You can’t eat for twenty four hours? Can you have a sip of water? What about chewing gum? Why don’t you sneak a bite to eat when no one is looking?
To the Muslims reading this, chances are you have been asked these questions every Ramadan by your non-Muslim friends, neighbours or colleagues. Every time you are addressed with these annual interrogations, you think to yourself, ‘Here we go again’, before you proceed trying to answer and explain the true concept of Ramadan.
Firstly, we do not fast for twenty four hours; it’s only from sunrise to sunset that we mustn’t eat. No water, no gum. As for sneaking a bite to eat when no one is around, well this is the vital concept of Ramadan – we do not fast for others to witness. This is a faithful, personal act of worship and soul detox that is expressed from the heart, in a connection between you and God.
For some this may seem difficult to comprehend; a whole bunch of religious people (almost two billion around the world in fact), take part willingly in giving up the basic needs of drink and food once a year every year…but it actually is a simple concept to grasp and be enlightened about.
Just think to yourself, millions of Muslims do this, we make a big deal about it and we absolutely love it! If we didn’t then we wouldn’t continue to do it every year and come out alive, feeling better than ever and refreshed.
The cynics think it is cruel that our religion forces us to deprive ourselves, leading to severe health problems and we could die. The truth is, that is ridiculously overstated and fasting is actually healthy for you. Nearly half of the world’s population is living in poverty. No food and drink and not just during daylight hours. They don’t know when their next meal will be. They would give anything to be in our shoes – a grand feast of world foods, families gathered around the table ready to break their long day of fasting. What is cruel is not acknowledging that there are billions who do not share the same luxuries as we do. What is cruel is turning a blind eye to this overwhelming issue of poverty and not give to charity.
You see, there is more to Ramadan than just abstaining from food and drink for one month. Ramadan is the name of the 9th month in the Islamic lunar calendar. It is a time we have to spiritually detox, recharge and refresh ourselves. Alongside not drinking and eating, every second of our day and night we are double thinking every move we make. This is the time we stop ourselves from talking negatively about another person, from arguing with another, from wasting time so we can get on with other productive things, from looking at another person with lust, from lying, from cheating, from boasting and the many other things that are damaging to ourselves and prevent us from being healthy, intellectual souls and humans.
Instead, this is the time we talk lovingly and caringly with others. We let the other person win to save the arguing, we spend our time establishing Salaah (prayer), reading and understanding the Quran and giving in Zakaah (charity). We partake in extra voluntary acts of worship to gain a closer connection with God, finding peace and equilibrium and most of all reflecting on life and preparing for the next life where we shall forever reside.
Why do we feel so excited and have so much love for what seems like boot camp? Of course it is testing, tiring and not at all easy, but we are so grateful that this once a year exists. Once a year it pulls us out of materialistic consumption, of the dreary continuous regime where we neglect our bodies and minds, once a year it revives our faith and spirituality reminding us of the importance of life.
Consider that one person you stopped talking to over a feud and you’re reminded by your ego not to speak to them. This may be the Ramadan you pass your ego for love and rekindle the positivity rather than harbour the hate.
This is the beauty of Ramadan and it can only be understood and experienced if you take part and fast in this beautiful month. To the Muslims, why not be remembered about why you really fast by opening your doors and welcoming non-Muslims to share Ramadan with you? To the non-Muslims, there are plenty of us so why not share Ramadan with us? We can have a rewarding dinner together to break our fast at Iftaar (breaking of the fast) and post a video or photo online to spread the message and share your experience.
Come on, you can do it. Let’s #ShareRamadan
Fizah is a journalist and political and human rights activist. She specializes in broadcast and mobile journalism and is the director of the award winning documentary, Sufi Surfers.
The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan or the publishers.