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A lot of people are frustrated, angry, and deeply saddened by the recent ongoings in Palestine. The world seems to have been shaken by the recent violence against Gaza. I have never seen so many posts, so many shared links, so many voices that have spoken up for the region all at once.

I went to my first protest last weekend. And what came to mind was something my cousin was explaining to me and two others a few weeks back. At the time I was arguing with her but now I see how right she was. She had been talking about leadership, how we may think we aren’t leaders, but that leadership is different from management. She addressed each of us respectively, telling us where and how—in my case, even in the way I make design decisions—we all demonstrate leadership.

I walked into this protest not sure what to do. I had no flag, no signs, no one I had come with. But soon it didn’t matter because I was there for the same reason as everyone else. It’s an interesting experience when you have to figure out what to do on your own, and I suppose it is leadership. You have to lead yourself.

Pretty soon, I had asked a lady for her extra signboard and was repeating slogans for a free Palestine. It wasn’t long before I became part of the crowd, and the cause. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it in time for this protest, and remember wondering: would one person not going make much difference anyway? But then I asked myself, what if everyone thought this awful way? Where would we be? So I went, and ended up learning a little more than expected.

One thing that was striking to me was the connection between this protest and Ramadan. Fasting is a challenge in different ways for different people, but the experience of marching through the loop under Lake Michigan’s humidity with so many others also fasting—it all made me realize how much I have.

Those of us who live in the upper, middle, even lower middle classes in the United States and other places, are really the silver spoon children of the world. Let’s face it—we have it good. In the month of Ramadan, personally, it’s one thing to be fasting while being at home, taking naps, praying and reading but in well air conditioned homes, having a tablespread of food ready at iftar, so much that we even pre-fill our plates with food before it’s time to break the fast—these are things not everyone can say they have. But then there are people around the world in the same, shared month of Ramadan that are going hungry, facing violence, getting raped, getting tortured, losing their families.

It was clear that walking through those few blocks was far from noble on my part, but instead it was a favor to me. Even if it was an inkling of what others face, I was blessed to be out in the world, trying to feel what people are going through.

Alhamdulillah, and may Allah grant ease to those in difficulty, ameen.

Theres still one question though: why in Ramadan? I keep thinking of the past month and a half. My grandfather passed away, two days later a great uncle passed away, two weeks later a shocking incident took place in the family, then shortly after there was a terrible incident in a friend’s family, then happened Gaza, then the Malaysian plane, then last night Bashar al Assad sworn into Syria yet again, then today the man in New York that choked to death while being arrested. And these are only a fraction of the things that go on daily. So why—why in the month of Mercy? Why in Ramadan?

I found myself asking this very same question at the beginning of this month. That first morning after suhoor, I went to sleep and had a nightmare. I woke up thinking…wait a minute, it’s Ramadan, the devils are chained—how am I having nightmares? I was puzzled, and the bad dreams only continued in coming days. And then I started thinking maybe this is an indication of some sort, maybe I need to be more focused, maybe I need to use my time better or realize something I’m doing wrong. And so, sometimes the answer is so simple and undeniable, that it lies in the question itself. Why ramadan? Because it is Ramadan. Because it’s Ramadan, these realizations are more pronounced, and we’re shown in the most clear and direct way that this is a month we cannot waste.

The nightmares were a blessing. Maybe watching Gaza, watching Burma, watching that plane crash, watching all the oppression, we need to not only wake up, but stay up.

As the days are going by now, my favorite Arabic saying radiates in my mind like the sun:

awwalu gayeth qatr thumma yan hamir

The first of the flood is just a drop.

I realize just how much of a difference every single person can make, just by being awake. Gaza is up in flames, but when I look around, the entire world seems to be uniting around it. The slogans are correct: You don’t have to be Muslim to stand up for Gaza, you just have to be human. Across the globe I see people who have nothing to do with Palestine deeply hurt from recent events, people of different faiths and backgrounds coming together to support a free state, and in some instances even Israeli soliders testifying against the war tactics. The pain you feel matters, the voice you raise matters, the tweet you tweet matters, the link you share matters and most, most of all the hands we all raise in prayer matter.

Ramadan is a month of Infinite Mercy, of blessing, of ease in getting closer to Allah. He’s chained up the devils for us, He gives us the energy to fast, He shifts our focus from our physical form to our soul. He’s made it so easy already. But it’s a special time that one may never see again. It’s a time where time itself must be used as best possible. Perhaps certain difficulties have been situated in Ramadan for our benefit, as a mercy to us. It may be a reminder to wake up before it’s too late. It may be a way to bring us closer to Allah. It may be because sabr (patience) and hope are magnified in this month. He’s helping us be conscious of Ramadan—He’s granted us ease through difficulty.

And now we find ourselves in the last ten days, when Laylatul Qadr—the night of our lives—can be found. Meanwhile we see the situation in Gaza has escalated and multiplied. All sorts of other tragedies are also being delivered in the news, and they’re all affecting us, they’re all touching us. This is it. This is Allah’s Mercy to us. This is why we can say things are not hopeless. For if things were hopeless, none of us would care. But the fact is we’re awake. This is Allah’s Mercy, that He’s so lovingly, powerfully helping us to raise our hands and turn to Him. Allah has not left the world to fend for itself, He has made it even easier for us to look for the night that’s better than 1000 months.

I pray that Insha Allah through all of this, in these ten nights we will be more inclined than ever to seek out Laylatul Qadr and make duaa for ourselves and others around the world, with a new wakefulness.

Allahuma ameen.

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