This month marks the start of Ramadan. What is Ramadan? A question some of you may be asking. Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar which has just began. It’s a special month as it requires Muslims around the world to fast from sunrise to sunset. Many religions practice the act of fasting but for Muslims during Ramadan, fasting means to abstain from eating and drinking all together during daylight hours. I can read your mind right away. You are thinking……….. ‘Gosh, not even water?’ I have heard this phrase repeatedly in my lifetime. I’m also guessing you are thinking fasting from sunrise to sunset sounds incredibly hard.
I would like to share with you my understanding and experience of Ramadan having participated in it all my life.
There are a range of reasons why fasting is prescribed for Muslims. Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and self-improvement. It is a time to work on personal growth, change habits and refocus priorities. I have met Muslims who have managed to quit smoking, break the dependency on caffeine and for me it’s a time where I force myself to reduce my sugar intake which is much needed as I do like sweet things. It gives my body a break from the bad stuff and a time for the body to heal.
But for me what fasting really gives me is an opportunity to practice gratitude. When you are stripped of the privilege of eating as you wish throughout the day you remember the many around the world who are far less fortunate than us and you suddenly appreciate the smallest of things. Even water doesn’t taste quite so boring and bland.
I would be lying to you if I said it was the easiest experience of my life. But I have taken part in much harder activities too. I have been fasting for much of my adult life, so my mind and body has become accustomed to it. It’s as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. But I strongly believe fasting has helped me to be more disciplined, this means doing something even if you don’t feel like it. I feel this is something we can all relate to, completing laborious admin tasks, that bit of DIY that you have been avoiding, committing to an exercise routine. Life is full of hard things and completing tasks we might not want to. Fasting during Ramadan has helped me to become a more disciplined individual.
Whilst most people who don’t observe Ramadan associate it with fasting, it’s about so much more. I have asked many of my Muslim family and friends what Ramadan means to them and these were some of their responses: generosity, community, appreciation, family, unity, simplicity and gratitude. Of course, the words hunger, thirst and tiredness also cropped up. But I would like to discuss some of these further.
Simplicity– Life is very much go, go go! But in Ramadan we slow it all down. It’s a much-needed time to simplify life and keep commitments and distractions to a minimum. A friend described it as a time to detox the mind, body and soul. I would agree because perhaps surprisingly Ramadan is a time when my mind is at its calmest as I live in a rather uncomplicated way.
Family– I would certainly associate Ramadan with family. Having been bought up in a Muslim household I have fond memories as a child of Ramadan being a time where everyone in the family took a step away from their busy schedules and came together for chatter, games, prayer and food.
Unity– There is a real sense of unity during Ramadan among everyone that is fasting. There is something rather endearing to know that tens of millions of Muslims around the world are experiencing the joys and hardships of Ramadan altogether. I guess we are all thinking we are all in this together as one large community.
Ramadan has begun this week. I am most certainly not advocating that anyone attempts to join in with fasting during this time. But what I would like you to consider is joining the many Muslims that are fasting around the world who are showing self-discipline. How can you show self-discipline? I would like you to approach life with the same spirit. Lace up and go for that run, drop that extra spoonful of sugar because you know you can, complete that something you are always putting off. Tell yourself you can do hard things, tell yourself I’m going to get on with this even if I don’t feel like it. I would like you to join in with Ramadan by also refocusing priorities and changing habits like the many Muslims around the world. Maybe you could spend a little less time of gadgets and sleep earlier. Consider one small change that will improve your mental or physical health and lastly join in with Ramadan by spending some quality time with those that are important to you. Maybe you could catch up with a friend, check in with a neighbour, invite family over for a meal.
Ramadan can sound super serious despite the hardship of fasting for a whole month Ramadan is a special time for Muslims across the world. This year make Ramadan a special time for you too.
To learn more about Spiritual Development in Ramadan click HERE.
Written by Fatima Patel (A new Muslim resident living in Bishop’s Stortford)