عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال: كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا تهجَّد من الليل، قال: (اللهم ربنا لك الحمد أنت قيّم السماوات والأرض، ولك الحمد أنت رب السماوات والأرض ومن فيهن، ولك الحمد أنت نور السماوات والأرض ومن فيهن، أنت الحق، وقولك الحق، ووعدك الحق، ولقاؤك الحق، والجنة حق، والنار حق، والساعة حق، اللهم: لك أسلمت، وبك آمنت، وعليك توكلت، وإليك خاصمت، وبك حاكمت، فاغفر لي: ما قدمت، وما أخرت، وأسررت، وأعلنت، وما أنت أعلم به مني، لا إله إلا أنت) رواه البخاري
In June the 18th, all Muslims celebrated the arrival of the holy month, and Hamad and I celebrated our new union and small family of two. I’ve never took care of every preparation and a house and a husband before. To say the least it has been challenging, overwhelming and tiresome but I enjoy it immensely… every moment. I’ve almost lived in Kuwait for 6 months now, and we just moved to our new apartment 3 weeks ago. Everything feels different and new and exciting.
I pray a lot, and talk to Allah a lot, I cook and think about what to make next, and looking for my next project and finding a job I love; I’m settling in beautifully, thanks to Allah… and my husband is amazing. When he sees me losing control or my temper he comes to the rescue!
I get asked a lot, in my blog and personally about why we Muslims fast and what is Ramadan. I almost started writing a post when I remembered reading a GREAT post on Facebook written by Sahar El-Nadi. She explained everything so beautifully, I felt ashamed to write a post afterward. I hope you enjoy her words as much as I did.
This post is for my non-Muslim friends and readers:
I’m sure you’re wondering why we Muslims fast for a whole month in this heat and long summer days? And probably most answers you get from the net or your Muslim friends are even more confusing so here are a few simple facts:
First of all, fasting is not a Muslim invention. It exists as a spiritual practice in most religions, although in varying forms. Muslims fast during Ramadan, the 9th month of the Muslim lunar calendar. They abstain from all food, drink, sexual activity, bad language, and bad habits during daylight hours, from dawn to sunset, everyday, for an entire month. Since it’s based on the lunar calendar, the date changes every year. In my lifetime, I’ve fasted during all seasons and weathers of the year, hot and cold, and it had a different flavor in each of them.
Fasting is not a form of torture though those who are too young, too old, weak, sick, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating or traveling are exempt from fasting.
For believers, it’s a manifestation of faith. They show reverence by obeying the God they believe in, to stay away from food, drink, and sex (basic human needs) during daylight hours.
In practice, it’s a yearly training course in discipline and self-control. Trust me, it takes a lot of willpower not to reach for that ice-cold glass of water on a hot day, and decide to wait over 16 hours to be able to have it! It also tastes a lot better when you finally have it.
You learn to appreciate every drop of water. Every grain of food. You learn gratitude!
Now multiply that by a billion! Imagine hundreds of millions of people, sitting there staring at food and not touching it until they hear the signal: the call to prayer, only then are they allowed to eat and drink again, together, all over the world.
This exercise in delayed gratification changes your life. If you can willingly discipline yourself to abstain from things you love and that are good for you, then you can definitely abstain from things you hate or that are bad for you.
This concept looks logical and simple, but most humans struggle with it. They’re stuck in toxic relationships, hooked on bad habits, demotivated to improve, and unable to change. Fasting makes you feel empowered and in control of your life again, so that it becomes easier to change as a result.
Fasting puts you back at the steering wheel of your emotions. You’re no longer a slave to your body and your desires. You learn to control them and not let them control you. You tell them when to eat and when to stop, when to succumb to desire and when to abstain. You’re freed from your dependence on coffee, sugars, cigarettes…etc. You control your anger, your fears, your thoughts and emotions, good and bad. It’s an effective exercise in willpower.
Health-wise, it’s a great detox for mind and body, from all the accumulated toxins of the year. When your stomach and digestive system take a break, your mind and your spirit soar. Contrary to what you may believe, you feel and think much clearer and deeper during fasting hours. And it’s easier to contemplate, analyze, and find solutions to your pressing dilemmas. (Google: health benefits of intermittent fasting)
Ramadan is also a community activity to strengthen social ties and improve relations in families and among society as a whole. It’s a time for connection, group learning, group worship, and mass charity and caring.
In the last 10 days of the months, people are encouraged to spend time alone contemplating, worshiping and planning for making changes to one’s life. It’s like a yearly self-improvement boot camp for more than a billion Muslims worldwide.
This year, other faith leaders around the world are planning to fast with Muslims to encourage peace, communication, understanding, and respect for diversity. This is the true spirit of Ramadan.
Now, if I were not a Muslim and I read this post, my first logical response will be: “Why aren’t Muslims a leading civilization today then?” Actually, they once were, when they really applied these useful principles. Right now, Ramadan is being more and more commercialized by the media and the shopping culture, just like what has happened to Christmas. During Ramadan in recent years, people mostly feast every night, watch TV, shop like crazy, and stay up chatting all night until it’s time for the pre-dawn meal. Unfortunately, many preserved the traditions and forgot the lessons.
Ramadan Mubarak to everyone! Feel free to post questions, reflections, links and personal experiences in the comments!
I think Ramadan helps us remember who we are when we are lost in our mundane everyday activities and ground ourselves to point zero and obey Allah in fasting. Ramadan makes us look back at our wrongdoings, makes us decided to change and embrace what our religion represents rather than losing our identities and ethics.
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: (قال الله عزوجل: كل عمل بن آدم له إلا الصيام؛ فإنه لي وأنا أجزي به، والصيام جنّة، وإذا كان يوم صوم أحدكم فلا يرفث، ولا يصخب، فإن سابّه أحد أو قاتله فليقل: إني امرؤ صائم، والذي نفس محمد بيده لخلوف فم الصائم أطيب عند الله من ريح المسك، للصائم فرحتان يفرحهما: إذا أفطر فرح، وإذا لقي ربه فرح بصومه) رواه البخاري ومسلم
Sometimes all of us humans no matter what religion we practice go off the righteous road and lose ourselves, either in routine or in our needs. Giving your body a month to collect yourself and remember who you are and what you believe in makes returning to normal life easier because you can’t do something without having it effect you. You might change, lose a habit, or a lifestyle or a person. You might want to improve your life, your body, your choices. You might want to reform, to change your career, to change the way you embrace everyday. You might feel closer to Allah. You might decided to make everyday of your life-like Ramadan. To be the best version of yourself.
Ramadan is a month that changes your life. Embrace it.