“My offering is an examination of the ethereal connection formed between people out of collective loneliness. For me, this loneliness stemmed from fasting alone for Ramadan during a global pandemic and mourning the loss of a dear friend. For others, there are many other reasons. There is a common experience in this isolation that connects us. I hope to make this connection easier to see and maybe help someone with their isolation.”
There is a magic to waking up in the small hours of the morning, knowing I am one of a handful of people awake in my town, my city, my country. A quiet holds the world, and it is just the slowly brightening sky—and me. The doctors and nurses working through the night into the morning—and me. The parents up early with their babies—and me. The insomniacs—and me. The fabled early risers—and me. A tiny fraction of a tiny fraction, and all in our own envelopes of morning sealed away from each other. There is a magic to the solitude of it, and the shared experience between us. A unique thread tethers us together. It makes one community out of many for the lucky few who see it.
Ramadan is a month of this magic compiled and tested. Millions of Muslims across the world wake up in the small hours and as a collective choose to make their lives immensely more challenging for a month. For me it is an act of faith, but more vitally of solidarity. It is an attempt to gain precious insight into the hardships people go through around the world without ready access to food or water. This minor act of self-deprivation is not remotely equal to the challenges it seeks to emulate, but the perspective it imparts is priceless. Living in the United States, Ramadan has also always been a supremely lonely time for me. Ramadan is a time of community and togetherness for so many but has never been so for me. The only community outside my family I have had is that amorphous magic of common conviction. It is that same morning magic, knowing you and thousands of others are awake before dawn for Iftar every morning, knowing that you are one of many choosing discipline and faith in place of convenience and comfort. It connects Muslims across the world. Ramadan 2020 was unlike any I’d experience before, and God willing unlike any I will experience again.
We have all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, experienced this discipline. Our chosen self-isolation during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a collective choice of discipline over convenience. We choose to seal ourselves into our millions of separate bubbles for the safety of all. It is saving lives, but it is hard to be perpetually alone and locked away. For many of us this state persists still and will likely continue far into the future. We are lonesome, but together in our loneliness. That magic is ever present and pervasive. Knowing that millions across the world are acting together connects us all. Knowing that our choice is saving lives makes the loneliness more than worth it.
Even so, people are losing loved ones. There is nothing more isolating or lonelier than losing someone suddenly. Even in the depth of that dark place I see a little of that magic. November 1st, 2019 was the darkest day of my life to date. I was up early enjoying the morning. Just before I arrived at work the world slid off its axis. Walking off the metro I checked my phone to find a missed a call from my best friend Tarren’s mother. Tarren was my closest friend and while he still lived in Missouri, he and I were close as ever.
Tarren had died in the small hours of that morning. There was no preamble; no postscript. It happened, he was gone, and the world changed. I sleepwalked through that days and months after it. My world is changed. Each and every person who was close to him was alone on that day. Not because they had no one to console them, I was fortunate in that way. Rather we were isolated in our own heads with our own enveloping grief and pain. But even in my own abyss I felt connected to each of them. In a way his passing forged a connection between the few of us lucky enough to know him stronger than any isolation. In mourning there is a little of that magic. It is a dim, flickering thing. But it is present, and vital.
This pandemic is taking loved ones from so many, just as suddenly and with that same knife twist of not knowing the last time you would see them had come and gone. It is my hope that some measure of connection remains that can help with some fraction of the loss.
Every morning of Ramadan this year I woke up before the sun. I knew the isolation of being up before the world, of social distance, and of mourning. Every morning during Ramadan I felt that isolation, and loneliness down to my bones, but I also felt those tethers to the world, that magic of connection across distance, difference, loss, and longing.
I was a part of a body of faith that reached every corner of the world, a member of a resilient majority sacrificing convenience for others, and a small family in mourning.
There is peace in these connections, and strength. In this moment we can all use every connection we can find. They are there. Take a moment if you can and feel them.Maher AkremiUnited StatesWashington, DCMaher Akremi works in the international policy/peacebuilding field. Currently, he is a Project Assistant at WCAPS and recently completed the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship. He graduated from Lincoln University in 2018 with a BS in Political Science and three minors, including fiction writing. Maher is from Columbia, Missouri, but lives in Washington, DC with his partner Tori, and their cats Brunhild and Baldr. He enjoys reading and writing fiction, gaming, and applied philosophy.
DAILY PEACE ACTION
1.) Stay informed about world events, and engage with your government from the local to the national, and, if you can, vote for the change you want to see. Votes matter.