My eighteenth year of fasting has arrived. I like to think I have come a long way from the first year. I was a junior in high school, and going through grueling soccer practices. I ended up quitting the soccer team because I discovered that I couldn’t play soccer and tennis at the same time. Tennis won, and made that year of fasting slightly more bearable. Being active resulted in me dropping so much weight that I couldn’t fit any of my jeans. Things have changed since then, and my more sedentary lifestyle allows me to retain most of my adipose tissue.
For the first day of Ramadan this year, I was up bright and early to make food. I learned from past experiences that it just isn’t worth it to try sleeping in until Fajr. I got up half an hour before Fajr to cook breakfast, only to discover that there were just two eggs left in the fridge. Apparently I haven’t learned as much as I thought over the years. So my husband and I each ate an egg and had two huge glasses of water (we probably each got in about 40 ounces). I made it my business to stop at the grocery store on my lunch break and grab some stuff for fuul, which is pronounced like fool, and my bean-hating husband will tell you that you have to be a fool to eat it. Fuul is a “dip” made with olive oil, fava beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and a squeeze of lemon, and it is served with pita bread and hardboiled eggs. It’s a wonderful source of protein and will hold you over for quite a while. Anyone who follows this blog knows how much I hate so-called breakfast food, so something savory is always welcome in the morning. I also grabbed some lentils to cook along with the five thousand pounds of rice that we have sitting in the pantry, thanks to a certain someone who believes rice is a meal all by itself.
My brother is currently stationed in Iraq. He is allowed to eat and drink during the daytime while on base but whenever he leaves, he is required to observe the fast or risk being thrown in jail. As a non Muslim, he doesn’t get the whole point of Ramadan. “How does fasting help you understand the plight of poor people when you can just eat until your belly is full once the sun has set?” he asked. I explained to him that experiencing the uncomfortable feelings of hunger and thirst make you realize how people live on a regular basis. It helps you understand why charity is so important. Fasting is about learning to control your inner desires, all while strengthening your connection with God. It includes being more mindful of your speech and actions. A person who fasts without considering the true purpose is not actually fasting. They are simply abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. 30 days is the perfect length of time to develop a positive habit, or break a bad one. The potential to make those changes lies within the believer. Imagine how much the world could benefit if we each took the month to focus on charity, and on becoming better people. A month may seem like a small amount of time to make a big impact, but it doesn’t have to end there. Ramadan is just an opportunity to reset your way of thinking and living. After the month is over, there is still plenty of time left to squeeze in good deeds.