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Ramadan is a special month in the Islamic calendar. Many non-Muslim's do not understand it's rituals or the spiritual significance. Asmaa, a Muslim who lives in Nuneaton explains why it is so important to her.
Questions, questions, oh so many questions! You don't eat or drink anything for 20 hours!?! Not even water!!? How do you function!?! These are probably some of the most common questions Muslims get asked with regards to Ramadan. So what does Ramadan mean to me?
First and foremost, it's an act of worship. Islam is based on 5 pillars - Shahada (confession of faith), Salah (daily prayers), Zakat (giving to charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Makkah). So fasting is one of the 5 pillars and is an act that makes a person more God-conscious and is seen as one way to fill your heart with the spiritual fuel it needs.
No food or water from dawn until dusk. In England, this is from about 1:20am to about 9pm. From a purely scientific point of view, the human body is extremely resilient, and can withstand much more than 20 hours without food or drink! From a practical point of view, is it do-able? There are approximately 2.5 million Muslims in England, and say for arguments sake, only a million of them fast. That's 1 million doctors, nurses, teachers, professors, students, politicians, etc. going about their daily lives whilst silently strengthening their relationship with their Creator.
So it's not just about the food!? The month of Ramadan is a time to take a step back and reflect and focus on the important things. Fasting is more than just refraining from what you put into your mouth. It's also a time to restrain what comes out of your mouth! It's a time to work on your patience. It's a time to mend broken relationships. It's a time to re-evaluate what's really important in your life. It's a time to focus on you as a person and what you can do to be a better person. It's a good time to increase in simple charitable acts, such as smiling at someone you pass on the street or sharing some food with your neighbour.
It's not easy. It's not easy going without food or water, and at the same time going about your daily business, and also restraining yourself from being h-angry! It's not easy trying to keep your calm when you're stuck behind a slow coach, and all you want to do is get home for your 5 o'clock nap! But if I allow those moments to be moments of weakness for me, then I have to question if I have captured the true meaning and the true spirit of Ramadan?
Reflection. As I reflect on my life and everything in it, I am extremely grateful for all the bounties I have been blessed with. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for my husband and my children. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that fasting is my choice. There are many people in this world that fast not by choice, but because they have no other choice. They don't know when their next meal will be. They have no access to clean drinking water. And they may not even have a roof over their heads. There may be so many other hardships they may also be faced with. If nothing else, let's just take a moment to look around and appreciate all the bounties we have been blessed with. Just imagine all the 'first world problems' we moan about so regularly, yet there are people out there with much bigger problems.
I hope this helps people to understand a little bit more about what it means to fast and what the month of Ramadan means to Muslims. It's a spiritually uplifting experience that leaves one with a sense of accomplishment. So do you fancy giving it a go? :)