For me, Ramadan and nostalgia go hand in hand. Ramadan, inevitably, always takes me to a time when I was a little girl. And as you know, little girls and boys always want to, somehow, magically, turn into big girls and boys, so I wasn’t any different. Fasting for one big whole long day also meant that I was more in the grownups club rather than that of fairy tale reading munchkins. But parental authority meant fasting efforts went down in vain and one had to make do with the children’s version of fasting, which could mean anything from chewing your food from one side the whole day to just refraining from eating anything a couple of hours before the breaking of the fast at sunset. Nevertheless, whichever juvenile version of fasting it was, there was always profuse excitement around the post sunset feast one would gorge on like a glutton.
Over the years my relationship with Ramadan has transformed through stages, when rules were followed to a tee to the present where I am able to look at it from a critical perspective. Its religious significance aside, the month has a personal meaning and relationship with yourself. Surely, Allah must have meant for it to be something bigger than just a brownie point earning ritual.
Physical, social, mental and spiritual well-being, all form part of this more evolved relationship with Ramadan. It’s like being part of a chemical reaction and coming out transformed from it.
Fasting and its offshoot intermittent fasting have gained popularity as a lifestyle choice, and even gaining traction, believe it or not. In simple terms, fasting gives some overdue rest to our digestive system and a bit of rest, as we all know, never did any harm to anyone!
Enthusiasts, believers, fitness freaks – call them whatever you may, have also realised the social benefits of fasting. After all, eating and socialising are two pleasures that combine admirably. Traditionally, one would get together with family, friends and the larger community over the sunset meal to beak the fast. It is a way to be a part of something bigger, to cultivate love, and make connections with those around us.
I read somewhere that knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. And this is exactly what fasting does to you. It puts you in the shoes of the deprived. And then, when you put that first morsel in your mouth at sunset, you cry a prayer of gratefulness for the good fortune to be able to break your fast. That is also the moment you realise what dreadful sin food wastage is.
The Quran says “Or feeding, on a day of severe hunger, an orphan of near relationship, or a needy person in misery. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right.”
Ramadan reinforces the principles of generosity and to do the best we can to feed the hungry and help those in need, and it can’t get any straightforward than this. Nearly one-eighth of the world’s population does not get the food they need to live a healthy life. So, our little drops in this huge ocean of world poverty make for a good start.
So for me, Ramadan is a great helper in joining the dots between the different spheres of our lives. It gives me a much more wholesome perspective – more blessed, less stressed.
Atika Firasat lives in Cambridgeshire and works in the field of Learning & Development, is a keen reader and lover of English language, and a community development enthusiast.