Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fasting During Ramadan

What a Typical Day during Ramadan Entails!

Picture yourself experiencing the humid heat of scorching summer without any chilled coolers to cool you off. Envision missing your daily breakfast, lunch and your favorite cup of coffee at 11 post noon daily for 30 full days. Imagine having to miss that fat five- star Sunday brunch that your friend has invited you for or envisage having to give up that free trip to Thailand. Imagine all these together and not lying, being good, honest to yourself and others around you and much, much more! Well, these are just some (and many) of the things Muslims around the world (including me) will be sacrificing the few weeks to observe the piously sacred month of Ramadan.

The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar year, Ramadan or Ramzan, is acknowledged as the month of fasting - a period that signifies a time to be still, a time to become aware spiritually and a time to submit to complete subservience to Allah through personal sacrifice. It is also the month in which the Holy Quran was sent down (from the heavens) to Man.

I have often been asked whether it is hard to desist from eating and drinking for a whole month, especially in summer. I’m surprised when I always find myself replying “no” - for through being raised as a Muslim, fasting inescapably becomes embedded in one, a part of one’s being. For those who’ve come into Islam, fasting is undoubtedly a trying experience at first, I’m sure. Though, as soon as you realize what the health and religious benefits are, together with the feeling of being united with Muslims worldwide experiencing exactly the same, it makes for a rather awe-inspiring feeling.

The most captivating part of fasting during the month of Ramadan is the self-denial from food, drink and any sexual activity (both mental and physical) – especially to those who’ve never experienced a fast before. Here I see it fitting to add that the abstaining applies only from the break of dawn until sunset. No food or drink is to pass the lips; nose etc. meaning that taking a sneak dip in the pool is also a taboo! Smoking is prohibited as well.

It gets a bit more intricate and demanding… other senses are also under commitment to fast. The eyes (from wandering to that which is considered to interfere with your spiritual upliftment); ears (from gossip etc); tongue (from lying, backbiting etc); and other limbs should also, with the complete objective of pleasing the Almighty, be restrained if the faster wants his/her fast to be accepted. And I can hear you ask why?

The above mentioned is fundamentally two of the three vital elements required for a fast to be worthy of full acceptance. The third element is preventing the heart and mind from dwelling on anything other than the remembrance and praise of Allah.

And with these three aspects of one’s being combined, it makes for a rather perfect recipe for divine cleanliness and leaves the door wide open to a path that can lead to a higher spiritual plane and an awareness of others’ suffering… for the hunger pangs will certainly make you think back to that homeless person, that sick child, that frail old woman and the countless destitutes and poor orphans who cant even get a proper meal a day.

Fasting has always, across the religious spectrum, been an accepted way of cleansing the body (and strengthening the spirit). And with the health-conscious mindset reigning supreme in this age, it is fast gaining momentum.

A fast can easily last up to approximately 12-14 hours – starting at about four in the morning and ending at around 6.30 in the evening. The fast usually starts as early as three thirty in the morning when you have to wake-up and eat well ( but not gorge) to help you fast for the day. After performing the morning prayers at around five, it’s almost impractical to squeeze in any more sleep. Chances are I won’t hear the alarm if I try to sleep again…yet, I do fall asleep at around 7 and I arrive late to work at ten.

As the day carries on, the air-conditioned confines of my office becomes my shelter. Energy levels slip steadily, a wave of drowsiness constantly distracts and the stomach is rumbling. Personally, I find that minus the next meal on my mind, it is quite astounding how empty the brain feels. What else to think about if I don’t have to decide where to go to eat during my lunch hour and my energy levels are too low to go shopping. You really have no option then but to become conscious of why you’re fasting – which then leads to the kind of divine consciousness you are supposed to dwell on anyway. It’s all really a sanctified chain reaction.

The fast ends at sunset, preferably broken with a sip of fruit juice or water, and dates – a natural and copiously rich source of sugar – and the evening prayer, in the hope that the fast will be accepted. Tradition comes under analysis again… those deep-fried mutton samosas, chicken cutlets and fish fingers can’t possibly be healthy when one is aiming to purify the body but actually most Muslims end up feasting everyday – both during the morning pre-fast and post break sessions. The final prayer of the day is performed at around 8.30 in the night followed by the special prayer for Ramadan, which takes a bit more time and requires one to go to mosque and perform it with your fellow Muslim neighborhood.

This is in a nutshell is a typical day in the life of a working, fasting Muslim man or woman during Ramadan. For the archetypal Muslim housewife or women with children, and the extended circle as is quite common in Muslim families, the burden is actually tenfold. Yet, you’ll be astonished at their strength and their unvarying juggle between the no-nonsense and divine. Okay, I got to go now. It’s almost three o’ clock again!


  1. loved this write-up! so good and I feel so connected about how we Muslims are experiencing Ramadan. especially that Stomach grumbling thing ;)

  2. Thank You Irsh! Happy Ramadan to you and your family!

  3. Great write up! I suck at not eating, but more power to you for being able to do this!

  4. Thanks Sadako..went through your profile. 3 active blogs and loads of good writing. Perhaps, I need some inspiration from you!

  5. Well...only one is really active now--Dibbly Fresh. The other is pretty much dead and the third one is one that I guest posted for twice. But thank you! :)

  6. this is a good insight into what happens during the festive month...you should be in Hyderabad for some good haleem i guess...Here everywhere i see haleem counters :)..me the great thayir satham has no connection with the haleem but my husband likes it so much...but u can enjoy here i guess...

  7. Hey Deepa. I dont relish Haleem too much.. have a weakness for kebabs more and the food joints at Hyderabad are wonderful.


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