Despite it all, I felt a sense of freedom. The wind was flowing through my hair, gently caressing me while I was walking through the fields with my hands open, palms touching the stalks of wheat around me. I was happy. Happy to enjoy the first warming sun rays of spring on my face. To be fully present in the moment. Not thinking about the future. I had established a new routine. Getting up around seven in the morning, exercising, ablution, belated Fajr prayer, marking student essays, Dhuhr prayer, and then my treat of the day, a walk in the fields of my childhood. Life felt easy. These were the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and the first days of Ramadan. April 2020.
I had just moved from London to Leeds, taking up a job as a lecturer at the university when the pandemic hit. When in March the French president Emmanuel Macron hastily announced the closing of the European borders, I did not think long before booking a flight and leaving the UK in the middle of the night to go back to Germany, the country of my childhood. Since moving out, I only ever came back to visit my family and the village I grew up in for a few days each year. As a young girl, I had always known I would leave. And yet here I was. Amidst the not knowing, the confusion, the crumbling of any sense of security in the early days of the pandemic, all I had wanted was the comfort of family. So I went home. It took me a few weeks to realise that this was not going to be over any time soon. With every day passing by and new restrictions coming into place, it dawned on me. I was stuck. And Ramadan was around the corner without anyone else around me to share the joys and burdens of that holy month with.
These should have been days where I felt restricted and lonely. In a place where I had often struggled being myself. With a pandemic not even allowing me to escape to the next biggest city for a few hours. During Ramadan, when I could not eat or drink all day. And yet I felt free and happy. Liberated from the constraints of my fast-paced city life. Liberated from constantly making plans for the future. From wanting and having it all. Walking through the fields of my childhood, I started wondering: How much freedom makes us truly happy?