this is one of the required essays for the university of chicago.
the prompt is: How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)
Islam is not just a part of my life; it is my life. What I eat, how I dress, my behavior, and all other aspects of my life revolve around the teachings of Islam. I am proud to say that I am a devout Muslim, but I was not always that way.
When I was in seventh grade, it was that time when my parents were starting to expect more of me now that I was growing up and maturing. Ramadan--the month in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset--was just around the corner. This would be the first year that I would attempt to fast all thirty days consecutively.
Still young, I had not yet realized the true meaning of fasting; I was just doing it because my parents told me to. So when my Spanish class was planning a field trip to an art museum followed by lunch at Cici's Pizza, my only concern was how I would eat at the field trip without my parents catching me. After assuring my parents I could handle being at Cici's while fasting, I deliberately disobeyed them. I was nervous about violating their trust, but once we arrived at Cici's, the enticing aroma of cheese pizza settled any feeling of anxiety I originally had. I stuffed myself until I could not eat another bite.
When I realized how simple it was to cheat on my fasting behind my parents' backs, I was not hesitant to do it again. This time, my school was hosting an ice cream party for all students awarded with A Honor Roll. When we were called out of class for the party, I followed the other students to the cafeteria, sat with a group of friends, and shamelessly enjoyed the vanilla ice cream.
The following day, as I was walking towards the auditorium for the morning assembly, I was stopped in my tracks by what I saw on the bulletin board: pictures of the A Honor Roll Ice Cream Party, one of which was of me holding a cone of vanilla ice cream. I was terrified that my brother, who was in eighth grade at the time, would see the picture as he walked in and snitch on me. I wanted to rip the evidence off the wall and destroy it, but what if someone saw me?
Out of options and unsure of what to do, I went inside the auditorium and sat down, shifting nervously in my seat. Seconds later, my fear came true; I turned to find my brother staring straight at my picture with a stunned look on his face. He spotted me and angrily headed my direction. "You ate!" he exclaimed, pointing to the picture on the bulletin board. "No, I was just..." The only story I could contrive was that I was pretending to eat the ice cream so I would not be told to leave the party. Of course, my brother did not fall for my pathetic excuse, and he stormed off and snatched the picture off the wall. Now he had proof to show my mother.
When we arrived home from school, my brother quickly informed my mother of his allegations against me, and I had to confront a very unhappy and disappointed woman. "Did you eat in Ramadan?" she questioned me. I was speechless. She repeated the question with more assertion. Deciding that concealing the truth would just worsen the situation, I quietly confessed. My mother also asked me whether I had actually fasted the day of the field trip or pulled the same trick. I decided to admit my mistake, thinking it could not get any worse. After a ten minute lecture, I was grounded for the rest of Ramadan, which was about two weeks. Afraid to get caught and be punished again, I attentively fasted the remaining days of Ramadan.
Getting grounded and being lectured at trained me not to lie to my parents, but it never taught me the reason behind fasting. As I grew older and wiser, I would come to learn that fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it is our duty as Muslims to obey and follow these commandments. Ramadan is also a month of self-purification and spiritual attainment for Muslims. Now that I understand this, I fast only for the sake of God, not my parents. When I reminisce on this somewhat embarrassing experience, I realize two things. I had really lousy lying skills, and over the past few years, I have evolved both intellectually and spiritually.