The Ramadan Reflections over at Muslimah Media Watch are wrapping up for another year. For my second reflection I wrote about an experience that truly illustrates some of my personal frustrations about motherhood and spirituality — so I’m cross-posting it here to be included in our ongoing series.
Help I’m alive…
We’re late. My favourite popular imam has already begun leading the second rakat for Qiyam ul-layl, the night prayers. We dash from the car and run across the street, our feet soon gliding upon smooth marble floors at the largest mosque in Kuwait.
My sister-in-law leads the way. One hand holds a chair for our pregnant cousin and the other clutches her black abaya as she power-walks ahead. A corner is turned and the scent of cardamom laced coffee brings a smile to my face. Hundreds of people are milling about. Some grab free water and dates, others coordinate with friends – everyone is searching for a place to pray. There’s a crush of people trying to enter the women’s section in the outdoor courtyard, but a female police officer is closing the gates, saying it’s full. Squeezing in, my sister-in-law grabs my arm and drags me inside.
We join the line and I open my Qur’an app, quick to find the right section so I can follow along. My eyes fall into their own rhythm – absorbing the English meaning before jumping back to the Arabic. Up, down and up again. Left to right, then right to left. The languages and words begin to meld together in cadence with the reciter. I lose myself in calligraphic script and try desperately to write the meaning onto my heart.
Suddenly a woman grabs my arm. I’m disoriented. She’s insistent. It’s clearly something terribly urgent. “Ta’ali!! Ta’ali huna!” ”Come! Come here!” She grabs my arm harder and tries to pull me out of the prayer line. She’s saying more but I can’t understand her.
My mind races. Is she upset that I’m reading from my smart phone? Does she want me to fill the gaps in the line behind? I frown, angry that she’s disrupting my prayer and quickly pull my arm out of her grasp. Then she lightly brushes my shoulder.
I’m shaking. I feel sick.
It was a grasshopper. While praying behind me, she noticed a grasshopper and imagined it crawled into my abaya — later telling me she was afraid it would crawl into my ear.
She had no idea I grew up collecting grasshoppers in Canadian fields — making them race with my friends. That while it is startling to feel a grasshopper jump off your hijab, it’s also marvellous and awe-inspiring to recognize just how much power and strength they have in their legs. She didn’t realize that if a grasshopper had crawled into my abaya, I would most certainly be aware of the tiny intrusion.
I’m desperately chasing Laylatul Qadr. Tonight was the most I’ve prayed in a long time – my only goal was to chip away some of the stone that has encased my heart. Despite her good intentions and sweet love for me, she had no idea how triggering it was to be grabbed and pulled away from prayer.
This Ramadan, spirituality has come to me in snippets. Moments spent enjoying a long, satisfying Canadian fast. Sending the kids to bed and having my iftar alone in front of the computer. Spending some time to enjoy the peace of a quiet house before falling asleep next to my children, exhausted. Traveling to Kuwait and hearing the call to prayer while I play running games and change diapers. My sister-in-law beautifully reciting Qur’an in her unique style that sends shivers down my spine. Listening to her through closed doors, and once in the kitchen while I fed lunch to the girls. We took turns sharing a scarf to make an obligatory sajdah on the cool tiles beside the onions. Following Taraweeh prayers broadcast from a neighbourhood mosque one night while I nursed the baby to sleep; praying it at home with the family on another night, while watching the toddler eat the nuts I use to keep count.
I’m trying. I want to feel the spirit of Ramadan. I want to feel like I’m part of my religion again and not only present by accident or just along for the ride. I want to worship in ways that really speak to me. Like playing silly games to benefit the kids, but also worshiping alone without being the one to run away from the prayer line when the baby is about to break something, without being the one who delays prayers to finish cooking first, without being the one to miss prayers because the children need me NOW, without being the one who feels spiritually inadequate, without being the one who just stopped praying.
I want a revolution in my heart. Four years of personal struggle, constant negotiations between self, work and family responsibilities, and sacrificing my spirituality for the benefit of others has exhausted me. A time during which I moved further and further away from God because I just stopped caring to fight. A time that unfortunately coincided with me leaving the mosque and having two children. Feeling conflicting guilt because there is absolute beauty in a mother finding spiritual fulfillment in the raising and caring of her children. But sometimes, I also want more.
Sometimes I just want to wrap myself in rituals that comfort me and remind me of why I chose Islam.
Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?
I ask God among thousands. Thousands have their hands raised tonight in supplication. But in a sea of people I’m talking to God alone. I’m asking for peace around the world. For help in purifying and renewing my intentions for motherhood, marriage and blogging. For someone to heal their heart, find love, have mercy, respite from sickness. For everyone to gain success and forgiveness. For my parents. Oh please let me have more time with my parents. At least another lifetime.
My children. Protect them. Fiercely. Protect them. Keep them safe from everything that could hurt them. Help them grow to be amazing Muslim women. Help them experience a world where they are empowered personally, socially and spiritually. Help me carry them while You carry me.
My heart cracks and tears flow in the mosque.