This year for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the HRC Foundation is launching an online campaign to tell the stories of LGBTQ Muslims and their allies. Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar when God revealed the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad. During this time, Muslims, including LGBTQ Muslims, fast from dawn until dusk and are encouraged to pray, read the Qur’an and give to charity.
We hope the reflections offered every week starting May 27 until Ramadan culminates in Eid al-Fitr on June 25, will bless souls, revive spirits, renew minds and strengthen bodies. These stories will be hosted on the HRC website and on Twitter and Facebook.
This post comes from Terna Hamida Tilley-Gyado, a facilitator, artist, therapist, healer and performer at “Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love”
Each of Us Is A Door to Allah (God)
Ramadan is often my favorite time of year as a Muslim. I appreciate the space it offers to turn inward in a meaningful way, to actively remember that we are spirit robed in flesh as well as the opportunities to renew my engagement with Qur’an, and to connect with community.
While I’ve certainly had some lonely Ramadans where I didn’t feel there were Muslim spaces where I could bring my whole self, the potential of the month shines like a jewel in my imagination. I am grateful to be at a point in my life where I am connected to communities of LGBTQ Muslims all over the U.S. What I love most about Ramadan is striving to fast on the deeper levels beyond the physical element. The physical fast (abstaining from food and water) is probably the dimension many who are not Muslim may associate with Ramadan.
The physical fast is one of seven levels recognized for Ramadan. The second level is the fast of the senses-.
The third level is fasting from our nafs (lower self). The fourth is fasting from negative thoughts about ourselves and others (I’ll come back to this in a moment). The fifth level is the fast of the heart..
The sixth level is the fast of the spirit, and the last level is the fast of the secret heart, which is not brought about through any actions or intentions we may have but only through the grace of Allah.
To aim to fast at these deeper levels is an intricate joy, whose surface I have only scratched. Talking to God is one of my earliest memories. Ramadan feels like the promise of something delicious for the soul, something juicy and tender and complex. How could I could I not love it? And I love the gorgeous iftar gatherings and reading Qur’an, especially with queer people atop a mountain overlooking a valley.
To my LGBTQ Muslim siblings who have had to look for bonds of family beyond blood, who have had to or are in the process of unlearning harmful untruths others told you about Islam and your place in it, who feel/have felt far from Allah, who have felt alone, I salute you. I salute all you are and all you do to keep showing up and stand in your truth.
As Walt Whitman exclaims, each of us is a door to Allah. Connecting with ourselves–beyond ego, beyond attachment to our stories–can be a powerful journey with and to Allah. When I say “our stories” I do not mean the meaningful narrative of our experiences is not important. I mean that there is the essence of who we are underneath or beyond that. My understanding of “to know your Lord, know yourself” has me believe that the path to Allah is a journey to my essence, and that my spirit can reflect any of the 99 qualities of Allah. As Walt Whitman exclas “I contain multitudes!” This has taught me to treat myself with mercy, with patience, to offer myself tenderness, and also unvarnished honesty in accepting both my faults and my gifts.
May this Ramadan enrich and increase your nearness to Allah via the inward road to your beautiful heart.