Ramadan: The Reality of Fasting. In 2004, I was in Romania attending a conference at the British Council in Bucharest and an English lady approached me and said, “Mabrouk, RAMADAN bokra” which literally means “Congratulations, Ramadan is tomorrow” in an Egyptian dialect.
I was astonished by the few words she said because I thought Ramadan (Arabic رمضان) was not that known to people outside of the Muslim community and I was somehow right because the second thing she said, “why do you fast in Ramadan?”
I was taking off guard by her question as I was never asked to explain what Ramadan is and why Muslims fast for about 16 hours a day for 30 days each year where they refrain themselves from eating, drinking and marital sexual activities.
Ramadan: The Reality of Fasting
I gave her a very simple explanation back then which still holds true but after twelve years I really hope she can have access to this series of articles to learn more about what Ramadan is and why we, as Muslims, fast regardless of how difficult it might seem to some people.
I remembered that situation three days ago when I told Dave that Ramadan is approaching. I will be busy and won’t be able to produce as much writing as I’m used to because most of my time would be spent at the mosque. I was, again, shocked when he asked me to explain it but this time not only to him but to all of our beloved readers.
In this series we won’t be only talking about Ramadan as the fasting month for Muslims but will also talk about fasting in other religions (i.e. Christianity and Judaism).
We hope that this series will shed some light on the importance of this month to Muslims as well as some of the recent scientific discoveries about the medical benefits people get when they fast.
In the rest of this introduction I will tell you what I had told that English lady 12 years ago and in the articles that follow, I will give you more information, more insights and more ideas of what it is to be a Muslim in Ramadan.
My explanation was quite simple; I used a sheet of paper and a pen to illustrate my point. I drew a circle and told her that this circle represents us as human beings. This circle is divided between two different and opposite entities; a soul and a body. The body, as we all know, nourishes on water, food and libido. Unfortunately, most of us pay too much attention to the shape and health of our bodies and forget about our souls. In Ramadan, we try to gain control of who we are by nourishing our souls which as we said is the opposite of the body. Therefore, by depriving our body from what makes it strong, we give some room to our souls to survive and gain its power back.
The more you deprive your body from its basic primitive needs, the more chance you have to have a strong and healthy soul.
For those who need mathematical equations to get the point;
Humans = Body + Soul
Body = Food + Water + Sex
Soul = No (Food + Water + Sex)
Throughout the year, you look something like this; considering that you fast for ONE month a year.
And this is how you look in Ramadan; assuming that you fast 16 hours a day.
Ramadan is the only way to achieve this kind of balance between your soul and your body and that’s why a lot of Muslims continue the fasting after Ramadan.
The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to fast 2 days every week (i.e. Mondays and Thursdays) as well as 3 days each month (i.e. the 13th, the 14th and the 15th). There are also other days and months were Muslims fast but we will talk about them in a different article.
That simple explanation about the soul and the body gives you some idea why Muslims are willing to stop drinking water for two thirds of the day in a very hot weather (i.e. the middle of the summer under the burning sun of the Sahara desert). It’s a spiritual journey that we believe increases ones’ piety (Arabic تقوى Taqwa) or the fear of Allah.
In the next article we will be talking about Ramadan in more detail. I hope this has been informative and I thank you for reading.
We wish you the best of luck with your spiritual journey.