“Cup of tea?” “No, I can’t, I’m fasting”, It’s Ramadan.
Have you heard this conversation at work or elsewhere recently? If you have it’s probably not because someone is on the 5:2 diet, it’s likely they are Muslim and this month is the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. If you’ve wondered why we do it, well it’s one of the five pillars of Islam, meaning one of the key things Muslims are required to do. The purpose is that it brings you closer to God and makes you understand how those without food feel so that you can have more empathy and give more to charity.
For me, and many Muslims this month is all about self-reflection, charity and testing my self-control. I’m a mum to a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old so it’s also about getting through the month in one piece, as looking after little people while fasting is hard. Not because of the lack of food, but because of the lack of sleep.
This year (and the past few years) Ramadan has fallen in summer. Which means a later sunset and a longer day for fasting. It also means getting up at around 2 am to have our pre-sunrise meal (Suhoor). Now I love a midnight feast as much as the next person but eating a bowl of porridge and drinking a pint of water while still in full zombie sleep mode is not ideal! For those with babies you will be fully aware that broken sleep is hard, so waking up at 2:30 am reminds me of those days especially if one of my kids decides to then get up at 4 am! All of this can make for a very long day especially if you have to go to work. By the time you eat at sunset (now just after 9 pm), you are exhausted.
So why do we do it? Well, the thing I love about Ramadan is that you see the strength of your own body and mind. I find that I change, for the better. I notice that because I am fasting, I’m more patient with my kids, less shouty, more serene(ish). How does that happen? It’s because Ramadan teaches you patience and self-control. Self-control increases our resilience, which means we are better equipped to deal with stress. I also love the feeling of community, that we are all doing this together, I love that first sip of water you have when you break your fast. You can actually feel the water moving through your body. It’s an amazing feeling. It may all sound a bit weird to those not used to it but you don’t tend to feel hungry, which is a testament to the strength of the mind.
In the run-up to Ramadan, I often get the urge to do all the jobs around the house that I feel I won’t have the energy to do in the first few days of Ramadan. This time around I prepped the food, mowed the lawn, changed all the bed sheets/covers, did all the washing (I actually saw the bottom of the laundry basket!) and painted the sheds. I also started to assemble the picnic table for the garden, though this is a still a work in process. My husband was fully prepared for me to have built an extension in the back garden by the time he got home from work.
People are always curious when I mention I’m fasting and always ask questions, which I’m happy to answer…
You must lose lots of weight in Ramadan?
Not me! I end up eating things I wouldn’t normally, (I’ve been known to eat Nutella out of the jar with a breadstick!) at times you wouldn’t normally eat them (2 am or 10 pm). So no weight loss for me.
Are you allowed to drink water?
Nope. You can’t eat any food, drink any liquids, smoke cigarettes or even chew any gum from sunrise to sunset. I’m amazed I can do this as I can be ravenous by lunchtime when I’m not fasting but when I’m fasting I don’t feel that hunger. I think it’s the power of the mind, somehow my brain suppresses the hunger (I could be making that all up though as I’m no expert on the brain).
Do your kids have to fast?
Children don’t have to fast until they reach puberty. Which is a wise move, as my two get hungry on the walk from the front door to the car.
So there it is a glimpse of what Ramadan is all about, oh and we get to have a big party at the end of the month.
*All thoughts and opinions remain the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments of Sareta Fontaine.