By Lauren Tabakhi
The pre-Ramadan enthusiasm I felt within me was unmatched compared to any other point in time throughout the year. In prior months before this spiritual season, I regretfully admit to losing sight of many of the priorities and principles that I used to hold so dear. Thus, as Ramadan drew near, my spiritual preparations began. By mid-Sha’ban, my goals had already been set, my schedule was arranged and my heart was desperately anticipating the blessed month of Ramadan. However, despite all of the extensive and precise planning on my part, I had come to understand that Allah is Al-Khaliq, the best of planners.
One week prior to Ramadan, I was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease in which cells within the patient’s pancreas fail to produce insulin, a hormone necessary to transport glucose into the body’s cells. Without insulin, the body is unable to use glucose for energy. Thus, diabetics recreate this process by injecting insulin into their bodies several times throughout the day. It is essential to continually monitor one’s blood sugar in order to maintain a precise, stable glucose level.
Unfamiliar with the disease at the time of the diagnosis, my first concern had little to do with my health, but rather whether or not I would be able to fast in the upcoming Ramadan. However, my doctors and family did not see this as a priority considering the disease had been developing within me for several months and their sole concern was to immediately begin treatment. Because I had been readily awaiting Ramadan for the past few months, this news was heartbreaking. I was absolutely crushed.
Completely terrified by this entire process, I quickly fell into somewhat of a depressive state for the days following the diagnosis. I was extremely frustrated by this whole situation and frankly, angry that this happened to me. The thought that consistently occupied my mind day and night was, “Of all the weeks to get diagnosed with diabetes, it had to be the week before Ramadan.” Even my doctors agreed that it was somewhat of an unfortunate coincidence. But nothing is ever a coincidence.
The first week of the diagnosis was the most disheartening, agonizing week of my life. All of my excitement for the upcoming Ramadan had instantly faded as I became so extremely occupied with doctors’ appointments and coping with the side-effects of the new medication. I was told that because I was recently diagnosed, fasting was not an option since regulating your blood sugar is a learning process that comes with time. Discouraged, I lost hope in having the much-anticipated “Ramadan experience.”
Although I was feeling weak in my iman (faith), I attended the first Jummah (Friday prayer) before Ramadan. As expected, the khateeb (speaker) gave a beautiful khutbah (sermon) about fasting. He explained how there is no act of worship comparable to this because it is the one act of worship done solely for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (Glorified is He). I felt as if I was hearing the concept of fasting for the very first time in my life; because for me, it was the very first time in my life where it was not definite that I would be able to fast. My eyes filled with tears as this thought became more of a reality. Last Ramadan I never would have considered the possibility that only one year later, I would be uncertain about my ability to partake in one of the most special parts of Ramadan.
I feel like I listened to the khutbah in a different light than everyone else that day. For others, it may have been an annual reminder about the blessings and beauty of the upcoming fasts. For me, however, it was an eye-opening reality that forced me to apprehend my lifelong ungratefulness.
As I broke down in front of my close friend that night, I grieved over the timing of this situation. She stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Perhaps this is the best time.” She continued to explain that yes, a significant part of Ramadan is about fasting, but it is also about developing and strengthening your relationship with Allah (swt). The beauty of the situation is that, while I may be experiencing one of the most difficult times in my life, I am doing so in the most blessed month out of the entire year where His divine mercy is shown everywhere. In that instant, I realized what an amazing blessing I was given. I realized that this couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“Verily, with hardship comes ease.” (Qur’an 94:6)
As only a few days remained before the commencing of Ramadan, I met with my doctor and reluctantly asked her again about the possibility of fasting. I spoke from the heart and explained that one’s health is a priority in Islam, but it would mean the world to me if we could figure out a way to safely go about fasting, although we are still in the beginning stages of treatment. To my surprise, she was extremely understanding and willing to try any sort of changes in medication to make it work. Currently, we have entered into the last 10 days of Ramadan and I feel so unbelievably blessed to be fasting and experiencing this month as I would ordinarily. However, I have come into this month with a new frame of mind. I am truly thankful for how easy my situation has become, and for every other functioning part of my body that I previously tended to neglect.
We are all faced with trials that come in different forms and at different times in our lives. Theses trials have the ability to make or break us. It all depends on your attitude and your willingness to put your trust in Allah (swt). I originally considered my diagnosis and its timing an absolute disaster. However, with a change in perspective, I am able to view this situation as one of the greatest gifts that Allah (swt) could have given to me. Not only is this hardship a means of attaining closeness to Him, it is also happening at one of the most beautiful, blessed moments in time.
May Allah (swt) make us successful in our journey back to Him this Ramadan. Let us never neglect to be eternally grateful for every imperceptible cell that seamlessly functions so efficiently and beautifully within our bodies. Ameen.