Rabata presents the Ramadan series, 30 First Dates, where we share heartwarming stories of converts’ challenges and successes in fasting their first Ramadan.

Question: Do you remember your first Ramadan fast?
Sarah: Yes! It was actually my second fast. I had converted 2 weeks before and was starting classes as a freshman at the University of Michigan. I didn’t know where to eat that late every night (dorm cafeteria closed) and an old friend of mine recommended I reach out to the Muslim Students’ Association, so I did – I don’t remember much about the fast itself (classes started that day so I was out all day trying not to get lost) but I do remember the iftar. I emailed the MSA board, got the address of the sister hosting dinner, and walked into a complete stranger’s apartment in search of company and food. I was terrified!

Q: What year was it? / How old were you?
Sarah: It was 2008 – I was 18.

Q: Do you remember where you were and who you spent it with?
Sarah: I do remember – I was cowering in the corner of a group of Muslim girls who were excited to start a new semester of college! I especially remember though, as I sat in that corner, the one person who saw my unease and came to make me feel welcome and comfortable. She sought me out, spoke to me, and even invited me to her apartment that evening. She still talks about when she asked me how long I had been Muslim…and rather than saying a few months or years like she expected, I piped out with the brightest smile “Two weeks!”

Q: How did you feel about the month beforehand? Were you anxious? Worried? Excited?
Sarah: All of the above! But not so much anxious about the fast itself – I was more anxious because I was a new Muslim just starting college, I didn’t know any people in the entire town, and I didn’t know what to do in Islam. I had a whole host of reasons to be terrified about life in the weeks before Ramadan. But I was also so, so excited to begin my life as a Muslim – and to do it by diving right in.

Q: Is there a particular memory that stands out for you about your first fast?
Sarah: My very first fast was one week before Ramadan, and the most striking thing I remember about the fast itself was how surprised I was that I didn’t find it too difficult – a ‘wow, I can really do it!’ feeling.

Q: Do you have any other memories about the month?
Sarah: Just that I was so, so blessed to enter into Islam at a time when community was so important. And that I was so, so blessed to enter into the University of Michigan community, which welcomed me with open arms. So many people think of Ramadan as solely the month of fasting (and it is a month of fasting), but for me, Ramadan has always been about gathering my strength, growing in faith, and getting closer to God.

Sarah Abe is an American Muslim who became a Muslim in 2008 at the age of 18. She grew up in Coldwater, Michigan. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Michigan with a degree in Sociology and now works full-time in Patient Services at a Michigan hospital.