After 11 years of spending Ramadan behind bars, by the grace of Allah this will be my first Ramadan out in the community. I yearned and prayed for this moment for many years and at times I thought it would never come.

My Ramadan last year was spent in solitary confinement in a prison cell somewhere in Pennsylvania, USA. Bright lights remained on inside my cell 24 hours a day. A loud television played outside my cell for 18 hours a day and for the remaining six hours, an attention-seeking inmate would bang his door and scream all night.

I had no watch and there was no way for me to tell the time. I could not see the sky from my slit window so I had no idea when to start or end my fast. I would observe the shadows in the concrete yard outside my cell to calculate my timings. But despite all that I felt happy that I was doing something that pleased Allah.

After only a few days of that I was released and returned home to my family in time for Eid. Such are the similarities between fasting and calamities. You feel hungry in the day but once you have opened your fast, you have no memories of the pangs of the hunger that you felt only a few hours ago.

And likewise is a calamity. Once Allah relieves you of it, you have no memory of the pain that you suffered during it. Allah removes the calamity and He removes any memory of its pain.

So to all those observing Ramadan, may Allah bless you and your familes this month. Realise what a blessing it is to be able to spend Ramadan out in the community. Appreciate it, value it and remember in your prayers those spending this Ramadan in solitary confinement. Ramadan Mubarak!

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