Ramadan Kareem!! Happy Ramadan to everyone 🙂
Since Ramadan has started in Toronto today, I thought I would blog about what Ramadan is, why Muslims fast and some tips on how to make fasting easier for us 🙂
What is Ramadan
It is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. A month where Muslims around the world fast from sunrise till sunset.
The Islamic calendar (or Hijri calendar) is lunar based – each solar year, the Islamic calendar moves back around 11 days. The start of the month is determined by a new moon.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims because this is the month that the Quran (holy book) was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Why Do Muslims Fast?
- It is the 3rd Pillar of Islam (there are 5 pillar or acts in Islam) – which means fasting is considered obligatory on all Muslims who are able to fast (exempt are those who are ill or on medication, pregnant or breastfeeding women, traveling, children under the age of puberty, etc)
- To build Taqwa. Taqwa is a hard concept to explain. The way I translate it into words (I may be wrong!) is that to build Taqwa means to build God-Consciousness or to gain wisdom. By gaining Taqwa, we hope to become closer to Allah and in turn be better Muslims.
- To learn compassion for the poor and less fortunate. By fasting, we are forced to walk in the shoes of the millions of people around the world that are hungry everyday. We don’t truly understand what someone is going through until we experience it ourselves. The only difference? While we come knowing that we will have a big meal, there are millions of people who go home knowing they have barely anything to feed their loved ones. Fasting allows us to be thankful for what we have but also to be compassionate towards those who have less than us.
- It is an opportunity to develop qualities that Allah loves – which make us not only better Muslims but also better humans. Qualities such as Sabr (patience), self-restraint, controlling anger, compassion, giving to charity, etc. Muslims also try and stay away from bad habits such as self-indulgence, swearing, backbiting, etc. It is easier to not eat and drink during the day if you are bickering and snapping at everyone but this is not what Ramadan is about. Learning to be patient on an empty stomach helps us not only in Ramadan, but in every aspect of our life.
- To reflect on our lives and evaluate what we want to change in order to become better people
- The act of fasting unites Muslims around the world – the feeling of community and unity intensifies during Ramadan. Knowing that Muslims from every part of the world and every walk of life are all coming together in this one month creates a stronger community.
What Does Fasting Entail
- Niyah: Each Muslim confirms his/her intention to fast before they start fasting (it is not necessary to say out-loud that you are intending to fast)
- Suhoor: Early breakfast eaten before the sun rises. Muslims eat before dawn to help avoid crankiness and weakness during the day – Suhoor is highly recommended 🙂 Suhoor can be anything from a bowl of cereal to an entire meal consisting of rice and bread
- Daily Prayers: Although Muslims pray 5 times a day, Ramadan encourages people to intensify their prayers and reading of the Quran. There is even an additional prayer (Taraweeh) that is for Ramadan only.
- Iftar: Evening meal when Muslims break their fast at sunset. Traditionally, Muslims break their fast with a date – it has many health benefits (stay tuned for a post on the health benefits of consuming dates at sunset!). Iftar is usually a grand affair with a variety of foods. Iftar is often eaten with the community (at Mosques) or with family and friends. Growing up, I used to look forward to Iftar knowing that there would be a table full of delish foods Alhamdulilah. Prayer for breaking your fast:
Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa ‘ala rizq-ika aftarthu
(O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance)
Tips For Fasting
I know that many people are freaking out because of the duration of the fast (15-16 hours)… so I wanted to give a few tips. Hopefully they help you in some way 🙂
- Don’t binge eat at Iftar! Instead of stuffing yourself until you feel like you will explode, pay attention to when your body has had enough food. Sooo instead of having 10 pakora’s, try to stop at maybe 3? 🙂
- Try to stop eating at the same time every night. Instead of munching on snacks until your bedtime, aim to stop eating a few hours early – this will help you not be thirsty the next day.
- Avoid: fried and/or carb high foods. The higher the fat and carb content, the thirstier you will be the next day
- Instead: go for complex carbs (oats, barley, beans, lentils) and fibre-rich foods (whole wheat, grains, seeds and fruits). Also, foods with lower GI gradually releases glucose into your body – which helps keep you energized for longer periods of time.
- Eat and drink items that will help you the next day: dates, honey, yoghurt, fruits, veggies, good fats and protein
- If you are not eating balanced meals (I know many people look forward to eating lots of fried and greasy food during Ramadan), make sure you take vitamins to supplement your meals
- Avoid being out in the sun for too long. Heat + no water = no good
- Avoid strenuous activities
- Mentally prepare yourself – you know it is going to be hot and you know you’ll be fasting for a long time. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Each year we think “wow! This year will be LONG” but each year Ramadan passes by faster and easier than we thought.
Generations before have fasted for longer hours and during the blazing heat of the desert – it’s all about the mind 🙂
Above all, know that you are not fasting alone. There are millions (billions? :)) of people around the world that are fasting just like you!