Mahmoud’s Story: A Rather Average Ramadan Day

A labneh sandwich made from sneaked ingredients.

I grew up in a religious atmosphere but I brought most of the pressure from my parents onto myself because I demonstrated early on that I was a religious and obedient kid. I began praying while living in Palestine (West Bank) without orders from my mom. I did it to satisfy my desire to be a “good boy”. This dutiful worship continued even after moving to the US and it wasn’t until I began college that doubts in Islam began to spring up in mind. When I began drifting away from Islam it was noticed immediately by my mother and she became sad that her ‘perfect’ son, the source of her pride and esteem, became just like any other Arab boy.

This is my second Ramadan as an ex-Muslim and unfortunately it’s also during summer break so I can’t be munching away at school. I would say that the hardest thing is dealing with the paranoia of getting caught and trying to act normal. Every day I get awaken by my mother before dawn to eat a breakfast-style meal with the family (a traditional Levant-style spread). I then go back to sleep and wake up around 7 am, before anyone else in the family. I then sneak into the kitchen to quickly drink any coffee left over from the previous night in the coffee pot, and as there is no time to heat it up or add cream and sugar I just drink it cold and black. Last summer, including Ramadan, this used to be the time that I would carve an apple (or even a potato) to make an apparatus that I can smoke out of then go to the basement and smoke a bowl or two (blow the smoke out of a stack of dryer sheets) then eat the apple and play some video games until about noon when I would get another apple and repeat the same steps 3-4 more times (yes, the apple with ash residue is considered gross by some. But not me). This Ramadan is harder because I got caught smoking for the 2nd time last month so I’m pretty much out of chances. My mom is always suspicious of my every move. She expects that I would break my fast or smoke again (she controls the latter by drug testing me now). So it’s definitely more of a challenge to sneak in food. Thirst is something I don’t worry about too much because I usually drink water during the time I’m supposed to be making wudu’ (after my mom reminds me to pray).

One thing I like to do is go into the kitchen when there’s nobody on the first floor and sneak one ingredient at a time into my pants and then into my room. I usually do this over the course of an hour and then make a sandwich/small lunch inside my room and eat it discreetly. If I sense that the risk is too high I’ll just try to sneak in an apple or two but since eating an apple makes too much noise, I’ll go the bathroom turn on the air vent and shower and eat them there. I try to not eat too close to dusk because that would make me seem not too hungry and raise eyebrows if I eat too little at that time. After eating, my mother, siblings and I go to the mosque to pray taraweeh until 11:45 pm (my dad goes to sleep early because of work the next day). I then come home, go back to sleep and repeat the cycle.

So that’s my regular Ramadan day as a closeted ex-Muslim. I have it much better than most and have no complaints. The thrill of sneaking around to eat (and formerly, smoke) is well worth the risks. The only risk that outweighs it though is angering my mom. Even though her thinking is backwards (i.e. Islamically), I care about her feelings regardless of whether they’re based on nonsense or not. So I try to keep things rather tame and pretend to be a Muslim.

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