Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ramadan Can Be Hard

This is the time of the year the our Facebook feed is full of articles about the 'wonders of Ramadan', or of how this is a 'magical time of the year' and how to 'increase our piety and good deeds' or even the occasional 'how to get fit in Ramadan' guide.

Without taking ANY thing away from those posts - really Ramadan IS a wonderful time of the year, it IS a time to get fit, both spiritually and mentally, and it IS something we wait for all year round, we also have to acknowledge one important thing.

Ramadan can be hard.

Yes, it's not a blasphemous statement to make that fasting at this time of the year can be hard for various groups of people. Rather than shunning those views, let's examine them and learn why it can be hard, and how we can plan for it.

If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be a test. The Quran is clean in 2:183, that fasting is a way for us to attain piety. Piety is also tied to discipline, which means doing what is prescribed for us and abstaining from what is forbidden. That is not easy, but Ramadan gives us a training in discipline. So why can it be hard?

  1. Physically these are the longest times of the year. In Toronto, Canada Fajr is around 4 am and Maghreb around 9 pm. That's almost 17 hours without food, and more importantly, water.
  2. For those that work in a non-Muslim country, everyone around you is eating and drinking, and carrying on as normal. Meanwhile you are hungry, thirsty, and yet expected to be as productive and energetic as usual. Unlike Muslim countries, where Ramadan almost has a magical holiday atmosphere around it, this is missing in the West.
  3. For those that live in the northern areas, it's hard to find the time to pray full taraweeh, sleep, eat proper iftar and suhoor, and also put in a proper day's work in the office.
  4. For those that don't have too many other Muslim friends, it's hard to get into the spirit of Ramadan when you are the only one observing it.

I am sure there are other reasons (both legitimate and made up) on why Ramadan can be hard, but these are some of the main ones. Here's some of my suggestions on how to deal with it.

  1. First of all, know that Ramadan is a gift from Allah for you, so be thankful for it. It is important to approach Ramadan with a positive frame of mind. If someone you love gives you a gift, you don't criticize it. When the gift is from the Most High, you shouldn't find complaints such as 'oh it's June and it's hot' etc. Approach Ramadan thinking it's something you want to make full use of this year, and you will. That is Faith.
  2. If you have some health issues, address them beforehand. A Muslim doctor will know and acknowledge your beliefs, but a non-Muslim doctor who is familiar with your religion and respects it can provide useful information on how to deal with certain issues. Know that you don't HAVE to fast if it's medically harmful. If you are pregnant, for example, or sick, or travelling, you are given exemptions by Allah. Especially if you are pregnant you shouldn't be putting your unborn child at risk. If you need to take certain injections, for example if you are diabetic, there are ways you can do that and fast. Bottom line - clear it with your doctor before Ramadan.
  3. Find (and make) more Muslim friends. This goes without saying. Not only will they help you by providing a support system in Ramadan, but will also be helpful outside of Ramadan. A person is known by the company they keep.
  4. Attend the mosque for prayers. Maghreb is a good time to attend, as many mosques have iftars, but also attend simply to earn more hasanah and be imbibed with that Ramadan feeling. Even if you cannot stay for the full 20 taraweeh, at least stay for the 8. Or even just the fard part of Isha
  5. Do NOT make this month about food. Do not obsess over sumptuous iftars or speed eat through suhoor. Make a conscious effort to eat healthy, detox and take Ramadan as an opportunity to lose weight.
  6. Read (and try to understand) the Quran. Ramadan is the month of the Quran. This is a wonderful book. The more you read, the more you delve into the tafseer, the more you start to love the Book and the more you marvel at its beauty.
  7. If you have children, even if they are not fasting, involve them in religious activities (even if at least one a day). There's lots of facebook groups on Ramadan arts and crafts, for example.
Do you have any suggestions on how you make Ramadan easier to observe? 

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