Last year’s fast started off more easily than this year’s. I kept a journal immediately after the fast began for the day, to see how I would write. In 2013, I explored and explained my relationship with Islam, my queerness, my colors: https://drunkenwhispers.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/day-1-ramadan-2013-2/
What shall I do this year?
Day 1 of Ramadan 2014 was headache and bad decisions from the night before, carried into fasting like trash bags to a pristine stream.
I wrote many of 2013’s posts about Forgiveness – oh that last year! Perhaps it made it easier to (nearly) reach into the popcorn bowl and to (almost) lick the salt off my fingers, to (just about) forgive myself. Disaster averted.
At four in the afternoon, I was slumped over next to a poet at a Manhattan coffee shop, super afraid that I was drooling on the coffee table. I would lose precious water from my body.
I could not write. But I promised myself that I would.
The first day of the fast is the most difficult. This is what we write to each other – one of us in Jordan and myself.
What is the difference between one who fasts and one who is a Muslim? This point may be of no concern to anyone, other than myself. To convert to Islam, you must say the words of the prophet. Specific words. I cannot say them.
I have a LA friend who always asked me to join her in prayer. When we went to the mosque and to the night of power, she showed me how to pray. Surrounded by the rows of women, kneeling and prostrating myself, felt significant.
This year when her forehead touches the ground, I am next to her.
I met with a leader in the Muslim community today, a man. He did not start fasting today because the moon had not been sighted. He reacted with great alarm when I said I’m not a Muslim nor am I not-not a Muslim. I confessed I had prayed before among Muslims. He said that I shouldn’t pray where I did among Muslims. I would be coming between those who are Muslim. It’s about the community of Muslims — he said — that they should workshop together. It made sense. I also felt unwelcome.
So this afternoon he went to the Imam and asked him, on my behalf, how should one who has not recited Shahada pray with you? To the edges and in the back, the Imam said. I do not trust him to answer me honestly because he is a great man. He has a weakness for which I do not judge him. That is his passion for the truth.
The truth in religion is like the curve of light from a train. The train moves forward, stunning us, as it comes into the light. Where has the light gone?
Who shall say who is Muslim? How does my friend know that I do not have a relationship with Allah, with the Prophet Muhammad? He does not. Allah has spoken, but who shall interpret his words? It gets tricky when you are in disagreement with some interpretations, but not others! I don’t wish to frivolously cast aside some aspects of a faith I respect. But membership is about choice.
My friend, I will convert by saying Shahada, the words, the day I reconcile the patriarchy, homophobia, and general control of my life with men. Or, the day that Allah comes into my heart and says that I must. Until then, I am happy with the relationship that I have.
This will not be my first fast for Ramadan. I am six years beyond that, but this may be one of my most difficult fasts because it is long. Also, because Mercury Retrograde is here. We all seem to be living in the past. It’s as if our minds cannot conjure the leap of faith it takes to move into the future. We have real problems that have come back to us, whether or not we like it.
This Ramadan summons the old question of conversion. A question that came to me once before when I first realized that I would observe Ramadan with or without the support of community, and yes, the confines, of community.
I am told to go to the back to pray.
Allah can still hear me.
Where I am.