Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Ramadan Experience

When I lived in Morocco I was witness to three holy months of Ramadan, one per year. Fasting during Ramadan wasn't anything I was ever interested in trying during that time. It's been two years since I've lived there, and finally now I am having my Ramadan experience.

For those of you who are unaware of what Ramadan is I will pull information written in 2010, by yours truly. 

It is one of the five pillars of Islam which means one must complete it yearly itn order to be a considered good Muslim.  For 30 days from start to finish Ramadan involves fasting from sunrise to sunset. Fasting includes no eating, no drinking, no wearing make-up, and riding yourself of all impure thoughts and habits. This means no smoking and no sexual activity.
The intention of Ramadan is to put yourself in the shoes of those who are less fortunate than you. It is also a time for asking God for forgiveness and spiritual guidance. It is a time to purify oneself through self-restraint and good deeds. It is seen as a duty of all Muslims and must be done without complaint or question.

This year I just felt compelled to give it a try. Not for the entire month, but just for a day. 

My day started at 4 a.m. when I set an alarm to wake me up for the first meal of the day before sunrise. I wouldn't really call it a meal, as I didn't have much of an appetite that early in the morning. I just ate whatever I could stomach as to get some food energy in me. I set another alarm for 5:50 and went back to sleep. 

I didn't have to make breakfast for myself or pack a lunch so I had a little more time in my morning. In Ramadan one is supposed to go on with daily activities as they normally do, so I got on my bike and rode to work. 

Fasting all day wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, but it wasn't much fun either. I had a bit of a lingering headache the whole day. My voice was becoming horse due to the dry throat I had. I was sleepy so I rested my head on my "lunch" break. 

When I have a lull at work I will usually grab a snack or a drink to keep my occupied, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do this. I didn't feel physically hungry, just pretty low on energy. 

The most daunting thing was knowing that I wouldn't be able to break fast until sundown at 9:14 that night. This year, and for the past few years Ramadan has taken place during summer. This means that the days are hot and they are the longest of the year. 

The other difficult part was that as the day went on I had trouble finding certain words when I spoke. Even simple things like "I'm going to my uncle's house for 4th of July and he has a............pool."

The more I thought about this fact the more it made me realize that children who go to school hungry have a much harder time studying then children with a full belly. Many students can struggle for this reason. It wasn't that my mind was only focused on my hunger, my brain simply had trouble finding the words. We have an issue with this in many of our schools. To give children a good foundation for learning, we have to give them good nutrition.

It was nice to break my fast just after the sun began to set. I enjoyed some nice coconut Greek yogurt and other things. I didn't want to fill myself with junk and gorge as to feel full in the first two seconds. 

In retrospect after it was over it really didn't seem like that bad of a day, but I did have it pretty easy. I didn't have to explain to anyone who might not understand that I was fasting. I wasn't forced to go to a restaurant or refuse food from anyone. Fasting in America, where not everyone is doing it, must be difficult for the whole month of Ramadan.  I did think about ending my fast a couple times during the day but ultimately I am glad I stuck it out and got to have the experience. 

It did make me understand what people experience who have to deal with hunger on a daily basis. So ultimately the intention of Ramadan was fulfilled for me.