Lubna Qureishi: Ramadan

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It’s Ramadan and observant Muslims like Lubna Qureishi combine faith and modern life.

A few years ago, when my son was in third grade, his teacher emailed me a reminder. I was signed up for the cow eye dissection in his class the following morning.

I panicked. I knew I couldn’t cop out, especially since this was the least signed up event of the year and I was always telling the kids that science isn’t gross. What kind of a role model would I be? But Ramadan had just started a few days ago and I was still woozy; I hadn’t hit my stride yet.

So I walked into the classroom and met the expectant eyes of my son, excited to have me lead his team of surgeons. Our gloved hands picked up our scalpels. “Now find the optic nerve,” the teacher directed. I poked at the smelly, gelatinous mass, trying to project role model-calmness while not throwing up. After finding the nerve (and losing mine), I stood back, and took a breath. Across the room another volunteer, a Jewish friend sees me.

“Are you fasting?” she mouthed out. Ah, so nice that she got it!

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Ramadan had sneaked up on me again that year just like it had every year. Our calendar is lunar so Ramadan comes ten days earlier every year, so forget that most of the general population doesn’t know when it begins, many of us Muslims don’t know either, because we don’t always look at the Muslim calendar! So when someone wishes me Ramadan Mubarak, I say right back at you, but inside, I wince just a bit.

Ramadan is the month when Muslims fast — meaning no food or water, from dawn to sunset. We do this to gain more awareness of God and to appreciate what others don’t have. This year Ramadan began on April 2nd and I know, after my initial rocky start, by fast number ten I’ll find my rhythm, and my family and I will add new traditions to the old. I want to make the month fun for my kids—not that abstaining from daytime meals and Boba isn’t fun.

When I was growing up, my family invited a community of friends to “breaking of fast” parties at sunset. While some enjoyed pakoras and samosas I was actually excited to be allowed to drink Coke. And a generation later, after two years of social distancing, our family will invite friends and together, we’ll wait for a single moment, for the sun to set. And leave it to the kids to come up with their own tradition, requiring me to drive them to meet friends at Denny’s at 2 am for the pre-fasting meal; for pancakes, not pakoras. No matter, I definitely prefer a meal at Denny’s to a dissection.

With a Perspective, I’m Lubna Qureishi.

Lubna Qureishi was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a second-generation Muslim-American.