What does hunger pangs and caffeine-less days have in common?
Ramadan is the one month where Muslims of more than 70 nationalities globally unite to focus on spirituality and partake in the same phenomenon – fasting.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and because it is a lunar month, it begins eleven days earlier each year. Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset.
Growing up, it had always been a month of festivity, family get-togethers and dining out late in the evening. We would feast on big dinners and special desserts that we would not usually eat on a normal day, which made Ramadan’s dining experience so exceptional.
However there is more to Ramadan than food. It is a month of reflection, self-restraint and purification of the spirit and soul. Fasting in Ramadan was prescribed in the Qur’an (Quran) in 624 A.D. Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam; the Pillars of Islam are five obligatory acts mandatory for all Muslims, in order they are: Shahadah (belief that there is only one God and the prophethood of Muhammad), the five daily prayers, Zakat (charity), fasting in Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca (a holy city in Saudi Arabia).
As people living in this rapid-paced era, we are easily carried away with our busy, hectic lives and so Ramadan gives us time to pause and rejuvenate.
It is a time to give to charity, and to focus on social responsibility which is to feel compassion for the less fortunate members of society. It is also a time to renew our focus on God through prayer and reading the Qur’an. By resisting food, drink and smoking, Muslims purify themselves from bad thoughts, tempers and actions. Social interaction throughout the holy month is important by having dinner with friends, family and neighbours. It is a meditative and physical detox for the body and mind.
Fasting is something I have become accustomed to and something that I actually enjoy doing. The spirit of Ramadan and the closeness of family is priceless. Going without food for almost half of the day is challenging, but it makes me appreciate my meal after sundown so much more.
On the downside, being a caffeine addict for over two years makes surviving the mornings and afternoon slump difficult – especially in one of the world’s best-known coffee meccas, Melbourne. Cafes are on every corner and the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans can be a little overwhelming. This is where self-discipline comes in and I try to redirect my focus on what Ramadan preaches – renewing my mind, body and soul.
Every morning of the Ramadan month, I wake up an hour or two before sunrise and consume enough coffee to keep me sated and energised for the day, plus a protein shake for kicks. Usually at midday, I go for a walk to regain my energy and kill off the midday dip in time for class.
By the end of the day and after a long train ride home, I am craving coffee and absolutely famished. As I am quite partial to breakfast for dinner, usually it would be honey drizzled oats, toast with feta cheese, or some steak and a salad. My workout routines have changed from mornings to nights because of the importance of keeping hydrated. I end my nights by sipping on a hot green tea.
With some surprised “oohs” and “aahs” after discovering my fasting, friends were both understanding and curious. The joyous occasion of Ramadan and its religious essence remain unknown to most people; so Muslims should use this holy month as an opportunity to share the real belief of Islam, which is being there for one another by sharing and giving. – Photo and report by Suzanne Masri