It’s now the 16th day of Ramadan, and our household has fallen into the routine of this holy season. We wake up before the sun rises, around 4:30am, and eat our breakfast. This quiet meal has been a great opportunity for my husband and I to sit and have a meal together before the kids wake up (they’re not fasting) and everything goes crazy. We eat together, say our prayers and then chat for a bit while we digest. Then, for the rest of the day, until the sun sets around 8pm, we don’t ingest any food or drink. The fast is very challenging. We made the intention to do our very best and do as many as we can.
This is my first year of fasting in a while. I’ve been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the past 7 out of 10 years, so my Ramadan observance has been limited to those few seasons. I’m out of practice, and this year it has been hard to get used to the hunger and thirst. Also, as the Muslim calendar moves back about 10 days every year, the month of Ramadan is now creeping into these long, hot summer days. Ten years ago, when I was newly married, Ramadan fell in January, and the fasting time was merely 7 hours. Now, the fast is 16 hours.
That being said, I love this time of year. I try my best to focus less on the fast, and more on the meaning behind it. My mother encouraged us to use this time to focus inward; to concentrate on our faith and make the extra effort to pray and do charity. Contrary to common knowledge, there is much more to Ramadan than fasting; there are special prayers called taraweeh, and Zakah, a requirement of every Muslim to contribute at least 2% of his /her income to charity. Even if someone can’t fast, there are many ways to observe Ramadan and express one’s faith.
What I’ve realised in the past couple of weeks is how much I think about consumption. On a regular day, I’m all about my next meal, my next coffee, my next treat. To not think about those things is liberating. I’ve realised that a lot of what I consume is not about hunger or thirst, but about indulgence, comfort.
My favourite part of the day in Ramadan is Iftar, the breaking of the fast. I love the ritual of burning incense in our home, listening to the Azaan (the call to prayer) as the sun sets, and breaking our fast with a small meal of dates, sharbat (rose-flavoured iced milk), and fresh fruit. After the stomach adjusts to that small meal, we eat our dinner about half an hour later, but it’s hard to eat much.
My kids love this time of day, and are now old enough to participate in the prayers and rituals. I love sharing it with them, and teaching them the traditions that I grew up with. You can read about my past Ramadan experiences here and here!