Ramadan Diaries

Essays by Ahamed Weinberg

Ramadan Diaries

I sat in this mosque today and prayed using Arabic verses my mom taught me. I don’t know what they mean but they’re in my head all day. More than I care to admit. Am I a prayer parrot? I sit in the mosque and try not to think about my career or hot hot sex with that barista or how bad traffic is gonna get when everything is underwater and it’s all bridges. I try to be thankful.

To me prayers are like the rules of the road. I kind of trust that they are working and keeping me safe. I’ve never lived without them, so I just don’t know.

To my mom, prayers are the entire limitless everything. Best of all time. #1 A+ Chinese Food. I really wish I could have her faith. She just texted me a video of grass blowing in the wind and wrote that the grass is praying. That literally just happened.

To me prayers are like the rules of the road. I kind of trust that they are working and keeping me safe. I’ve never lived without them, so I just don’t know.

I’ve gone through heavy heartache this year. It seems like some people deal with breakups by moving forward, like a cat you push off your lap that walks off to find some space in the dining room to download Tinder. I’m a cat that gets pushed off a lap and stays in that same room for months, displaying my asshole prominently as I saunter slowly around thinking of nothing but how amazing that lap was. Are these white people problems? Worse. These are house cat problems.

Maybe the grass is praying. Maybe we are powerless in our lives. Maybe sitting in a coffee shop thinking about analogies and prayer and love and feeling my stomach start to grumble is a waste of time. Maybe this barista will ask me why I’ve been here for so long without buying anything, and I’ll say that I’m fasting for Ramadan, and she’ll say, “Do you want to have hot hot sex?” and I’ll say, “Sure, just not on the grass.”

Ahamed’s Ramadan Diary — 6/9/2016

If you’re thinking of buying a self-help book and you can afford to buy a self-help book, do yourself a favor and buy a cowboy hat instead. A cowboy hat will actually make you feel better.

Self-help books sit in a huge shelf of various answers to life’s emptiness.

Seven Habits of Successful Slave Owners, Lose Touch With The People Who Love You and Prosper, Stop Caring and Just Care, The Codependence Cookbook, Enlightenment Through Spite…

Building Your Resentment Tent.

I Want To Smoke a Cigarette.

The Last Dad You’ll Ever Need.

How to Kill Your Enemy in Two Minutes or More.

I’m OK, You’re OK, Steve is Not Doing Great.

Didn’t You Want to be An Actor at Some Point?

Don’t Date, Wait.

Wherever You Go, There You Are, Bad At Things.

Don’t buy any of these above self-help books. Buy a cowboy hat.

When you put on a cowboy hat, everything changes. Look in the mirror, I dare you. You’re so handsome and pretty. You look GOOD, Steve. You’re doing great.

You kiss the brim of the hat. All the way around. You put the hat in your closet. Goodnight, sir, thanks for the shade haha.

Obama just sneezed. You feel it. He’s almost done now.

Tonight you’ll fall asleep in a poncho you purchased in Taos, New Mexico. You dream of a piece of warm toast deep in a lion’s den. It’s a metaphor for the husband you want to become.

It’s 7:50pm. I am sitting in a bookstore. I will eat at 8:04pm. I’m very very hungry.

Ahamed’s Ramadan Diary — 6/13/2016

I want to preface this by saying that I wouldn’t be considered a “real” Muslim by many Muslims. I’m okay with that. This won’t be a scholarly perspective on what just happened. I’m also not gay, but during Ramadan I sometimes feel sexually attracted to my refrigerator, and my refrigerator identifies as male.

I’ve been inside many mosques during my lifetime and felt safe in all of them. I’ve never been to a gay nightclub, but I’ve heard it’s another place where you can feel safe. Another place where you can find God.

I’m sure the comparison between the two is offensive to some, but there’s never been a better time to make it. Aren’t they both places of refuge? Places where oppressed Americans go to be themselves? Places where fear shouldn’t get in the way of love?

I’ve been a part of homophobia. At my all-boys private school we teased and bullied the more effeminate boys until they left. At their new school, finally safe, they would come out and we’d see it on Myspace and laugh. I was a part of that ugly process.

I’ve never been to a gay nightclub, but I’ve heard it’s another place where you can feel safe. Another place where you can find God.

