Hidden Fractures

Zainab Chaudary


When I was a child, Ramadan – like the life that stretched before me – seemed magical. Forbidden for the very young, fasting was a mark of adulthood, a rite of passage for which we were all too eager. You woke for the early morning meal with a sense of pride, keen to know what mysterious things adults got up to at this delicious hour.

As I grew older, Ramadan became a time to pause life, a time for reflection as well as a time for community. Growing up outside of our respective ethnic identities and cultures, this month provided the chance to regroup and reconnect with friends and family.

We became used to a melding of cultures where we’d reach for spices in two languages during iftar, knowing only our ethnic name for certain spices and only the English one for others (I will never call “saunf” aniseed or “dhaniya” cilantro, but “namaak” will always be just plain old salt to me). We indulge in kibbeh and kunafeh at our Arab friends’ houses, in pakoras and dahi bade at our South Asian friends’ houses. During Ramadan, we seem to make up for the things we never realized we were missing – the sound of adhan from all corners, mosques on every block, altered work hours to make the fast easy: all things available in the Muslim-majority countries from whence most of us came.

After my brother’s passing, Ramadan became a month of refuge from the chaos of my grief. It allowed me space to breathe, mourn, to build up strength for the remainder of the year. The past few years, I have been able to recharge and re-center during this holy month by finding solace in the strength of the spiritual.

But this year? This year is different.

This Ramadan, I’m losing my balance. This Ramadan, I am off-center and unable to find my way back. This Ramadan, I feel disconnected from my community and from my faith, and for the first time in many years, I am unable to find the answers in the sanctuary of this month.

My faith in God remains unshaken – that I believe in Him is a foregone conclusion. Even in the wake of my brother’s death, in the wake of heartbreaks that have refused to fully heal, in the wake of setbacks and stumbles in life, in my career, or in love, I strove to understand that some things are beyond understanding. I held firm to the idea that everything has a reason, and that in every loss is a kernel of something indefinable that won’t make sense in my journey until much later. My belief in Him is inexorable.

And yet this year, I am frustrated with many things. I am frustrated with the scholars whose opinions I once respected but who now seem to not understand the all-encompassing beauty and vastness of this religion. I am disappointed with humanity, which seems to veer between wallowing in its own complacency or distorting human passions into ugliness and vitriol. Then there is our community that seems to lose its cohesiveness each year and remains incapable of accepting or respecting the various interpretations that exist within. And, I am frustrated with the world, which is intent on burning around us.

This year, I struggle because I blame God.

I blame God – the one who allows us to love impossible people. God, who makes us optimistic and hopeful because we believe in the impossibility of His existence. God, who, by giving us the tools to perceive the sheer improbability of our own existence leads us to turn a blind eye towards rather than face that we are improbable creatures in a beautiful improbable universe. God, who shows us the distant past in our stars, the blink of a pinpoint of light millions of light years away that was snuffed out millions of years ago. God who permits us to envision possible futures with our thoughts and imagination.

This year, I am struggling with my complex feelings towards the Divine, but I welcome the struggle, because it means change and shaking up the status quo. Just as fractures allow the bone to heal back stronger than before, perhaps the hidden fractures in my faith are meant to refortify my soul. Because I realize in my struggle that I would rather look to the stars, imagine a bright future, and maintain an unwavering optimism. For this ability – at the bare minimum, to believe – I am grateful.

It’s a different Ramadan lesson than what I’m used to, but, perhaps, that’s the point.



Zainab Chaudary works in politics by day and as a writer by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets  @TheMemorist

8 Comments on “Hidden Fractures”

  1. Zaki says:

    First, your writing was beautiful in its descriptions of your experiences and I want to thank you for sharing with us. This year may be one of the most important for you when you look back on this later. Take the frustrations and negative thoughts as a test. Sometimes we do not grow unless we are challenged and forced to push beyond our comfort zone. It is the active yearning, searching, and finding of answers to our own questions that truly yields a great sense of satisfaction in the end. Similar to the saying, “sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.”

    Islam, as well as all parts of life that are dear to us, should not just be a passive handing off to the next generation. It is not about just “being born into a Muslim family,” but instead we each have to be active in our passion and understanding of our religion and our world around us. One cannot appreciate light without the dark and times of happiness would not be valued as much without times of sorrow and pain. It is often something I think about often throughout life. I pray and thank Allah for even the bad times and events in my life for making me stronger and giving me more character and experiences for the future.

    I have also noticed that when I am feeling sad, lost, or that humanity as a whole has gone very much downhill over time my thoughts are usually changed towards the positive by something somewhat simple. Recently, I saw my half-American/half-Afghan young nephew learn about Ramadan. He is not always with my family and is normally surrounded by American Christians. However, he noticed we were fasting and asked why. After telling him a little about Ramadan he stopped snacking and insisted on waiting to eat until iftar. He also asked to go pray with us for the evening prayer. The moment was pretty much beautiful for the whole family to see this young boy show so much respect towards our culture and religion that he is unfortunately not with us always to experience. It is just one example of how all of my negative thoughts about the world could disappear and a bit of hope could be restored.

    From your conclusion I sense you came to the same realization. Life is not all about the good times and the joy. Sometimes it is the difficult and painful situations that help increase our understanding and appreciation of life as well. It is up to each of us to find our own lessons and the good in anything that happens, even if it was not what we originally desired. I wish you many blessings of this Ramadan and all of the ones to follow.

  2. I’ve been going through some of the things you’ve mentioned. I hope you have a blessed Ramadan, Zainab. And I pray you find everything you’ve been looking for.

  3. Fatima says:

    MashAllah so very beautiful. I really identify with the sentiments expressed here. It reminds me of the Japanese practice of Kintsukuroi – the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver and understanding that the piece is more beautiful as such. The fractures reinforce our strength and inner beauty – without them we would not have appreciated all our worth in the first place. God bless you 🙂

  4. Zaidah says:

    You’ve articulated the thoughts that have been playing around in my head. Sadly my struggles have been rather visible by others around me, and I have received a stab in the back by a very good friend.. I pray you find the strength and serenity down the road. God after all gave us these struggles in life anyway..

  5. Suhail says:

    Ramadan is a month of recuperation back to the faith if you’ve lost it in between those days and months of wordly life balance.. Its not easy as per say for everyone to just jump and start believing in… but, it certainly is satisfaction and peace…

    Loved your honest behavioral aspect during the month….Its not something to be guilty about, but it certainly is something to think and identify the wrong doings just incase… We all have this fight with God at times for the things we think are right for us.. Believe, and finally realize the things around ya,..

    Take care

  6. Reblogged this on learningcones and commented:

  7. Alan Howard says:

    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing the pain and dislocation you feel over this particular Ramadan. It is interesting because as per my own writings I have shared how almost all of my Ramadan experiences have suffered from some “fracture” or another over the years. In fact this year will be the first Ramadan I have spent feeling whole and accepted and happy – and I’ve been a Muslim for over 15 years! I wish you all the best.

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