Ramadan Around The World #3: Just Do It! Words of A Revert

by Tim J.

This Ramadan we share with you a bird’s eye view of personal Muslim stories from across the globe.

An introverted European revert shares his caffeine crunch, the approaching dread and zeal of fasting during his first Ramadan, and the exchange of Dutch and Malay cultures through iftar. 


As a Muslim revert, you can often feel alone, and I certainly have felt this way especially in the early years after converting. When you are going through a significant and life-changing event you have the natural urge to share it with others. For my non-Muslim family members it was hard to understand the concept of Ramadan beyond not eating and drinking whereas for my Muslim family members Ramadan has become second nature.

It was sometimes difficult going through all these new feelings and emotions without a proper outlet. This is not to say that there is no outlet at all. In fact, there are amazing communities where fellow reverts can get together and discuss anything and everything related to Islam. In Singapore, there is ‘The Converts Central’ podcast that focuses on sharing lessons learnt from stories told and challenges experienced by converts.

As a convert, going to the mosques in touristy areas of Singapore, I was often seen as a tourist (who can blame them), but after growing a beard and becoming a regular at the mosque nearby my workplace, others’ perception of me changed.

I think as a non-local convert you will always get the odd stare, but this is something that you learn to deal with over time. I have learned to not see it as a negative, but more as a curiosity.

I reverted to Islam in September of 2013, a month after Ramadan that same year. Fortunately that meant I had almost a whole year of practicing Islam before the next Ramadan. In anticipation of Ramadan I would often ask people for advice or tips: “How to survive Ramadan?

I still saw the approaching month of Ramadan as something to dread or worry about. I had never ever fasted. Often, people would advise me to try fasting for a day or to start Ramadan by fasting half-days.

Personally, I never saw fasting half-days as an option so I went ahead with the most common advice: “Just do it”.

However, as a heavily caffeinated individual, I wish someone had recommended slowly reducing my caffeine intake in the weeks leading up to Ramadan. It took me quite a while to get used to the withdrawal headaches which worsened the feelings of dread.

Once my body and mind adjusted to fasting from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm every day, I started feeling the sweetness of Ramadan. While the feelings of dread just melted away, what helped a lot was the realisation that it was not just me going through this. In fact, there is a huge community out there and we were all celebrating Ramadan, together.

Alhamdulillah, over the years I have learned to manage my own expectations and found an outlet for my thoughts and feelings in prayer and self-reflection. These days, I look forward to Ramadan.

I have always felt privileged as a revert. My non-Muslim family embraced my new identity while my Muslim family welcomed me with open-arms. My employers have been accepting; they let me pray and fast.

Moreover, I am fortunate to live in a country where you are never more than 10 minutes away from a mosque and never more than a minute away from a nice halal meal.

Al-Abrar mosque in Singapore where I did most of my first prayers.

After four years of embracing Islam, I returned home, to the Netherlands. It was an odd experience. As a Muslim, I felt foreign in my own country. The things that I used to eat, I was no longer allowed to enjoy; the festivities that we celebrated as a family were no longer proper for a Muslim.

Being a Muslim in a non-Muslim household was unusual. I suddenly missed my bidet, a lot! I also learned that doing ablution in wintery weather is no fun either. Nonetheless, I look forward to celebrating Ramadan in my home country someday, perhaps in 2033 when Maghrib is at 4:30 in the afternoon. In terms of cultural differences, I realised that the standard European/Dutch greeting (3 kisses on the cheek) is no longer appropriate for Muslims, especially when greeting those of a different gender. 

As an introverted revert — maybe an introrevert — Eid has been a bittersweet holiday for me. When Eid arrives, our lives go back to normal, but not before eating back all the weight we lost during Ramadan. 

The local culture of visiting relatives and friends has always been slightly nightmarish. In the weeks after Eid, every weekend will be full of visits to houses of relatives, colleagues and friends. As Tim, I am only asked two questions: “Can you speak Malay?” and “Can you eat spicy food?”. However, as Nasir, I expect a lot of questions during these visits. Perhaps, about my Ramadan experiences or on my knowledge of Islam. The last two Eid celebrations have been oddly quiet due to the ongoing pandemic, but I am looking forward to seeing people again and eating delicious food!

Multicultural iftar (evening meal after sunset during Ramadan) meal.

Every year, I look forward to my mother-in-law’s home-cooked sambal goreng, which consists of bean curds or tofu, long beans and tempeh, made of fermented soybeans, fried in chilli. I love to share a little bit of my own culture and cuisine by cooking for my family and guests; I bake a Dutch apple pie or make a hearty beef stew. 

Muslim baby in semi-traditional garbs

This Eid is going to be especially different for me as it will be the first Eid where we can bring along our son, Baharudin. It is going to be his third Eid, but for many of our friends and relatives it will be the first time seeing him.

Curated by: Muslim Pro

About the Writer:
Tim, 34, is originally from the Netherlands. He is currently working in Singapore as a Marketing specialist in a technology company. The love of his wife also helped him find his way back to Islam.

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16 Comments

  1. Yaz

    Thank you Tim for sharing this with us, and Farida for a beautifully crafted piece!

    Reply
  2. Rahman ibrahim

    Ramadan Kareem

    Reply
  3. UMAIR JABBAR

    Ramzan is the one of the best gift in every year
    alhamdulillah

    Reply
    • Aslena

      Thank you Tim for sharing your inner side with us , it was a such a heartwarming sharing esp your journey , journeying as a Muslim in Singapore , may you and family be blessed always,Ramadan Karem

      Reply
  4. Oguntimehin Olakunle

    It’s interesting I also had similar stories am from Nigeria from Christian back ground only me is a Muslim from the start was a huge war for me though it’s a bit normal but I know which time it will normalize

    Reply
  5. Oguntimehin Olakunle

    It’s interesting I also had similar stories am from Nigeria

    Reply
    • Ali Imraan Mpiti Thamae

      Shukran Jazeelan Tim. I am looking forward to see the reception from my community in their first sight. I grew up in a Christian community and a typically Christian family. I reverted to Islam in 2021 around June. My first Ramadan, my first Sawm, what a divine experience. Inshallah. I am from Lesotho and embrace Islam in Western Cape South Africa. Alhamdulillah

      Reply
  6. Amina

    Mashallah mashallah subhanallah alhamdulilah rabil alamin. Allah increase your ibada and iman. I converted 43 years ago and live in the UK. Practice the fasting of Rasuloola; Mondays and Thursdays and substitute Coffee for Tea, Allah keep you on the straight path Amin

    Reply
  7. Mohammad Nazeer

    Ramazan Mubarak all ofyou

    Reply
  8. Marya Raja

    Jazak Allah khair for sharing! Inspiring

    Reply
  9. Maxamed Maxamed

    Happy ramadan to everyone in harlesden city

    Reply
  10. yufi

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, Tim! May Allah ease your journey ahead!

    Reply
  11. Saima

    A very interesting account of Ramadan through the eyes of a sincere revert Nasir.

    Reply
  12. Abdul Ahad CIEZ AJA

    ALHAMDULILLAH…

    Reply
  13. Hussein Mboya

    ASC,have had a difficult time with my wife being reverts from 2013 and challenges faced especially after dupped by a Muslim Boss to whom we thought was a role model,but thanks to Ramadan it nourishes souls and my wife seems to be coming back to Islam after a 2yrs.

    Reply

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