Ramadan Around The World #2: Unveiling The Beauty of Islam

by Maryam Souza

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

A Brazilian convert shares a heartwarming experience of her introduction to Islam, and her struggles and victory over temptations during her first Ramadan.

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An interest in multiple religions since childhood led to my interest in studying different beliefs. I was always looking for answers to the many questions I had.

At 17, I met a veiled Brazilian woman, an acquaintance. I was immensely intrigued. Wearing a veil was something so uncommon. Thus, began my initial association with Islam. I had numerous doubts about what it was like to be a Muslim woman in Brazil. She responded that it was not very easy, yet not impossible.

She gave me a book, Woman in Islam. I read it the same day and underlined several parts of the book and had more questions the next day. I continued reading more about Islam until I was sure I wanted to convert.

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I knew that my life as a Muslim in Brazil would not be easy. People knew little about the religion and many were prejudiced. Always associating Muslims with extremism.

However, I converted within a few days with another Muslim friend. My first Ramadan was two months away, yet I felt ready as I was extremely eager to put into practice everything I had learned about Ramadan during my studies.

The days came closer, Ramadan was fast approaching. I became more distressed and apprehensive. I was afraid I would not survive. Ramadan started, and surprisingly, I calmed down and I could see that it was much more peaceful than I had imagined.

On the first day, everything went well. I was happy to know that I was not alone as millions of Muslims around the world were on the same journey.

The second and third days were just as exciting, but I was anxious to break my fast, as it was very hot in Brazil and I was not used to fasting for so many days in a row.

The second week was difficult and I worried I would not be able to fast successfully. I was working outdoors and the heat was punishing. Despite the difficulties, never did I stop feeling the peace that Ramadan gave me. It kept me going and at the end of the day, I felt proud for not giving up.

My struggles made me look more closely at people in need. I could break my fast at the end of the day, but there were thousands of people who were trapped in continual fasts with no end in sight. These thoughts helped me realise the blessings that Allah had bestowed on me. I developed a deeper sense of compassion for the needy and prayed for them in my supplications.

To help me renew my energies and intentions, I downloaded the Quran in Arabic and Portuguese on my cell phone and listened to it on my way to work. When I left work I would break my fast at the nearest mosque where I would receive a lot of advice from Muslim friends:

Don’t eat very salty foods during suhur;
instead, eat fruits, salads, and anything lighter; and
drink lots of water and avoid very sweet things.

So, I started eating strategically at suhur, choosing foods that would provide more sustenance.

The trying part was explaining to non-Muslim people that I was fasting. Many thought I was exaggerating by depriving myself of food and drink until sunset. It was extremely difficult to explain that, that was not the case. I stopped trying to explain, and started to reject anything that was offered to me. Gradually, they stopped offering and even started reminding me that the time of iftar was near!

During the last week of Ramadan when I was offered delicious food and for a moment it was compelling. However, I would remember the reward of Allah and the temptation would pass quickly. Each time I held on, I felt proud of myself and ready for the next fast.

The last ten days of Ramadan dawned upon me, I was extremely anxious to seek the night of the decree. I had studied a lot about the blessings of this particular period and I did not want to miss it for anything. I searched for this night assiduously over the period of ten days, always asking Allah to make me witness the next month of Ramadan. I felt that I was completing a very important phase in my life. A phase of many discoveries and especially, of connection with Allah. Never in my life had I felt so close to Allah. I really wanted that closeness to continue throughout my life.

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My first Ramadan taught me that it was possible to reconcile our daily lives with the worship of God, and that every effort is worth it when it is made to please Him.

Eid arrived. A moment of celebration that I was able to share with my new Muslim friends. It was a day of much reflection. No one could make me give up, even more so when the purpose is to please Allah. In the days following Ramadan, I felt a great sense of accomplishment, but a certain sadness also enveloped me. I missed everything I had experienced during my first ever Ramadan!

Nonetheless, the feeling that my heart was purified and my soul cleansed was a blessing. I had been endowed with the opportunity to start from scratch and all I wanted was to live long enough until the next Ramadan.

Curated by: Muslim Pro

About the Writer:
Maryam Souza, 28, is a resident of São Bernardo do Campo, which currently houses one of the largest Islamic communities in Brazil. A mum to two children, Maryam is a visual artist of Islamic Arts. Observing the pages of her Quran, led her to study more about the artistic style. She recently held an art exhibition, showcasing her work Al kursi, where people were able to hear the Quran for the first time.