A Reflection Of My Ramadan As A Gen Z College Student

Sharing my experience with Ramadan as a born Muslim woman after six years of not fasting.


Image by Yusra Jaleel

Yusra Jaleel, Staff Writer

Ramadan is a ritual month of self-sacrifice, reflection, spiritual connection and personal growth observed by 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide every year. As the month comes to an end this weekend, it feels important to reflect on the changes and observations I’ve made as a result of the experience.   

Ramadan is the holiest Islamic month, ninth in the Islamic calendar, and is most famously known to be observed through daily fasts lasting from sunrise to sunset. During this time, those practicing are to abstain from all food and drink to create genuine empathy for the less fortunate and instead focus on cleansing the soul through prayer and self-development.    

This is the first Ramadan that I’ve fasted in six years. Muslims that are ill, temporarily or with chronic diseases, are exempt from observing the fast, and I developed Lupus a few months after turning 15. After years of recovery and then years of stabilizing its treatment – in addition to feeling myself become wayward from my own values and the person I wanted to be over the last couple of years – I felt that this was the perfect year to resume my fasts.

I wanted to completely immerse myself in the month so I could reap the mental benefits. I’ve spent a lot of time over this year dissecting who I was today and the person I want to become; I wanted to use my time during Ramadan to put those new habits into practice in place of my self-destructive ones. After attempting to achieve internal peace through a variety of ways, I had planned on using this clean slate to once again attempt that peace through focusing on things I had recently uncovered to be important to me: my relationship with myself, my relationship with my loved ones and most notably my relationship with God.          

The month started off strong for me. I felt so motivated and that was a spiritual invigoration I hadn’t felt in a long time. My fasts even started off surprisingly well. Although I found myself a lot more tired through suddenly balancing a Ramadan sleep schedule with college classes, extracurriculars and a job, I didn’t find myself very hungry or thirsty at all. Praying is a primary pillar of Islam, yet myself and so many others still struggle in completing the five daily prayers. Nevertheless, I found myself consistently completing these for the first time in a long time. Everything felt so genuine. I cried during my prayers and my supplications to God, all out of release, sorrow, gratitude, hope and happiness. I cried and prayed for a lot of my loved ones as well. I reevaluated my problems and started releasing a lot of ideas, behaviors and attachments that were holding me back. 

Then, things came to a halt. Muslim women are not supposed to fast, pray or touch the holy book while on their periods, and I felt that connection I had built begin to falter during that week for me. Even after I resumed fasting again, my fasts were suddenly a lot harder, I struggled a lot more to pray and at a lot of times I didn’t feel like I was speaking to God so much as I felt like I was talking to my hands as I made supplication. I stopped practicing the new habits I’d been working so hard to instate. As a result, I felt my peace dissipate. I felt like the same exact person I was before the month had begun.    

This really bothered me. More than the fact that this was pretty problematic timing given that the last 10 days of the month are considered to be more important than the rest of it, I felt like I had been so close to reaching the internal state I had been seeking for so long and suddenly I had lost it. I could have lost my momentum from the missed week of my period, but in all honesty, that faltering was a result of my own actions. I found myself getting caught up in the stressors and events of my everyday life during that week, and I definitely did not focus as much on my spirituality as I previously did. When trying to instate new habits, consistency is the most important element. I didn’t stay consistent and that kind of carried through from that point.  

In reflecting on my Ramadan though, I realized something – that’s the thing, it’s about consistency. I think the feelings aspect of spirituality, and really anything, will always wear off. It’s remaining committed anyway that is important and really the whole point. It’s like working out. You feel motivated and excited in the beginning, but it’s sticking to the regime when you would rather be doing anything else than going to the gym that actually gets you somewhere physically and mentally.  

I learned a lot more about myself this Ramadan. I was able to strengthen relationships and solely focus on what mattered to me for a time being. I also recently learned that feeling like you haven’t changed following Ramadan and caring about it is a sign of faith in Islam. If this month taught me anything, it’s the importance of sticking through on a promise to yourself or even to God when the motivation to do so runs out. I learned from somebody that I recently met that to be able to do things differently, you have to be aware of who you want to be and what needs to change and sit with the discomfort of choosing to do something different in place of the old. I’ve been focused on finding opportunities to do good for other people to make up for the lack of effort I put into the latter portion of Ramadan. I hope this will get me back on track. I feel like I’m aware of things and caring about them when I once wasn’t or didn’t much. Maybe I have kind of changed after all.