Ramadan Diaries: A Blog

This year, Ramadan started March 11 and ends April 10. Crier Staff members Anum Saif, Leyla Yurtsever, and Zehra Ozcan will blog about how they observe this month-long holiday. Updated weekly!

Week 1: March 11 – March 17

ANUM: Spiritual growth, quality time with family, and reflection are just a few of the highlights of Ramadan. But balancing school can be really difficult. Tuesday night I went to bed at 12am and woke up at 4am to eat suhoor (meal before sunrise). Luckily, I went through the day without feeling too tired, but the schoolwork continues to pile up. I have been taking advantage of my lunch period to sit in the media center and catch up on any assignments I didn’t do the night before.

Despite school getting in the way, I have been able to work on gratitude and self-discipline. I have noticed whenever Ramadan always comes around when I am at a spiritual low and it is like the perfect pick-me-up or reset. I look forward to the rest of the month to see what is to come.

LEYLA: Ramadan is my favorite time of the year! It’s when I feel more connected to my community, my religion, my family, and myself more than ever. But, sometimes my schoolwork gets neglected with all of the additional activities that come along with Ramadan. On Monday, the first day of fasting, my friend and I went to one of our friends’ lacrosse games, and then we all had iftar (dinner to break our fast at sundown) altogether. When I came home, my family and I prayed Taraweeh (a special additional prayer for Ramadan that takes nearly an hour). Wiped out, I went straight to bed once we finished the prayer.

Throughout the week, my family and I have been invited to and hosted iftars with family friends. This is one of my favorite parts about Ramadan because not only am I able to spend time with my friends and family, but we also grow together spiritually. Thankfully, fasting this past week hasn’t been too bad for me, and I think my stomach has only growled in class once or twice.

ZEHRA: I look forward to Ramadan each year – even though it can be difficult to balance with school, especially during March. Ramadan is a time of opportunity for not only spiritual but also mental

and physical growth. For me, fasting allows my body to rest, allows my mind to focus better, and gives me more time to learn more about my religion and worship.

However, I haven’t been able to focus on that so much this month because of a debate meet (IDC State) I had in the middle of March, which was even harder to prepare for while fasting. After a long day of school, I met the rest of the debate team in the library the day before the meet so we could prepare, but it was so hard to do since I had been up even earlier that morning and hadn’t drank any water that day. But even on difficult days like this, I am always glad I have fasted at the end of the day when I break my fast at Iftar. I have been able to focus more on gratitude and Islam during this month, and I look forward to the rest of it, and especially to Eid!

Week 2: March 19- March 25

Anum: Remember what I said about balancing school with spirituality? This week has been extremely stressful with all of my classes having exams or essays leading up to spring break. Luckily, I have been able to establish a routine for the school week. I wake up around 4 to 4:30 for Suhoor. I don’t go back to sleep though, because the additional hour from 5-6 isn’t worth it, and I end up being more groggy. Go to school, then come back home depending if I have a club or not. After returning home and praying Dhuhr (noon prayer) and Asr (afternoon prayer), I take a nap until iftar. In my opinion, routines are so important because your body gets accustomed to it and knows when you need a given amount of sleep or energy. Although routines are important, they tend to get repetitive. I look forward to spring break to catch up on sleep.

Leyla: This week was challenging for me too, with projects, tests, and homework. Even though I did my best to balance it all with Ramadan at the same time, I definitely missed out on a lot of sleep. It’s also been hard for me to get work done at home during Ramadan. After school before iftar, a wave of tiredness, sleepiness, and hunger hits me, and I usually succumb to a nap. And then, after I break my fast, I’ve usually eaten way too much and feel too sluggish to do any homework. But, it was all okay once the clock finally struck 3:30 on Friday (actually 4:25 for me, since I had to make up a test in Test Make Up). I ran (read: drove) home, took a little nap, helped my mom with iftar preparations since my parents were hosting guests, and then my brother and I went to our iftar, an alumni program hosted by our middle school. There, I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while, and we played games and talked. Once I got home, I slept as early as possible.

The next day, my friend invited me and other friends to her house for iftar, and her mom made the most delicious food. I ended up staying at her house until 11:30 that night. On Sunday, my friends and I broke our fasts with sushi, which I have been craving all of Ramadan (food videos on Instagram Reels are my worst enemy during Ramadan). After, one of my friends and I had a sleepover, and we stayed up until suhoor (around 5:30) eating and watching movies throughout the night. Overall, the school week was exhausting, but the weekend made up for it!

Zehra: This week was really challenging for me because I had a lot of school work and tests and was still adjusting to fasting daily. I began to fast on Mondays and Thursdays when the three holy months (Rajab, Sha’ban, and Ramadan) started in January as a way to prepare my body for Ramadan and make up any missing fasts from last year. Getting started early certainly helped, but it is still difficult to fast now because after daylight savings, which was right before Ramadan, the time to break the fast increased by an hour. Plus, it’s hard to fast every day without taking a break. However, sometimes I do find that fasting helps me focus because even though I’m tired, I’m not distracted by food and don’t have to spend any time cooking any because no one in my family is eating. This week, the extra focus certainly helped because I had quite a few projects due and tests to study for.

Being really busy with school this week, I didn’t have iftar with my friends or at a family friends’ house like I do most of the time in Ramadan, but I still spent time with my family each day. Me and my mom cooked dinner together most nights and prayed as a family afterward. 

