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Did I rush into this?

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I thought knowing the basics of Islam meant I could easily fit in to the role of Muslim, it would be easy, right? Boy was I wrong, I was so unprepared and now paying the price. I’m not getting as much out of this month that I know I could had I waited, turns out little more than a week isn’t enough time to prepare to completely change yourself for a month, who’d have thunk it?
I needed a game plan, some structure. I knew I wanted to fast, I knew the clothes and I knew I wanted to read the Quran, but there are so many other things I should have added to help with the learning. I should have looked into mosque timeables to see when there are classes, I should have got in contact with an Imam to say what I’m doing and if they can help me along the way, I should have found some Islamic sisters nearby who would meet- I should have used at least some of my journalism skills that I spent twenty grand acquiring!
And most importantly, I should have made sure those around me were ready.
I should have made sure my husband was.
He is fine with what I’m doing, there is no issue there, but I don’t think he understands what I needed from him, being the only Muslim in my day to day life. I didn’t just need to act as a Muslim, I needed people to treat me as one, otherwise it feels like a losing battle.
I needed a teacher, a pushy one. What would have been better than someone with me every day who was born into a Muslim family and raised in an Islamic country? Well that actually proved the problem. My husband’s religion is such a habit that so many things he does, such as thank god when he finishes a meal, he doesn’t even notice. And because he doesn’t notice that he is doing it, he doesn’t notice that I am not.
Come the end of the day when it is time to break fast, he mumbles away in Arabic the specific words needed, whilst I just immediately down my water and eat my dates. I’m not Muslim, so it is so easy to forget what I’m doing and just be, well, an atheist. I need reminding, guided, and taught.
I need someone to take the remote control out of my hand and stick the Quran in it! Surely the Biggest Loser should pale in significance when I’m searching for religious enlightenment?
I didn’t make sure before I done this that my husband knew what I needed from him. To be honest, at that time I didn’t know what I needed from him either. I assumed this was a solo act, but actually I should have gathered a team of support.

And time! I’m really glad doing this meant I was able to experience Ramadan, but doing it in Ramadan means my time is very restricted. All day I have my toddler to run after, then as soon as he goes to bed it is time to prepare the meal and eat it. By then it is nearing 10pm and we have to go to bed so that we can get up at 2:30am. Doesn’t really leave much room for reading and studying the Quran!
My social life has taken a nose dive too (shocking how many social activities revolve round food), so I’m not really getting a feel for what those who convert to Islam go through mixing their old life with their new.

I should have organised this better so at the end of the month I’m not looking back and just thinking, “well, I rocked the head scarf and lost a couple of lbs” (oh ok, the latter isn’t true, boy you should see the size of the iftar meals!).
There is still time though, time to organise and come up with a schedule. Tomorrow however I won’t be doing the one thing I feel as if I perfected: The fast.
Tomorrow morning I go to hospital to be put under general anaesthetic to have my wisdom teeth removed. Apparently you have to eat and drink before being discharged with a lot of pain killers to take. So much for not eating.
On the plus side however, all the waiting around the hospital I have to do tomorrow gives me plenty of alone time to do what should be seen as the most important thing this month, reading the Quran!

It’s the final countdown

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salah

How do I feel knowing that I only have one full day left living the “atheist life” (whatever that is)? Frustrated, excited, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, thoughtful, both unprepared and ready… I’m certainly not going to wake up on Friday and know exactly what I’m supposed to do, but then the whole month is the learning experience, the days leading up to it are just some basic prep work.
I feel like I’m a student again. My notepad is out and I write down the Arabic words that flow so easily from my husband’s lips but sound as strained as a gurgling fish from mine. I’ve never been one for languages, I seem to have a limit on how many words I can learn, every new one he teaches me seems to push out the old. At this rate I won’t be able to haggle with taxi drivers the next time I’m in Egypt!
Then there is the wudu (specific way of washing before praying) and the prayers themselves. It is not exactly coming naturally to me at the moment. The thought of then putting the words to the action seems like some complex mathematical problem that far outweighs my ability.
Added to that are the stresses that effect both my husband and I. I’m used to Islamic scholars disagreeing, but when it comes to prayer times (specifically Fijr which is the dawn prayer that announces that start of the fast) I stupidly assumed they would all be on the same wavelength. Not so. After checking a number of sources (three phone apps, London central mosque, local Islamic community centre and a general site giving times for all areas) I have concluded it is somewhere between 2:40am and 4:20am, splendid.

But it isn’t all frantic stress.

hijab

some of my hijab collection

My hijabs are arriving thick and fast. I’m spending far too much time in front of the mirror with youtube clips playing on my phone with a long list of ways to wrap them. I’ve still yet to master a nice and practical way for work though (must be able to take me rushing about and picking things up without falling into my face, over heating me and slipping). I’ve also become somewhat of a stalker, whenever I see a woman in a nicely wrapped hijab I unintentionally follow her around the shop trying to work out how she done it. I check out what women are wearing and whether or not it is suitable and if I can recreate the nice ones that are. Sorry to my hijabi friends reading this but I’ve probably gone down your facebook photos checking out all your different outfit-hijab combinations. It really is becoming somewhat of an addiction.
There is also the bond it is creating with my husband. He doesn’t have any expectations for after the month, but I can tell he is enjoying having someone to share Ramadan with. For once we are able to talk about religion without it forming into a debate. He talks, I listen- it is quite a new concept for us.

I’m not going to lie, my fast preparation was a complete disaster, I fell into the mindset that I might as well enjoy it whilst I can. I promise to you all though I will be honest, if I slip up I will write it here, no matter how ashamed and guilty I feel. I always intended to make this an honest documentation of what I am doing and not a piece of fiction. I’m hoping knowing that I have an audience, be it big or small, I won’t feel like I can get away with making a half hearted attempt.

Anyway back to my lessons, alas not hijab wrapping ones, wish me luck!