Today, as part of the 30 Days Challenge, I fasted for Ramadan. This meant waking up before sunrise to eat and drink the only food or liquid I could take in today until the sun set again. I’m doing this to show solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters, to empathize with those who go without food on a daily basis, and as a spiritual interaction between myself and God.
It feels weird to blog about this, especially when I strongly believe that fasting and sacrifice are most holy when they are done without being publicized for affirmation or praise (see Matthew 6:16-18). But this is more than just an average fast- this is, like I said earlier, an act of solidarity, and I felt that such an act would be more powerful if people actually knew about it. So here we are, my diary of today’s fast, in all it’s highs and lows.
6:40 AM- I’m up before the sun, cooking suhoor, which is the breakfast that’s going to get me through today. For me, that’s two hardboiled eggs, a whole-wheat bagel, and a slice of cheese. Oh, and lots of water, because that’s off-limits until sunset today too.
I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous. I’ve never fasted for this long, or with such a stringent set of rules before. Part of me wonders why I’m doing this (and I can only assume that voice is going to get stronger as I get hungrier and thirstier), but then I remember the mosque that burnt down in Joplin, the attack on the Sikh temple that I can only assume was meant for Muslims, and all the other Islamophobic attacks and speech that have been brought down on Muslims since 9/11, and I know this is important. Even if it’s purely symbolic, I want to show my Muslim friends and neighbors that I stand with them, that they have allies who aren’t driven to hatred and fear by the acts of a few extremists.
And so I fast.
It turns out the eggs weren’t ready in time (I really need to check my recipes before I wake up), so breakfast was 2 1/2 tall glasses of water, a wheat bagel, and lots of cheese, to supplement the protein. I’m completely full, and I hope that lasts a while! I was going to try and get a picture of my suhoor for the purposes of documentation, but I ended up running way behind and had to scarf my meal down to beat the sun.
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil).- Qur’an
“When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. – The Bible (I have my reservations about broadcasting this fast, since that seems to be the exact thing that Matthew warns against, but since this fast is in solidarity with another group of people, I think I can make an exception here. But I will try my best to avoid complaining about my hunger and thirst all day, since that isn’t at all glorifying.)
10:45/11:00 AM – This is when I first started feeling hungry. Thankfully, I was volunteering with AmeriCorps at the time, so I was able to keep busy and distract myself from the hunger. Some people were eating snacks around me, but that bothered me much less than I expected it to. I made the choice to fast, and that choice applied even when I was around people who had made a different choice. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere…
2:00 PM– The hunger has been getting steadily worse, while my thirst hasn’t really been a problem yet. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer today, which has helped me keep my mind off my stomach and on God, which was the point of today anyway. I know this sounds cliche, but my hunger has been a powerful reminder that there are people around the world for whom this lifestyle isn’t an option. They’ve been especially prominent in my prayers this afternoon.
Have you seen him who belies the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter? He it is who drives away the orphan and does not urge giving away the food of the poor. Qur’an
If a brother or sister lacks food and one of you says, “go in peace,” and yet do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? Faith if it has no works is dead.– Bible
4:45 PM– I’m getting a little discouraged, to be honest. Helping Chad move furniture into our apartment (yay Craigslist!) + the heat of a Floridian summer afternoon + a body that hasn’t had food or water in ten hours is a recipe for disaster. I have a headache, I’m exhausted, my stomach is angry with me, and I’m ready for the sun to set. I feel bad complaining, because I’m only doing this for one day, but I figured that I should share all of my experience today, good and bad. It would be dishonest to present this challenge like it was anything but a challenge. Mastering my body is harder than I thought it would be.
Through every difficulty there is relief. Verily, through every difficulty there is relief- Qur’an
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy- Bible
5:30 PM – The hardest part of all of this is watching Chad eat chocolate. Have not had a temptation so strong today as that bag of gourmet milk chocolate sitting on the table next to me. I should probably stop even writing about it…
7:00 PM- 8:00 PM The last hour was surprisingly easy, especially now that I can look back at how I felt during the rest of the day. Watching the sun set as we drove to a local Lebanese restaurant for iftar was such a victorious time for me; it felt like God, nature, my mind, and my body were all at peace with each other after a day of struggle.
8:10 PM Breaking my fast was not at all like I expected. I thought I’d morph into a ravenous monster as soon as I stepped foot in the restaurant, but it didn’t feel much different than any other night of eating out. The tea and the food were much more gratifying, and I ate my meal with pride, but other than that, it all felt surprisingly normal.
9:30 PM It has been a long, challenging day. I wish I could end this post with some deep insight that I gained from my hours of self-denial, but I don’t know that I have much that’s particularly insightful to say. I am proud that I was able to do this, but so very humbled by how much I struggled, considering that billions of people do this for weeks on end during Ramadan every year. Keeping my focus on God and those less fortunate than me helped put my own times of weakness into perspective, which is a lesson I think I’ll carry on past today’s challenge. And this might sound weird, but successfully mastering my body, if even for a day, helps me feel like I can overcome other challenges, which is a mindset I’m going to need in about a week.
Other than that, all I can do is pray that this day of fasting will be of some benefit beyond my own life. I’ll end with an excerpt from Rumi’s poem on Ramadan, which is such a beautiful expression of what it means to fast:
The lips of the Master are parched
from calling the Beloved.
The sound of your call resounds
through the horn of your empty belly.
Let nothing be inside of you.
Be empty: give your lips to the lips of the reed.
When like a reed you fill with His breath,
then you’ll taste sweetness.
Sweetness is hidden in the Breath
that fills the reed.
Be like Mary – by that sweet breath
a child grew within her.