Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
A day before the start of Ramadan, I went grocery shopping for myself.
I loaded up on snacks which might not make too much noise eating. Maggie hot cups, coffee sachets and air freshener for the entire month (the air freshener is a safety measure to subdue the smell of food and coffee in my room).
I kept all of these in the car to bring up to my room late at night once my family is asleep, so that they don’t notice anything and ask questions.
Yes, I’m Muslim. But here’s my dirty secret: I fake my fasts during Ramadan to satisfy my family.
I can’t recall the last time I fasted during Ramadan
I am Muslim, I am religious – but I currently don’t pray or fast. I don’t cover my head, I wear clothes which please me, I have habits which are considered haram.
It’s been like this even before my teenage years; I’m now in my late twenties. I haven’t fasted during Ramadan in nearly two decades now.
Before anyone heaps judgement upon me, allow me to explain how I managed to reach this point in my spiritual journey.
I don’t remember the specific day I decided to stop fasting
One day while at my all-girls school, I saw some of the girls eating during breaktime. I decided to join them, claiming that it was my ‘time of the month’ when it really wasn’t. I’d always seen fasting as nothing more than a burden.
It worked that first time, so I continued breaking my fasts. It started with just drinking water, but my methods improved over time. I learnt how to sneak food or water while at home.
I was never caught – if my parents ever saw me, that would have been the end.
My family is a very conservative family. Here’s a laundry list of rules I had to follow:
- Only allowed to wear loose, traditional clothes.
- Not allowed to go out with my friends alone.
- Only allowed to watch animated cartoons, listen to music involving Islam.
- Not allowed to interact with boys, except when meeting relatives.
I was constantly berated if I didn’t pray, which led me to faking my prayers from an early age too. I was forced to attend Islamic classes during weekends, during summer vacations, where the exact same thing would be repeated to me over and over again.
The pious among you reading this would see nothing wrong with that upbringing. But eventually, I began feeling oppressed and frustrated – especially when I saw everyone around me growing up with freedoms while I was restricted in every single way.
I was so overprotected I didn’t even know about 9/11 until I reached college!
I started to explore what it’s like to live a secular life
Over the years, I began taking baby steps which pushed me further away from Islam.
I no longer prayed or fasted, I began wearing clothes which showed off my arms and legs, I began drinking, dating non-Muslims, and more.
And I realized something – the more open-minded I became, the more I developed in terms of my personality and outlook on life as well.
People around me would tell me that I became a lot less self-righteous, less ignorant, easier to talk to and more ‘woke’, as the kids say.
As sad as it makes me, knowing how far away from Islam I’d strayed to get to this point – I am actually proud of the individual I’ve become.
My parents would never be able to accept this side of me
As I moved further away from Islam, my parents continued to become even more religious over the years.
There’s no way I could ever tell them to their face that I do not want to fast in Ramadan.
Accusations would be hurled at me for being a kaffir, my mother would blame herself for it and cry, and I would probably be dragged to an Imam to be made to understand why I should fast.
Yes, I am fully aware that what I’m doing is sinful, is wrong, is punishable in the eyes of Allah.
But at the same time, I do believe that as a fully-fledged adult, you should be able to make your own decisions and lead your life the way you want to.
So, as I near the age of 30, I continue to fake my fasts in front of my family.
I still wake up at Sahur time to ‘pray’
After taking her sahur, my mother spends the next hour praying in our upper living area – which is right outside my room.
Even though I cover the bottom of my door with a towel to reduce the noise, she can still hear everything that goes on inside.
Even though it’s family tradition to eat sahur together, “I’ll wake up in my room and pray for myself to initiate my fast and go back to sleep,” I tell them.
To make sure my mother hears me waking up for fajr, I set an alarm, wake up, make some sort of noise in my bedroom for ten minutes or so, and go straight back to sleep.
Since I’m working from home during Ramadan, I need to have coffee so I stay in my room and work.
My mother would complain, “Why is your room locked during the day, daughter?” and “How come I barely see you during Ramadan?”
It’s frustrating, having to hide like a criminal in your own home, just to appease your parents during Ramadan.
I still hope to return to Islam someday
I will say this – regardless of how far I’ve strayed from the 5 Pillars, I still believe in Islam as the one true religion.
I do see the beauty of Islam, that its 5 Pillars are in place only to benefit us. I do plan to eventually pray, fast, pay my tithes, and possibly even perform the Hajj. Just not yet.
That is why I haven’t fasted during Ramadan in nearly two decades now.
I feel guilty every day for not fasting during Ramadan, for every prayer that I miss, for every lie I tell my parents about it.
But it’s my firm belief — much like many of my other Muslim friends who don’t fast – that I need to learn to love the 5 Pillars of Islam again, on my own terms.
At the very least, I hope that the guilt will push me towards being a better Muslim someday.
For more stories like this, read: My Husband’s Parents Didn’t Invite Me For Chinese New Year For 10 Years Because I Was Indian and How Religious Teachers in Malaysia Brainwashed Me As A Child.
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