Week 3: March 26- April 1

Anum:

On Tuesday, we had our MSA iftar dinner at the Islamic Society of the Midwest.  I was lucky enough to help plan it, and it was rewarding to see the 200 students from several high schools all together for a common purpose and celebration. Community and quality time are what make Ramadan so special. We had Mediterranean food, cake, and Biscoff dessert cups with layers of Biscoff spread, vanilla mousse, and Biscoff cookie crumble. The dessert cups were my favorite food of the night. I also got to see Leyla and Zehra! Leyla emceed and she did an amazing job! I sat right by the stage and was quietly cheering her on.

Remember what I said about being stressed out because of school? Well, the rest of the week was a full 180 because I was BORED. Sleep, pray, SAT prep (the exam is conveniently near Eid, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan), break fast, repeat. When I was scrolling on TikTok, every single video had something to do with food. Whether it was someone reviewing this week’s Crumbl cookies, or someone eating Wingstop, it was difficult to watch. And somehow after iftar, the videos went away. It’s like the algorithm knew when I was fasting and when I wasn’t. 

On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit UIC with my sister and sit in on her lectures. After her first lecture, I fell asleep in the library which sounds embarrassing, but it actually made me feel refreshed. After another lecture, we sat near a cafe and the smell of coffee and pastries had both of our mouths watering. Note it’s only 11am. We also visited the Hull House Museum which was conveniently on campus.

Besides my boredom, the food I ate was incredible. I felt so grateful for even having food to break my fast while knowing that for others this isn’t the case. I look forward to the final week of Ramadan for a strong finish. 

Leyla: Tuesday was our MSA iftar, hosted by Conant MSA! Many different schools were invited, and I was the emcee for the program, which was a little scary at first, but I think I eventually got the flow of things. Anum, Zehra, and I got to spend iftar together. The food was delicious, and it was very fun to see my friends from other schools! I love iftar nights like this because it shows me how Ramadan can bring together so many people from different backgrounds and places.

Anum Saif | Conant Crier

(Pictured left to right) Leyla, Zehra, and Anum at the MSA Iftar!

On Wednesday, one of my friends invited a lot of our friends (including Zehra!) to her house for iftar. Her mom cooked the most amazing Indonesian food, and we spent the evening listening to a religious lecture, then playing games and eating dessert. Earlier in the day, I had made tiramisu to bring to the gathering, and it was a hit!

On Friday, I once again had an iftar program with some of my friends. After we prayed Taraweeh together, we went to Suhoor Nights. Although it was cold, my friends and I had a lot of fun walking around and trying different foods. The atmosphere was amazing, and there were Indian, Turkish, Mexican, and many other cuisines. I got home at around 2:30, which made it hard to wake up for morning prayer, but my mom somehow managed to get me up. 

I think Saturday was the most difficult day to fast for me. My friends and I went thrifting and to the mall, and the delicious, salty smell of Auntie Anne’s was very difficult to endure. My mouth watered as I was reminded of the cinnamon pretzel nuggets I get on every mall trip. But, it was all okay once we broke our fasts with my friend’s mom’s food after a day of fasting and cravings.

Finally, on Sunday, my parents invited two families to iftar for a total of 16 people, including my family. My mom cooked all the food herself, and I helped her most of the day. It’s definitely a challenge to make sure food tastes good when you can’t taste it, but it all turned out delicious. The day was definitely tiring, but it was a rewarding way to end spring break! I got to bed around midnight since we prayed Taraweeh as a family.

Zehra: I personally find it much harder to fast over break than during school because I can’t find the energy to do anything productive the whole day, but Ramadan over spring break was really fun this year because I had a lot of time to spend with my friends who were also fasting. On Tuesday, I went to the MSA iftar with Leyla and Anum. Leyla did a great job as the speaker at the program! We had dates and water to break our fast, then prayed in the mosque, and then ate a delicious dinner followed by tea and dessert. I really enjoy community iftars like this one because even if not everyone knows each other, we all feel connected and always have a great time together. 

Before the iftar on Tuesday, I went to my mom’s office with her in Chicago to see what she does during work since I had school off and she had a pretty calm day at work that day. We took Metra, and even though the weather was gloomy and we couldn’t enjoy the snacks my mom’s office provides, it was a nice break from staying home all day.

Wednesday night, I went to the house of a friend whose mom cooked iftar for us along with Leyla. The food was delicious–I loved the tiramisu–and the discussion and games after dinner were really fun. I didn’t know everybody there, but like I said, Ramadan brings people together, and that’s what happened at the iftar. I had a great time!

My family and I visited some close friends for iftar on Thursday. We had dinner and prayed afterward. There were a bunch of little kids running around, so it was hard to sit down and talk with my friend, but it was a fun night.

After going out for iftar every night the whole week, I had dinner with my family again on Friday. I prepared breakfast for dinner–breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I miss it during Ramadan–and everyone loved it. My little brother especially enjoyed the crepes with whatever sweet topping he could find to put on them.

I didn’t do much over the weekend except wait for school to start again because I was tired of staying home. I spent some time with a friend on Sunday, which I haven’t gotten a chance to do so far in Ramadan. We went on a long walk and even though I was fasting, it wasn’t too tiring, and it was a nice day to end my break. 

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