Written by: Durriya Badani.
Durriya Badani is an Account Executive for the Department of Homeland Security at Sevatec, an award winning U.S. federal contractor based in Washington D.C. Prior to this, she served as Deputy Director for the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution.
As I stand in my tiny kitchen, adding more cream to the butter chicken sauce, I smile as I reflect that next Saturday, I and millions of Muslims across the globe will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr.
This is always a welcome celebration, but never more so than this year. Balancing prayers and worship with work and family have been especially difficult this Ramadan, not just because of long days and short nights, but the unprecedented forced confinement of Covid-19.
Living in the U.S., I have found it challenging to maintain a traditional 9 – 5 work day. I recall fondly once spending Ramadan as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Yemen, both an Arab and Muslim country, with days of rest and nights of prayer, laughter and too many cups of mint tea.
Working from home during Covid-19 in the midst of Ramadan in the U.S. is an entirely different experience. I am cooking and maintaining mealtimes for my young children; monitoring online class participation for school; enforcing the daily rigor of memorisation for online Quran classes; and forging critical stakeholder relationships virtually – not an easy task. This, of course, all while furtively YouTubing the recipe for our family dinner, as there is no longer the opportunity to join our daily evening prayers and a communal meal offered at the local community center.
And yet, as is stated in the Holy Quran, ‘And verily, with hardship, there is ease (94:5). This year, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS showered blessings upon each member of the community. From no-contact grocery delivery at the beginning of Ramadan, to daily video seminars and majalis (religious gatherings) each morning, evening and night, to the direct encouragement from His Holiness TUS to call one another and stay connected during this time of isolation. Most significant of all for me, His Holiness TUS extended the ability for women to lead prayer in their own homes for other women, with customised webinars and instruction for guidance.
I was humbled to receive this honour and lead my daughters in prayer in our home. During this exceptional time, I have led prayers for the first time, basked in more quality time with family, discovered the ease of being able to learn and connect virtually, rekindled a passion for cooking, and savored the ability to be hyper productive and efficient in my work.
Each of you may have also experienced unexpected blessings during this time. For whatever faith we may be, or not, let us be mindful of the blessings that are showered upon us, the importance of gratitude and the urgency of helping others less fortunate. This is our time to be our best selves and I am proud to serve two organisations that exemplify this philosophy – through my faith and through my work.
During the final days of Ramadan, I recall the late His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA lamenting with heartfelt emotion, ‘are these days of Ramadan leaving us so soon?’ We will have to wait an entire year for Ramadan to return.’ As I listened in the past, I was always conflicted, having been eagerly counting down the days to return once more to those filled with food.
And yet, this year, as we approach the end of this auspicious month, I am lamenting as well. This has been an unprecedented and difficult time and yet bountiful and beautiful in unexpected ways.
‘And verily, with hardship, there is ease.’ In this time of hardship there came not only ease, but a richness of grace and blessings.
I still can’t wait to eat again.