Updated: Feb 2, 2019
By Tasnin Khan
I’m so used to people side-eying me, dropping their jaws, or looking at me like I have three heads when I tell people that I refrain from water and food until the sun goes down each day during Ramadan.
"Not even water???"
Correct. For 30 days….Even in 80-degree weather.
And I get it, it may sound like self-inflicted torture to many, but there is so much more than meets the eye and a purpose for it all.
Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims all around the world from sunrise to sunset. What this means is that in some parts of the world Muslims fast for shorter days (11 hours in Argentina), while in others, Muslims fast upwards of 15 hours a day.
But it’s not just about fasting physically—it’s about the mental strength and self-discipline that comes with refraining from things that we normally need each day.
Contrary to popular belief, Ramadan is also about fasting or ridding ourselves of habits, thoughts, or ideas that don’t serve us like gossiping about other people, being wasteful with our time, stirring or engaging in unnecessary arguments, maintaining poor health or sleep habits, delegating energy to anything undeserving of it, etc.
Of course, Ramadan can mean something different to every person based on who you are and what you are currently going through in life. But here are four ways that 30 days of fasting feeds my soul.
ONE: It helps you shift your perspective.
Sure 30 days of voluntary fasting might sound like total insanity, but it gives me the chance to realize through the challenge that there are so many people throughout the world who don’t have a choice – they simply don’t have food or clean water as a guarantee every day the same way that most of us do. I try to keep this in mind when I find myself sometimes inevitably getting hangry.
At the end of the day, I have a spread full of my favorite foods to eat at iftar each day (the meal we eat to break fast at sunset), but a lot of others go every day not knowing when their next meal will be.
This is what makes Ramadan my favorite month of the year – it gives me the chance to understand and appreciate the sacrifices and challenges that others may face, and I feel like this make us more empathetic and connected to each other.
Ramadan lights the fire in me to be the best version of myself so that I can have the platform and power to give back and help those who don’t have the same blessings or privilege that I have.
TWO: It is a time of self-improvement.
"You can’t try to fill others when pouring from an empty cup."
I’ve always had this obsession with self-improvement and growth, and I truly feel that in becoming the best, most self-aware person that you can be, you can then go out and make your unique contribution to the world around you.
For me, Ramadan is a time to detox and self-reflect. I try to take a minimalist approach to life and reflect on the things that make my life so special. I meditate, spend more time with my family, journal, read books to inspire me and learn, and I try to help make my environment better in whatever way I can— big or small.
Plus, having a month at hand gives me a little bit of motivation to track my progress or set small goals that I can hold myself accountable for.
THREE: It reminds you that you are a part of a global community.
Every year, Ramadan is a reminder to me of how much bigger the world is than I realize when I am in the process of just trying to get through my day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
There is something about knowing that you are fasting with people from all different walks of life with different cultures, experiences, ideas, and passions that re-centers me and takes me out of my head to appreciate that what I am stressing myself over right now probably won’t matter when I think back on it in a few months or years.
The world is so much bigger than just me and these temporary challenges. We are all a part of a globally diverse fabric, and it’s a really great opportunity to appreciate this fact. It’s also really fascinating to me to learn about how people in different parts of the world celebrate Ramadan with different traditions—from firing cannons in Lebanon each day to indicate the ending of the day’s fast, to lighting up colorful lanterns through Egypt that represent unity and joy, down to the types of food that are eaten at iftar, there are cultural and modern twists put on Ramadan that make it special in so many ways.
FOUR: It helps you to count your blessings and live each day with a more grateful heart.
Sometimes it is in something’s absence that you can fully realize how valuable and important something is in your life. Only after taking my first sip of water at the end of a hot and long day do I realize just how treasured something like clean or cold water is.
I would probably never think about this and don’t normally throughout the year. It gives me the chance to count big and small blessings and realize that I have so many people and moments of value in my life right now. We live in a time where it seems that everything is so instant and fast-paced. We seem to always be chasing after something. Ramadan helps me to slow down and be more present to appreciate the blessings I have while they are still here, start and end each day with a more grateful heart, and brings me a renewed sense of joy and inner peace.
Are you fasting right now? What do yo think about Tasnin's reflection? Let us know in the comments below!