I’ve seen Islamophobia. I remember 9/11, when a close friend quickly blamed the “Muslims” for the attacks. We were 12 years old. He had forgotten in that moment how I was raised. He had forgotten because I don’t look Arab.

After 9/11 I saw in my parents a different fear, a fear of our own government. As Muslims, they worried our phones were being tapped, our mosque was being monitored, and our lives would be affected by a large anti-Muslim movement.

Seeing both sides of this problem as a child was rough and confusing, but seeing it now is much worse. I guarantee we will watch politicians adopt pro-LGBTQ policies to defend their anti-Islamic ones. I guarantee children all over the country are being told by their friends, like I was, that this is a Muslim problem.

Blaming this attack on Islam is like blaming global warming on the sun. The problem is not who people are, but how we treat them. It’s the responsibility of the individual to recognize that we are all part of this larger problem. The shootings across the country, including this one, are a result of fear. That fear is the result of exclusion. Exclusion is the process of rejection, of keeping people out of our lives. This isn’t an Islamic practice, it’s a human one.

Donald Trump wants to solve this problem by keeping Muslims out of the country. He wants to solve this exclusionary hatred by increasing its scale. He wants to solve radical behavior by acting radical. He wants to create fear in Mosques as a counterattack to the fear that will now be felt in gay nightclubs. An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Ghandi said that. Don’t do me like that. Tom Petty said that.

I’ve been trying to articulate how I feel since yesterday. It’s overwhelming, and I’m sure a lot of this doesn’t make sense. I’m staring at my refrigerator with hungry eyes. He’s old. His skin is yellow and he doesn’t stop humming. But I love him. It’s what’s inside that counts.

Ahamed’s Ramadan Diary — 6/20/2016

If you haven’t been to a religious site like Jerusalem or Mecca, imagine a huge sports event but everyone is sober and there’s no game happening. It’s just the old stadium where the game once occurred, hundreds of years ago, but everyone is still just as excited and overwhelmed. As if LeBron is still out there, giving everything. But he’s not and instead he was killed by Jews on a hot day just like this one.

I wonder if stadiums will become the religious destinations of the future. Will orthodox Cavs fans migrate thousands of miles through the future winter desert of America, wearing snapbacks and jerseys despite the harsh winter, just to touch the wall of the stadium? To put a prayer through a slit in their favorite player’s locker? To burn incense in the hallways that make them smell like B.O. again?

At ten years old I traveled to Saudi Arabia with my family and a group of other Muslims. Most American children, including myself, think about Aladdin when they think about Saudi Arabia: stealing a cantaloupe from the bazaar, a corrupt and obviously gay villain, and a weird Muslim government that’s simultaneously strict enough to murder people for stealing cantaloupes and chill enough to allow the princess to wear a fashionable bikini top. Islam is always portrayed how we see fit.

It’s the classic Hollywood skill of choosing which stereotypes will sell tickets and which won’t. We pick and choose which aspects of their culture we want to demonize and are then blown away when they do the same thing to us.

I remember walking out into the Grand Mosque. I remember the desert sun, reflected off the marble. I couldn’t see anything. Then, my eyes adjusting, the hundreds of people crying with devotion, the feeling of something greater than myself. The indescribably large feeling of holiness, the connection we all had, the purpose of our lives joining together. The sad fact that there was no pizza in Saudi Arabia. The heat, and the white cloths we were all wearing. None of us were wearing underwear; I remember looking around and thinking about that. Sweaty balls. Also, how was there no pizza?

This was also my first mosh pit. Pilgrims were pushing and shoving each other to touch the black stone on the corner of the Kabaa, a once pure relic of the time of Adam and Eve, now black because of our sins. It’s a stampede of devotion, more and more intense as we got closer. I’m a little ginger being tossed and torn around, holding onto my mother’s dress for dear life. Suddenly she’s gone, it’s chaos, but I won’t let go even though it feels like she’s being torn away from me. My grip is firm. Suddenly we break through to a clearing and I look up. It’s not my mom at all. I was just holding on tightly to a woman who looked and acted vaguely like my mother, and that is a great analogy for every relationship I’ve been in since.

My mom had me keep a journal, and in this picture I’m probably writing about how stupid everything is. It’s an opinion I still hold close to my heart.

I’m thankful for that experience and for the confusion of life. I’m thankful for religion, and how stupid it all can be.

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