Ramadan is in full swing now, which means no food or drink from sun up (0548) to sun down (2017). For Muslims, the fast means more than no food and no drink (no, not even water), which to the disbelief of those who do not fast, isn’t as much of a hardship as it seems. For the first three days, I was devastatingly tired, but only a tad hungry. Now the fatigue has passed and the hunger is a distant memory. I supposed that God intended it to be this way though, that soon the hunger and the constant thinking about what morsel of food or drink will come next in our overeating, over-processed, over-indulged life so that we might use that extra time to consider how and why we worship.
I work full-time and most of my co-workers are not Muslim. It seems as if the moment Ramadan swings around, everyone has some yummy new food they’d like you to try, or that could just be me being hypersensitive.
And as usual, when I decline by stating that, “No thanks. I’m fasting,” the same people that I’ve worked with for the last five years are astonished anew. I’m no narcissist but I’m pleased as punch to answer the many questions about myself and my faith. There are enough erroneous and negative images of people of my faith circulating that I would like to be able to dismantle a stereotype or two. Before converting to Islam more than twenty years ago, I had some of the same questions, all valid in their right, but I am struck by what appears to me to be and broad misunderstanding or unwillingness of commitment.
- I know it’s hot, but today it’s only 102°. (laugh, wink, laugh) This is southern Texas. It is hot every summer, and none but the most unfortunate of us is without an air conditioner in our cars, homes, businesses, covered walkways that take us to the parking lots, public library, grocery stores, and so on. I’m not really suffering in that regard and if I were, I wouldn’t be obligated to fast.
- I know that the day is long, albout fifteen hours, but what about people so poor they go longer than that without food? I think of them instead of my tummy.
- I know that thirty days is an entire month, but I still have the other eleven to eat like I’m losing my mind, which quite frankly so many of us do without regard to the fact that we don’t need all of that food.
- As soon as the sun starts to set, food goes into the mouth and we are allowed to eat as much of whatever we like until the sun comes up. Here’s the kicker though, after about three or four days of fasting, the stomach shrinks and everything you think you want to eat, you simply cannot. No room at the inn.
- Sure, I lose a little weight during Ramadan, but a lot of people actually gain. Remember the part about the incredibly shrinking stomach? Well so many of us gorge even when our stomachs are splitting at the seams and we indulge in foods that are far richer than we’d eat normally. In fact I recently read an insightful article about how in Egypt the sale of food during Ramadan increases by 60-100% (whoa!), and food wastage increases by about 60% (double whoa!), and the sale of antacids also increases exponentially (triple whoa!). No kidding though, right? Not quite the spirit of the fast, I think.
- The spirit of the fast. It is easy for those of us who live in relative comfort to forget what a privilege our lives are. Certainly we all have our own life difficulties, but for most of the people that I know, it could be a million times worse. The most basic concerns aren’t usually ours in that we eat and drink what we want, when we want. We take all of the basics for granted. The fast is our time to remember those who can’t take anything, not even a single morsel of food, for granted, and to thank the God responsible for giving it to us.
So… it’s okay. No need to apologize. I’ve made a commitment to myself and God and I swear, I’m not suffering for it. Really, I’m doing fine. We can chat over coffee and a double dark chocolate chip cookie in 23 days, 8 hours, 3 minutes, and 5 seconds. I’m not counting, are you? For now, let’s just chat. Your company will more than suffice, and my commitment will sustain me.
(This is a reprint from http://khaalidah.blogspot.com 2011)