First Day Fast

1 Ramadan 1441

Tonight is the first night of Ramadan, and tomorrow is the first day of fasting.

It’s been hard to focus on anything for an extended period of time. And by extended period of time, I mean 20 minutes.

I am amazed I can read novels with my students. Virginia Woolf and Malcolm X have been able to hold my attention. Malcolm X, in particular, got my students’ attention. My favorite comments were from the young women in the room (or should I say, in the Zoom) feeling conflicted about the man. I told them when I read him, I get the sense it’s okay to fight him. I get the sense it would be fun—and that he’d welcome it.

I don’t get that feeling from every author. Some writers would refuse a good fight, that’s for sure.

One of my students came to office hours and chatted with me for a good hour about the book. This was after she reported she spoke about the Autobiography of Malcolm X non-stop for three days with her family because she was having so many feelings. It was her first time reading the work, after all.

I don’t know what that’s like for her family, but I laughed.

When I teach, I am completely focused and happy. When it’s over, I don’t want to talk. I just want to be quiet.

Sometime a week ago—or maybe two weeks ago?—I decided I couldn’t sleep, and I needed to write. I wrote until Fajr. I wrote 3300 words about teaching Ibn Hazm’s Tawq al-Hamama. After going to bed and waking up the next morning—or was it afternoon?—I saw all the dashes and ellipses and multiple parenthetical statements crafted as asides noting such-and-such was a certain way because it was pre-pandemic times when over 11,000 in New York alone weren’t dead because of a virus.

I decided the essay needs to be edited or it will not make sense, but maybe I should leave it as it is—my erratic, unfocused style being a sign of the times, after all.

I’m not only looking for inspiration this Ramadan; I’m looking for focus. I’m hoping fasting will help. Tomorrow is the first day fast. “First Day Fast” reminds me of this Muslim guy who recorded a parody song to “Birthday Sex” some time ago, pre-pandemic.

Apparently Facebook is onto me. Unlike some of my old millennial or Gen X-er friends who keep seeing ads for masks, I keep getting told I need to read articles about adults with ADHD.

Tonight, after Isha, I read the verse

وَلِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

To God belong the East and the West. Wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God. God is All-Encompassing, Knowing (2:115).

And it made me cry.

I immediately thought of my bedroom. Is my bedroom—where I teach, read, write, work, rest, exercise, pray, sometimes eat, socialize and watch movies with friends, receive texts or phone calls from people who make me want to throw things—the East or the West?

What a relief God’s Face is also here—or is it there?—in my bedroom.




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