated during this time in sha Allah.  I break up my studies by doing home workouts (yoga) and talking to my family members, most of which live about 9 hours away from me. I go for a walk in my last hour before the Maghreb and admire all of the beautiful plants and flowers in my neighbourhood subhanAllah. I break my fast, make my dinner, and drink my coffee! I spend my evenings doing home workouts because I actually have the energy at night and want to make sure I am staying healthy while fasting and also practising social distancing. 
What’s your biggest challenge during Ramadan and how do you overcome it?
My biggest challenge is feeling like I can’t be transparent or open about being a Muslim based on the criticism and judgment that I have received over the last two years since I reverted. I received a lot of negative feedback about fasting last year, so I am more reserved about telling people this year. It can be difficult pretending like I’m not fasting, but Alhamdulillah, I know that with difficulty comes ease and Allah test us all in many ways.
This year, Ramadan is celebrated under special circumstances such as mosque closures and stay-at-home measures. How has it affected the Ramadan activities in California?
 Normally everyone gets together for iftar gatherings and then collectively go to the masjid to pray Taraweeh, but since we are social distancing, we cannot gather in groups. Families are staying home and fasting, praying, and eating in small groups. I feel like the absence of the congregation has made everyone grateful for one another, and we look forward to being able to get together at the masjids again one day in sha Allah.  Also, it’s pretty incredible because, for the first time in the history of The United States, they are announcing the Adhan on the television and in person at certain masjids subhanAllah. It is really wonderful to see videos online of the prayer calls that are being conducted in some of our large Muslim communities, and I am so happy for the brothers and sisters that get to experience it in person mashAllah!
How are you spending your Ramadan differently this year? 
Unfortunately, I don’t have a Muslim family, so I am always practising Islam alone alhamdulillah. I have made a few friends in my area, but we cannot see one another right now because of quarantine and social distancing. Instead, we are sending packages to each other, which has been fun and makes us feel a sense of community even though we haven’t left our homes! It also lifts our spirits because we have something to look forward to, and it gives us the opportunity to do charity and nice deeds upon one another.
What are some of the things you miss most about Ramadan from before the Coronavirus outbreak?
 I really miss being able to go to the masjid and pray in congregation. Being a revert can be very isolating because you never really have friends or family to practice Islam with, but alhamdulillah for everything. I really miss being able to go around people who share the same mindset and beliefs as myself, and I miss wearing abaya and hijab out in the open without having to worry about being criticized or judged because it is normal to be dressed like that there. 
Do you have any tips or words of encouragement for Muslims celebrating Ramadan while coping with the current pandemic?
I heard an Islamic lecture that said that we are very blessed to be amongst those who are fasting this Ramadan in such a special way. Allah is the best of planners, and He must have given us this opportunity for a reason. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, so try to see it in a positive light. Although we aren’t praying in congregation and getting together in large groups, it is a great opportunity to become closer with our families. We can learn new surahs, we can have group prayer with our immediate families, and in sha Allah we can all get even closer to the Almighty during this time, free from all of the additional distractions that come from the outside world.  The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The real patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” I am praying that we all stay healthy, safe and that this hardship passes quickly in sha Allah. May all of our fasts and prayers be accepted, AMEEN. Ramadan Mubarak, much love to everyone from California!  Interested to read more about Ramadan in other countries? Check out our Ramadan Around The World section 😊