How I'm managing fasting, in the slow life:
It’s been a week of fasting in Ramadan as I’m writing this. If you don’t know what Ramadan is, then it’s a one-month period in the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims around the world fast, daily, from dawn until sunset. So, for me in the UK, that's 16 hours of no food and drink - and, no, not even water.
Of course, during a global pandemic lockdown, there’s a whole different nuance and vibe during this sacred month for Muslims.
What does it mean for some of us? The biggest change is the fact that Muslims are not able to pray communally in mosques as they’re normally accustomed to. For some Muslims, the month of Ramadan may be the only period in their life that they go to the mosque and pray together in the evening with their wider community. For some others, it means that they’re not able to share the evening meal, iftar, together with their extended family or friends.
For me, it has taken away my leg that was holding me up in this lockdown – my aimless snacking and trash entertainment!
Saying that then, maybe there couldn’t be a more perfect time for Ramadan than in a lockdown - who said fasting in Ramadan is easy anyway?
I know one person who couldn’t be happier for us to be in lockdown during Ramadan, and that’s my mother. It had to take a global pandemic for all her children to stay home, all day, and spend Ramadan together but, it’s all good.
The way I see it is, fasting in Ramadan is a way for us to optimise our whole year through a month of self-reflection and discipline. Like, a training camp. A lockdown is just an extra measure thrown in the mix as a challenge.
This holy month is supposed to challenge us spiritually, physically and mentally, so that we can filter all the good and the bad in our lives. Through fasting, we are refraining from being slaves to our carnal desires by disciplining our bodies to practice self-control and willpower. Fasting is optimising ourselves like a reset button.
Every year, I try and pick a few things that I want to focus on during Ramadan, as it helps me to focus better and make the most out of Ramadan.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h) said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 4240)
So, a suggestion would be to think about some areas in your life that you want to work on more and then start from there. Here are some themes that I have selected to get me through Ramadan in lockdown.
Just because we can’t pray and eat together, it doesn’t mean we can’t still connect! A special way to do this is to connect through giving. I have seen many remarkable examples of this on social media already where people are supporting each other by donating through charity appeals.
This is, of course, very important, as one vital aspect of Ramadan is to be conscious of people in need around the world. A collective effort to support those in unfortunate positions can strengthen our community spirit and our compassion for people around us.
This is also a special month to connect with the holy book, the Quran. A lot of Muslims try and increase their recitation of the Quran more especially during this month.
I have decided to use this time in lockdown to try and understand the Quran by exploring the meaning and the contexts of the written verses. I am using my old books that I studied with in my Islamic education – a five-volume collection of exegesis of the Quran. Of course, I may (just about) get through the first book only for this Ramadan.
This is a really good collection if you want to further deepen your understanding of the Quranic verses, the interpretations, commentaries, and reflections verse-by-verse.
Another book I can recommend from my studies is the intricate biography of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h), called The Seerah. This is an award-winning book that details the life of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), even explaining the historical context of Arabia prior to his birth.
Slightly continuing with the learning theme here but, I’ve also been trying to listen to some lectures online or participating in Zoom call discussions for a change. Here are some suggestions for my go-to places for Islamic talks and key discussions:
- Ramadan series with Omar Suleiman at Yaqeen Institute
- YouTube channel: MercifulServant
- Weekly Ramadan circle with Islamic Society of Britain
- Online classes with Nouman Ali Khan at Bayyinah TV
In order to truly reap the benefits of Ramadan, I wanted to not only enhance myself but, also rid some bad habits! Again, I handpicked a few things that I can focus on easily so that it helps me to stay consistent. Two things that I’ve decided to work on were my addictions – namely my excessive snacking and over usage of social media.
While fasting, you’re naturally encouraging yourself to curb those inner desires which help to limit snacking. The challenge lies in continuing this habit post-Ramadan. However, fasting serves as a reminder to not be greedy and think about people who are living in poverty, which helps to curb this desire to eat excessively.
As for my social media usage, I wanted to try and limit my screen time massively. In the last seven days, my screen time was a total of 51 hours and 13 minutes, with social media taking top tier of 28 hours and 43 minutes! That can almost cover the hours of a full-time job. Ridiculous.
To solve this issue, I thought about trying a few things – firstly, only to post content on specific days (Wednesdays & Thursdays); secondly, to limit scrolling aimlessly, so no more than 5/10 minutes at a time; and lastly, to not carry my phone with me everywhere and instead just leave it somewhere away from me.
Let’s see how it goes and hopefully, I can continue the good habits that I learn post-Ramadan.
It’s unprecedented times but, I hope this month of reflection and gratitude serves everyone positively.
Please reach out and let me know your thoughts and tell me how fasting in Ramadan is going for you!
Wishing you all a blessed month of Ramadan. Stay safe.