My First Week of Ramadan

I’m not going to lie: I’m having a rough Ramadan. My greatest weakness as a Muslim has been my prayers and it hasn’t stopped being a problem just because it’s Ramadan. I know that not all converts have this problem—some seem to take to Muslim behavior like a duck takes to water—but I can’t help but think that I would be much more faithful in prayer if I had been brought up as a practicing Muslim.

Strangely enough, I am most faithful with fajr prayer. There’s something about starting the day with prayer that makes me feel better. I’ve even gotten used to getting up early and I used to be a person who slept late every day I could. And of course, fajr is also the shortest prayer.

I even have a prayer reminder on my computer, but it doesn’t do me any good when I have the computer off, which is mainly in the evenings.

But it’s not forgetting my prayers that’s the problem: it’s this feeling of hopelessness I have about my ability to learn and practice all the different prayers, especially in Arabic. I have a hang-up about not being perfect, even though I know that no one is or can be. I’m always imagining that all other Muslims in the world are good at all this “stuff” and I’m the only one who’s a failure.

I feel like this Ramadan so far for me has been one big exercise in starting over. Each day I try to do better than the day before. But the fact that I have to keep starting over is discouraging to me.

If Allah were not a forgiving God, I’d be in big trouble!

This is a prayer that means a lot to me right now, because when I am left to my own devices, I make a mess of everything:

“O Allah! I do hope for Thy mercy, so do not leave me to myself for the twinkling of an eye.”


6 Replies to “My First Week of Ramadan”

  1. It is always going to feel this way for non-Arabic speakers (especially converts).Do your best to learn at your own pace. If you feel that prayer becomes empty, just sit and talk to God. Communication is the most important thing.

    One thing I really came to realize these days have been that Islam is about me and God. Yes, community is important. Feelings like we are part of the gang is also important, but it’s not the most important thing. In fact, I work with mostly Muslims and none of them know I am Muslim. I don’t wear hijab, they don’t ask, so I don’t tell. Many of my Muslim students complain all day about fasting (not knowing that the person in front of them is tired as hell to but has to do her work)! This is when I realized that I am not fasting for anyone else. I am not Muslim to be part of a community. I am Muslim because I believe in strengthening my relationship with my Creator through this particular path. The same goes with prayer. Of course, salat is mandatory, but the most important thing is to develop that relationship. For me, making dua (“talking to God”) really helps.

    When it comes to learning Quran, personally, I listen to Quran and memorize the things that are most meaningful to me. And while I want more knowledge, I am not going to punish myself for not speaking arabic. Besides, being Muslim isn’t about being Arab. It is about submitting to our Creator through the prism of Islam. There are also many useful resources now (mp3s, youtube videos, etc) that you can find online–personally, I listen to the quran via youtube videos and memorize the things that are most meaningful–baby steps at a time :)

    Anyways, take care and stay strong sister <3

  2. I appreciate your comments more than you know. I’ve been struggling a lot lately and your words both comfort and strengthen me.

    Thank you, sister.

  3. Dear Ellen, Salam Alikom,

    I still remeber the amazing moment when you decided to be a muslim, I felt I am standing before a pure human, a human who just born and has no sins, as Islam forgive everything before it. I was sure that you will support Islam even more than us. Every time when I asked my wife on you, I was amazed how you are looking every day to practice a new principle in Islam, and looking for perfection even better than so many Muslims.

    I know and believe that Allah may put you in some tests to make you more closer to HIM and make you soul more pure to see HIM by your heart and to be in a higher level than angels.

    Please, Ellen, do not always blame yourself if you couldn’t practice your Islam as you want, you can blam us as Muslims that we do not take care of you as we should do.

    I remember a story, I will make it short, that in some places, there was an old lady living alone. At one time, a very big scholar visited this place and he met the lady and he watched praying by saying ” Allah knows HIS believer and his beleiver knows HIM” , the scholar surprised how she was not practicing in the perfect way, he told her to do so and so, but as she was a simple lady, she forgot that and couldn’t pray as he told her. That scholar was informed thatbhe made a very big mistake and he was stripped from God blessing, he first wondered why, butbthen he realized that he didn’t take care of that lady as he suppose to do. he returned back to her and asked her forgiveness as he realized that she was in a higher level to Allah than he was.

    Ellen, do your best, do not blame yourself too much, and I am sure as you wish to do the perfect, Allah will help you to worship him as in Sorat Al fateha (Iyak anbodo wa Iyak nastaeen) means we worship you and we ask YOUR help to do so.

    With all kind wishes,

    Ghassan Tranesh

    1. Your words touch me so much. You and your wife have been a lifeline to me. I don’t know what I would have done without you. All the good parts of me as a Muslim I owe to you and a handful of other Muslims who have befriended me. Allah is good.

      I especially appreciate that you took time to write at a time when I know you are very busy! I pray that your work is going well.

      Thank you for caring,

  4. As-salama alaikum Sr. Ellen:
    Ramadan Kareem, I hope your fasting will be accepted by Allah. Please take it easy on yourself or you will be overcome with the feeling of helplessness. God did not make our religion hard on us and as you read the Quran you will see it mentioned several times throughout that Allah only gives us burdens that he knows we can handle. So God knows you and he knows that you can handle your first Ramadan and your prayers with flying colors. Don’t give up….Be Strong….Learn as much as you can in the way that is easiest for you. If you have a smartphone you can download the adhan to it and it will come on when it is time to pray. You can print off the prayer schedule for your city and state by going here: and hang it in every room. Eventually it will become 2nd nature to you and whenever it comes time to pray you will have a feeling in your heart that it is time to pray and you will want to pray, and you won’t feel good again until you have prayed. In a way it is a habit that you have to develop…but it is a good habit that you will want to keep and you will look forward to fulfilling it. The best time to pray dua is either in the morning after fajr or after maghrib (sunset)…but if you are having troubles you can always make wudu and pray two rakas like the fajr prayer in the middle of the night or really in time you want. If i have mentioned anything wrong…I am sorry, but being a convert myself, I am still learning every day. Take care,

    1. Sharleen, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your advice and help. Your words are very encouraging and I love your suggestions. I never thought about learning to pray faithfully as the development of a habit, but of course you’re right.

      Thank you for caring enough to write.
      Your sister in Islam,

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