Sunday, May 12, 2019


PENGANTAR: Tulisan anak saya Lily Hikam tentang pengalaman berpuasa tahun ini di Irvine, California. Walaupun ia sudah belasan kali beribadah puasa Ramadhan di Amerika, karena sekolah di sana, masih selalu ada yang belum terbiasa. Dan itu bukan soal makan dan minum. Silakan menyimak & komentar. Trims. (MASH)
By Lily Hikam*)

It’s that time of the year again where Muslims around the world observe the Holy month of Ramadan. For one whole month, those of us who observe it refrains from eating and drinking during the day and instead devote our attention on other tasks such as praying or doing service for others in the community. And as always, for the nth time, I’m observing Ramadan all by my lonesome here in Irvine, California.

I can’t tell you how many Ramadans I have observed far from home since I left Indonesia in 2005 to study here. Rather, I can count on one hand the number of times I manage to observe Ramadan at home. You’d think I would be used to it, but to this day there’s still nothing better than observing Ramadan with family and friends.

As you can imagine the atmosphere is different here compared to how it is in Indonesia, and not just because the majority of people here aren’t fasting. For one, the Adzan (calling for prayer) waking me up for sahur or telling me that it’s time to break the fast comes from a smartphone app rather than a loudspeaker. Some people might have mixed feelings about this, I realize. But I do miss it.

Another thing is that everything that we do in Indonesia as a group, here I do them by myself. For example, I had iftar (fasting break) by myself except on the rare occasion that my roommate came home during iftar and ate my bakwan with me. I always have sahur by myself, waking up in the early mornings to heat up the leftovers I cook the night before.

I too pray tarawih by myself at home for two reasons: one, the mosque is far away from my house and two: they pray for 21 raka'at and I’m my father’s daughter and as such I will always do the shortest tarawih possible (Hi Dad!).

Just so you know, I don’t generally get homesick, I’ve been living outside of Indonesia since I was 15 years old. Yet Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitri are the times where I miss home the most. Small things that we would take for granted at home, like breaking fast or having sahur or even just preparing the food, become something to cherish to someone who has to do everything by their lonesome.

The greatest privilege one can have is to be able to spend some time with family, breaking fast and eating sahur from the comfort of their own homes, sharing that experience with your loved ones and reinforcing that bond that may be strained during other times of the year due to work and other activities.

On the whole, this year’s Ramadan in Irvine isn’t too arduous compared to last year’s. We fast for 14 hours this year instead of last year’s 16 hours since Ramadan falls on the early days of Spring. The weather has been very conducive for fasting too. It has been very cool and chilly for the past couple of days which helps keep the thirst (the hardest part of fasting) at bay.

Unfortunately, the socio-political environment in the US has recently been far from conducive. The increasing tension of threats against religious minorities like Muslims and Jews are ever present and felt everywhere with the most recent synagogue shooting in San Diego, close to where I live.

Yet, make no mistake here. During Ramadan no such threat will be enough to stop us from exercising our fundamental right of worship. It has been my experience that mosque attendance skyrocket during Ramadan. There is always something occurring, be it tarawih prayer or even sharing iftar. Everyone is eager to be there and be part of a community, sharing in the experience and the joy of sharing their blessings with each other.

Though I still prefer to be home during Ramadan and the subsequent Eid Al Fitri celebration, observing Ramadan away from home has taught me an important lesson, and that is: there’s no place like home. The community that we build here might lessen the homesickness and the wistfulness one feels for being away from home, but nothing beats gathering around the dining room table, waiting for the Maghrib Adzan to sound with your own family. It’s one of a kind and it’s not something you will feel anywhere else, but at home.

Ramadhan Kareem...

*) PhD candidate
Cardiogenomics Clinical and Research Program
Department of Biological Chemistry
School of Medicine, the University of California,
Irvine, California, USA.



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