It was the summer of 2010, and Ramadan had just arrived. After the shenanigans of my brother’s big, fat Pakistani wedding and everything that comes with that just a couple of weeks prior to the holy month, we now had a new sister-in-law in the house and our first pre-dawn meal together was really special.

We prepared our food, ate together and laughed together, and then each of us raced to the bathroom trying to get a vigorous round of teeth brushing in before the clock ticked to the minute signalling the beginning of sunrise.

Then talk turned to praying together. I felt a sinking feeling hit me in the chest while my gut began to churn, and I quickly excused myself and said I wanted to pray alone in my bedroom up on the third floor of the house.

I returned to the bathroom, robotically went through the motions of performing my ablution for prayer, and then ran up the stairs, closing my bedroom door behind me, and collapsed — exhausted from the pretence — on my bed.

The truth is, I knew I wasn’t going to be fasting that day, and I knew I wasn’t going to be praying. I sat with my back against my headboard and suddenly the cloud of depression that had been hanging around me for well over a year pounced now that I was alone, sinking its fangs into my head and sucking me dry until the numbness that I was so used to, returned.

This was the first Ramadan since I had been around 8 years old that I hadn’t fasted, although family and even friends around me believed me when I pretended that I was. It was the first Ramadan that I had felt nothing — no connection to God, no connection to my religion, and no connection at all to the holy month that had somehow always had some kind of positive effect on me, no matter what was going on in my life.

This year was different though — I felt a million miles away from the person that I had always thought I was; I was so lost and confused and broken, and I had almost completely lost God, not understanding why he wouldn’t answer me when I begged him, night after night, to just end it all.

I felt so alienated from all the people around me who were so ecstatic that the holy month was here, and their happiness, joy and contentment just seemed to exacerbate my own feelings of confusion, shame and guilt. And to add to it all even more, rather than doing the things that were prescribed during the holy month to bring me closer to God, I was actually doing the opposite and engaging in activities that were in fact distancing me even further from God, and even more so, from myself.

It was a really strange yet extremely important time of my life and what I understand now is that that Ramadan had to be like that for me.

I had to experience a Ramadan where I felt no connection; where I didn’t see the point in fasting or praying or devoting my time to self-betterment in order to bring me closer to God.

I had to experience it all like that, for me to come to a place where I finally did come to know my relationship with Ramadan; where I understood why I was fasting, and a place where I was truly participating in the month because I wanted to — and not because of social, familial and even so-called religious pressures.

There were many times during that Ramadan that I did feel guilty as hell. There was a constant calling in the depths of my heart that was telling me that I needed this month — even if that calling was like whispers lost on the wind. It is only now in hindsight that I realise that having those feelings showed that I did still feel something for the religion I had grown up with — but also, now that I look back, I realise I had nothing to feel guilty about, as each person’s relationship with their faith is so, so personal.

It was the following year that I went through what I believe was my first spiritual awakening, and a big part of that awakening was coming back to the religion that I had grown up with, but discovering it for myself this time. Finally, I was viewing it through the lens of Love, rather than the distorted lens of fear that I had been shown it through for my entire life.

Ramadan of 2011 was truly special and beautiful for me, as I properly felt God’s love cradling me for the first time as I finally began to embark on my journey Home. But today, as I continue on further and further down this path of spirituality and consciousness, I have to admit that my relationship with Ramadan continues to change every year, too — and you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, despite what anyone else might say or think.

I know this year as Ramadan comes to greet us once more there will be many, many Muslims all around the world that will be feeling the way I felt back in that Ramadan of 2010.

There will be many questioning their faith, their feelings towards God, their beliefs and even themselves — but many won’t express it for fear of judgement or condemnation from their peers, and will be scared to maybe even admit it to themselves because of the fear of God that they have been brought up to believe in.

So, if that sounds like you, here are 6 things to remember if you too are feeling lost this Ramadan…

1.  It is 100% okay to feel how you’re feeling
Shake off the guilt and understand that your journey with your faith is yours alone.

It can be difficult when there are others around you who are truly excited for the holy month, and it can be even more difficult when you feel judged for not feeling the same way — even harder when the one doing the judging is yourself.

Accept how you’re feeling and drop the guilt. You need to go through this.

2.  If you don’t want to/feel you can’t fast or pray or do anything else that is recommended during this month, then don’t feel like you have to just to appease others
…only do it if you want to do it.

What I will recommend however, is looking into and researching Ramadan and everything that Muslims participate in during the month and trying to come to some kind of understanding of it for yourself without any outside noise and pressures.

And if even then, if you just don’t get it or don’t feel ready, that is okay! Be patient with yourself.

For anyone interested, I would highly recommend the book ‘Secrets of Divine Love’ by A. Helwa which delves into the inner dimensions of religion and takes you on a journey into the heart of your faith. It is a truly stunning book which reminds us of the Love of God and the true beauty of Islam.

3.  Religions prescribe different practices in order for us to become better
Something that my Spiritual Master once said a few years ago that has always stuck with me is that the same way doctors prescribe medicine to help make us better, fasting has been prescribed for Muslims for us to become better — for us to grow in mind, body and spirit.

So for me, I try not to view it as something that I have to do — just like we don’t have to take medicine for an ailment — but by doing it, I will be taken further down the the path of self-growth and will be helped in knowing myself and the power that created us and connects us all, better.

The person that I am now devotes her life to becoming better than the person she was yesterday, so this is why certain practices are now very important to me. This is why Ramadan, for me, is now the most beautiful and important time of the year for self and spiritual growth.

4.  Confide in someone or something that you trust
Just letting out how you feel is so important and can do a whole world of good.

If you feel like you can’t speak to anyone about how you’re feeling, then write it down! The whole process of journaling how you feel can really help to bring you clarity on a situation — and if it doesn’t bring you an immediate solution, at least your load will be lighter and you will feel better.

For anyone that wants to talk in confidentiality, my DMs are open.

5.  Remember that if you take one step towards God, He will take ten steps towards you
The first step is always the most difficult — especially when you feel lost, confused and broken. And for many of us, when it comes to practising our faith, this is where we fall.

But remember, God doesn’t want difficulty for you, He wants ease. Which is why if you take just one step towards knowing him again, you’ll find that things become a little easier from that point forth — because He will begin to take even more steps towards you.

This can be your starting point to no longer being lost and beginning your journey to being found again. You just need to cultivate a little courage and take the first step.

“Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” — [Hadith Qudsi].

6.  Know that God loves you unconditionally
You don’t need to do, have or be anything other than yourself to be loved by God.

You are loved exactly how you are— so trust in your journey and keep going.

You are always precisely where you need to be in life, so let go, drop the guilt, learn the lessons and grow along every step of the way.

Final thoughts
It is not only okay to, but actually so, so important to figure out Ramadan, religion and faith for yourself.

I find that many of us follow religion blindly; we don’t question what we are being taught, what we are reading, what we are doing and why we’re doing it.

And if we never do that, then how will we ever grow?

How will we ever come to know ourselves?

How will we ever truly come to know God?

So for anyone that feels a little lost this Ramadan, just know that there are and have been many that are where you are now including myself. You will feel better one day if you trust your journey and listen to your heart; these feelings will not last forever.

Sending everyone Light, Love and Peace during this holy month and always. I pray that this month brings you exactly what your soul is craving.