This year I am fasting for my first time ever for Ramadan. Though I have tried to fast one day each Ramadan since meeting my husband (who annually fasts for Ramadan), I have never fasted in earnest over the many days that stretch out over a month. Though we will be departing on a trip this Saturday for two weeks, excluding us from fasting while traveling, I am still pleasantly surprised by how my fast so far has gone (today is Day 8). Here are some of my reflections on this years Ramadan.
Fasting is hard but worth it
The first day I fasted I had horrible headaches and felt like throwing up. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. The next day, I felt a little stronger and didn’t have a headache. Day 3 I felt like I was really hitting my stride for a newbie to fasting. I was able to do normal activities throughout the day and make it to the sunset for Iftar (the meal that breaks one’s fast) almost at eight in the evening.
As my fast has progressed, I have felt myself cleaning my body and mind. We’ve had a few difficult things happen in our personal life over the course of the past week, and I felt being in the state of fasting helped me to process and meditate upon them. I have also felt a deeper sense of gratitude for my life during this time. As I slow down and focus on Allāh and cleaning my heart, I see the beauty I am surrounded by. I am so grateful for my husband and son, my friendships, my home and community, and my family.
Things slow down during Ramadan
One of the body’s way of dealing with fasting is being tired and wanting to sleep. I’m usually early to bed, early to rise, but the rhythm of Ramadan has brought out a different side of me. After eating Iftar around 8pm, I want to stay up late and talk and relax. Then during the day I am quite lethargic. Today I slept into 9am, something I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done in my life (that tells you something about me!). Being in this different rhythm feels like part of the process.
The blessing of community during Ramadan
Because I am new to fasting, I wanted to reach out to my Muslim friends and community to get some solidarity. I have been so grateful to be a part of a few groups out of our spiritual community that have sent out daily meditations, duas (prayers), and reflections, as well as checking in. With a two year old son, I really wanted to help him learn about Ramadan and we have done a number of fun activities like decorating our house, an advent calendar, and meeting friends for Iftar. Though I’m not sure he totally understands yet, each year I pray his understanding will grow.
Meeting with friends to break fast and pray is also such an incredible experience. Last night I went to an Iftar that had people from all walks of life there. When we all broke fast with a ceremonial date (they are also wonderful for the body), it felt like we had just run a marathon together and crossed the finish line.
Finding deeper closeness as a family
I have also had the best experience with my husband during this time. We’ve supported one another throughout the day, prayed together, woken up for Suhoor at 3am each night, and stayed up late talking and hanging out. I have loved experiencing Ramadan as a couple, and feel that this has been a real blessing to us, Alhamdulilah. As I said, teaching our son about Ramadan has been really rewarding. Reading books and listening to music (thanks Cat Stevens!) about Ramadan has gotten us in the spirit.
Planning for next year
Of course we never know what the next year will bring, but I feel I have proved to myself this year that I am capable of fasting. I plan on making it a yearly event, so long as I am able, Inshallah. Fasting is not something I grew up with culturally but it is an incredible experience that I am so grateful to have had.