Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem
Al-hamdulilah it must be at least 7/8 years now since I fasted my first Ramadan. When I first started fasting it was a wonderful experience (nothing will ever beat the high of the first taste of dates and water after the first day of fasting). I can’t really express all the wonders and benefits of the month in the scope of this short post. However, I would like to share some thoughts on Ramadan and some tips for new Muslims out there who are perhaps, preparing to fast for the first time.
As in my first year of fasting I continue to find the challenge of Ramadan deepens my faith and helps me to renew and build up good habits to continue through the year. I am very much looking forward to the approaching Ramadan.
Before I reverted to Islam I spent 9 years as a Vegan and around 4 years before that as a Vegetarian. I found I had had the perfect training for Ramadan, because what is Ramadan if not a training in self discipline? What is a diet if not a self discipline? All you have is your strength of mind and commitment to the practice. This is the only thing that stands in between you and your desire to rush to the kitchen to have a tall glass of cool water, or some food.
After all as many people say to you when you are Vegetarian/ Vegan:
Why don’t you just eat meat/ eggs etc in secret. No-one would know!
Well because if you want to do that you are missing the whole point of the exercise! One does not follow a special diet or fast Ramadan as some kind of front/ performance for OTHER people, or to spend the whole time lusting after the forbidden thing. You are doing the fast for yourself because you believe in the benefits of fasting or the diet etc. If you sneak some food or drink or break the diet YOU KNOW and ALLAH KNOWS.
However, Ramadan is a challenge, especially for new Muslims trying for the first time who perhaps don’t have previous experience of restraining their eating/ drinking desires.
For those of you out there who are new to Ramadan. Firstly I would say don’t be scared or overwhelmed by Ramadan. The month is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and once you have done it the first time you will never look back, Insha’Allah.
Firstly if you are new to fasting I would suggest adopting a Sunnah practice BEFORE Ramadan starts and fast Mondays and Thursdays. Taking up this practice before your first Ramadan will be the perfect training for Ramadan itself, and you will get the bonus of following a Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh). Win and more win.
If during the month of Ramadan you are struggling and feel tempted to break your fast.
Remind yourself of why you are doing the fast.
- Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. This in itself indicates the importance of taking part.
- Remind yourself you are doing it for yourself, so you can grow as a person, increase your Iman (faith, and to increase your good deeds while on the earth.
- Focus on all the benefits you will receive, all the good deeds and blessings from Allah. Not to mention the skills you learn along the way, to mention a few, discipline, restraint, new appreciation for the blessings of food and drink, new appreciation and empathy for those throughout the earth who struggle in their lives everyday for food and drink.
- Remind yourself that time always passes. The ticking of the clock continues, the sun will make its way across the sky and the time will come to break your fast.
- Remember the feeling of hunger and thirst does come and go. The desire for food and drink will pass. Distract yourself by reading positive articles about Ramadan, listen to or read the Quran.
- Imagine how wonderful the moment will be when the time comes to break your fast, and the longer you have waited, the better it will be.
- Once you get to Asr (afternoon prayers) basically you are there, you are in the last segment of the day, in sight of the finish line, make yourself busy preparing for the big moment of breaking your fast and the time will whizz past. Please NEVER give up at this time, it is SUCH a disappointment when you are so close to the finish!
- Remind yourself that you never know if you will have another chance to fast the month of Ramadan.
When planning for your month of fasting think of the month like a marathon.
Approach each day in your mind, as sections that will pass, and the whole month in sections of a week that will pass. Mentally get yourself through each day and week without thinking about the following weeks/ days too much (especially at the beginning). Focus on the week and day at hand.
Each day is a marathon with sections. The prayers of the day give structure.
- From Fajr to Dhur: the beginning of the race, pace yourself.
- From Dhur to Asr: the middle of the race don’t push yourself too hard, rest and slow down if you need to.
- From Asr to Magrib: the end of the race, speed up and make yourself busy. This way the time will pass more quickly and before you know it the day is over and you can make your thankful Du’a to Allah for the blessing of fasting, and enjoy a drink and some dates, Insha’Allah.
Ramadan is tiring and you are human. Have a rest between Dhur and Asr if you are able. Even if it is not the whole time, and even if you don’t actually sleep, just try to keep that time for quiet time to read, or lie down.
Reward yourself and praise yourself for what you do achieve.
Don’t beat yourself up mentally if you do give up one day, just make sure to make it up later, after Ramadan. Pick yourself up and try again the next day. Every day is a new day, a new chance unburdened by the previous day/s.
Remember failure is always better than not trying. Failure is good in Islam because it means we have been struggling and striving. Accept your failure, don’t dwell on it, move on and TRY AGAIN. : D.
Make your Ramadan a Ramadan of GOOD habits… Insha’Allah.
Some Good habits:
#1 – Don’t skip Suhoor – even if you are very tired. This meal & drink is essential to getting through the day ahead, especially if you are fasting long hot summer days. When in the UK I would always have Muesli for Suhoor because it is very filling, tasty, healthy, includes a drink, and is quick and easy to prepare.
#2 – Eat Healthy food & don’t overeat – you will eat less than usual over the month so try to focus on healthy food to make the best out of the calories you do get. Dates are a superfood to break your fast with (plus is it Sunnah to break your fast with dates and water) and I like to keep them in the house for a snack between Isha and Suhoor. They are full of goodness and high in calories. A lot of people eat a lot of sweets in Ramadan, try not to overdo it because they are empty calories that will not help your nutrition and strength over the month. Marathon remember – you need to stay strong, healthy and pace yourself!
#3 – Don’t neglect your Quran – Most Muslims over the world continue to work through Ramadan, and it can be hard to squeeze everything in. Try to find the time to sit and read the Quran or at least listen to it. For example on the way to work, on your lunch break. Even just 10 minutes before you go to sleep is better than nothing.
#4 – You need sleep too – Especially in the long days of summer, it can be hard to get enough to eat, to pray and to get enough sleep. If you work or have children the problem can get compounded because you can’t get a nap in the day either. I usually try to at least 4 times a week go to sleep not too long after Isha, then I wake up around 3am for Suhoor. Then after Fajr I try to get a couple more hours sleep if I can. In the end it adds up to around 5-7 hours/ night which is okay. For me the absolute hardest thing during Ramadan is not getting enough sleep. The body does adapt though, so persevere and try not to burn the candles at both ends TOO much.
#5 – Lastly remember that Islam is a practical religion and never unreasonable. If you have a medical or health condition that makes fasting difficult or impossible, do what you are able. If you are not able to fast you can still get involved. Read your Quran, do good deeds, prepare a meal for fasting Muslims etc.
Lastly last of all…
If you are a non-Muslim why not give fasting a try for one day. You will gain a new appreciation of Islam and gain the health benefits of the fast as well.
Get in touch with your local Mosque as often there will be programs during Ramadan in which Muslims reach out to the community. This month is a perfect opportunity to get to know some Muslims in your area, and a chance to learn something about Islam and our way of life from Muslims.
Lastly, last, last of all… : D
May Allah bless all of the Muslims over the world, bless our efforts to fast and help us to do so in a way which is pleasing to you.
Allahhummah please ease the difficulties of the Muslims during Ramadan and bless the Ummah, bring us back to you and back to our deen so we can take benefit from the way of life you have prescribed for us.