Fasting during the whole Islamic month of Ramadan appeared to me, in my days before Allah mercifully guided me to Islam, such a difficult thing to do that I just had to see if I could do it….after all my husband did it every year, and anything he could do…..I might not be able to do better but at least I should be able to do as well. It seemed, to me, to be a frightening thing to do – fast from food and water from dawn to dusk. I felt as if it was impossible and that I would just keel over and die if I tried it. But I started fasting with the idea of seeing how far I could go with it, and discovered, to my amazement and satisfaction that I was able to fast the whole month, and still survived to tell the tale. Admittedly we lived in England and it was March/April time so the days weren’t too long and the weather wasn’t too hot or cold. But I was a working mother and had to commute into London every day, 5 days a week, so I didn’t get off too easily. I didn’t tell anyone, other than my husband and daughter that I was fasting and nobody really noticed so I was able to concentrate on dealing with the fast without having to give any explanations.
Having been brought up with the belief that 3 main meals a day were essential to our wellbeing it came as quite a surprise to find out that I managed on less food and liquids and was still able to get on with my life. When I had finished the month I felt as if I had achieved something, that I had somehow managed to overcome a hurdle I hadn’t even known existed.
So I tried it again, and I remember putting my coffee cup in my drawer at work knowing I wouldn’t be using it for a month. This time one of my colleagues at work asked me, during one of the very last days, if I was on some kind of a diet as she had noticed that she hadn’t seen me eating anything for ages. When I told her what I was doing she was quite surprised and impressed that I had managed it at all in the first place and without telling anyone.
Of course being a Muslim gave a lot more meaning and incentive to the fasting of the month of Ramadan, especially once I had read up on the blessings to be gained during the month itself and also the benefits to my advancement in my religion and my eagerness to grow closer to Allah. As with all things we are required to do as Muslims, Allah needs nothing from us, but we are the ones who gain when we do things for Him, and fasting is one of those things that is purely for him. Nobody is with you 24 hours every day for 29/30 days who can see if you are really fasting, or whether you are cheating; only you and your Creator know for sure.
Still, I don’t like the idea of fasting. I don’t know if this is because I don’t like being told I can’t do something so basic to human nature, or if it’s about losing control over when I can eat or drink, or the fact that my routine has to change to cope with different eating times, or the emphasis put on doing things at night – breaking the fast, praying taraweeh, etc. when I’m normally a morning person. But I do know it’s a psychological dislike, because spiritually there are too many incentives not to positively look forward to this special month and physically it is not a problem for me. And, once the month starts I’m fine, I settle into the new routine easily and quickly and I don’t suffer the headaches that others often suffer, despite the fact that I am an avid coffee drinker. There was a time when I missed the company of a cup of coffee, that is I missed the habit of having one first thing in the morning to ease me into the work of the day, or when I sat at the laptop, or sat down after a busy morning or afternoon, but in recent years I haven’t even missed this habit, and I drink only a few cups of coffee during the whole month itself.
In fact Ramadan acts as a time of healthy eating and living for me because I eat less and drink more water. I learnt some time ago that no matter how much I ate during the night I am still going to be hungry during the day, so now I don’t bother trying to ‘stock up’. I am not a great water drinker and have to force myself to drink some during the winter months, although, it’s easier to drink it cold from the fridge after a busy and thirsty day during the summer. But in Ramadan I know that, if I don’t drink enough water during the night, I am liable to suffer from headaches the next day, and I can cope easily with hunger, thirst and fatigue, as being the Mum of 5 children I have often had to ignore the rumblings of an empty stomach and sheer exhaustion, but I cannot cope with headaches.