Jae Deen: Rapper talks about navigating through Ramadan as a revert
Ibrahim Sal from Salams - the marriage, friendship and networking app - talks to rapper Jae Deen about his Ramadan experience as a revert.
How do you compare your life to when you first converted to now?
When I first started [Converted], in the context of Ramadan, I felt extremely lonely having no accompanying Muslim friends and didn't know what to do. Most of the time I would find myself upset, because I was breaking my fast all by myself every single day and it was a really eye opening experience. The sense of not having a family in support of you in Ramadan can get to a convert’s head easily, as you don't have anyone to sit with you while you make dua, break your fast, or even sit with after iftar and go to the masjid with. Even if you have a lot of friends it doesn't feel the same way if you don't have a lot of family or little to no family at all. In my case, I essentially didn't really have my family’s support in the beginning when I first converted.
When I compare those times to now, I essentially have that same feeling till today. But as I grew and matured, I took it as a blessing because being alone removes all distractions to focus on myself. If I have to break my fast by myself, I see that as a blessing in itself. I used to take it personally, but now I just see Ramadan as a month to experience that sense of isolation and find myself spiritually to grow as a Muslim. My parents were not too fond of the idea of me being Muslim at first, but now they say things like “Mashallah”, and “Ramadan Mubarak” and they fully support my path to Islam and love how much it's benefited me in life.
Although my family is in full support of me now, my Ramadan every year is very simple in the context of not having extravagant iftars and going out with friends on multiple days throughout the month. Just remaining consistent with my religion and that itself will make me feel very accomplished after the Holy month has passed. You have to remember that everyone has their own narrative and their own story, Allah did not guide me to Islam to become sad or take things like this to heart.
If Ramadan was a festive holiday, then I would understand why I would be so emotional about the idea that I don’t get invited to iftars. Ramadan is really meant to be a spiritual upbringing month, and a month where you focus on actually working on your religion. You seclude yourself, going to the masjid, and staying focused on one goal, and that is getting closer to Allah SWT.
How would you describe your first Ramadan?
My first Ramadan was the best Ramadan I ever experienced, there was so much discovery [unveiling] within this month for myself . Everything was so brand new to me,I was learning some things for the first time and those are memories and experiences that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was truly a month of knowledge for myself as a freshly converted Muslim that was hungry to learn more and more about Islam.
I was only 15 years old at the time, and decided it would be best if I fasted half of the month so I can try it out to see how it is. I ended up fasting the entirety of the month. I remember the first time going to the masjid for my first taraweeh, and saying I never stood so long in prayer form. Standing there after each rakah, it was so eye opening. I was making dua the entire time, and felt spiritually uplifted as a follower within Islam.
I still have close friends to this day from that Ramadan. It built my essential foundation for Islam. I left as a different human being, and personally speaking you need to come out of Ramadan as a different person. If you let Ramadan pass and you didn't change in any sense, you need to reevaluate how you should go through the Holy month. I tasted that spirituality, I could almost remember what it tasted like, kind of like when you have a spoon of honey, you remember how it tastes. That first Ramadan was a memory I will never forget, I was only 15 years old.
What's your advice for other converts out there?
My advice for converts out there, cancel out any distractions from the community. Don’t shut people out entirely, because you still need to make friends, but if people from the community want to judge you based on your culture, and your background don't allow that to get to your head. You didn't come to this religion to please the community, or to fit into the community you are in. You came for the sake of Allah SWT, and always have that intention in your heart.
Some converts come into this religion thinking “my culture isn't acceptable”. I remember I would only wear a white thobe to the masjid, because I thought that was the only way to enter the masjid, or even with my natural hair, I felt like that culture wasn't allowed into the masjid, but over the time of growth I came to the realisation. I realised, I want to come into the masjid with the black culture I was raised upon, and not have any doubt in the world that someone around me is judging me for my culture.
Another piece of advice, try to find a teacher you can trust. Learn from that teacher, so the knowledge you’re learning will be consistent. If you have a good teacher, you'll be grounded. Also, learn Arabic as soon as possible. It will connect you to the Quran on a different level because you will fully understand everything, and also it will help with understanding Islamic literature. This way you can truly appreciate the religion itself.
Do you think Salams Connect can help converts navigate Ramadan?
Yes, I feel like if someone needs to find Muslim friends I would use the Salams app to find my own friends. When I first converted being in the Masjid more would get me to make all of my friends, when I would go I would say Salam to all the people within the masjid and this would strike conversations between each other and help build friendships for myself within that year.
I feel like if the app was there at that time it would have helped me tremendously, as I would have been able to connect with thousands of Muslims from my community back home and it would honestly open so many doors to so many different friendships.
Salams Connect is a feature within the Salams App that fosters same gender friendships to promote brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam. Salams Connect allows Muslimahs to make friends with other Muslimahs and Muslim Men to make friends with other Muslim Men. So if you want to look for other Muslim friends to join your Quran/Knowledge circle, or even organise a community service event to help provide sadaqah for those in nee, you can make muslim friends on Salams Connect. It can help you with networking and making lasting friends in Ramadan!
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