I am a Western settler and this article is about my personal, one-day experience fasting during Ramadan. You may be asking yourself, how did this come about? To be candid, it is simply my attempt to share an experience with my girlfriend, who is Muslim, and hopefully learn more about her life and culture that I know little to nothing about.
So with that blissfully ignorant idea, I began my day at 7 a.m. June 30, 2016, by waking up to birds chirping and a cool breeze that ever so softly flowed into my bedroom. Well, that isn’t entirely true as by ‘birds chirping’ I mean listening to my roommate discussing insurance coverages of tailing ponds with his buddy and by ‘cool breeze’ I mean the smell of alcohol and cigarettes after a night of them partying.
The contrast of my morning and the principles of Ramadan are laughable. Ramadan is a month of prayer for Muslims to strengthen their faith and “keep it halal,” as my girlfriend says. Halal essentially means living a pure life free of drugs, alcohol, or any unholy activities. Essentially the opposite from what my roommates were doing the night before.
Although, there is always a silver lining, and mine that morning was that I woke up early enough to have breakfast. Well, that isn’t entirely true, if you want to be technical, Ramadan begins with sun rise and ends with sun set. Thankfully, my girlfriend was not around in the morning so I gave myself some liberties about waking up close enough to sun rise.
After breakfast, I began the day knowing that I would not eat or drink – even water –until the sun set at 9:40 p.m. If you are doing the math, that is almost 15 hours. Fasting is supposed to influence reflection and compassion within an individual about the hardships going on in the world. Moreover, this time is used to pray and to let go of one’s bad habits. Personally, I think that this is pretty cool and similar to other religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, that all uniquely instill the idea of being a good person and to be thankful for what you have. However, these admirable ideals were over-ruled by my realization that I was actually going too fast for an entire day and that I was turning my back on my first love – food.
Making things worse is that I didn’t really plan for anything besides picking up my girlfriend in the afternoon and waiting to hear from my friends about their plans for Canada day. I wish I could tell you I spent the morning having an enlightened, epiphany about the globe that could calm an individual’s worries over Brexit, rising hate crimes in the United States, civil unrest in the Middle East, or the precarious job market and affordability of housing in Canada. What did I do instead? Well, I watched a couple of movies and had a nap.
Since I knew that I would not be able to eat or drink any water throughout the day, I adopted a couch potato strategy early on in hopes that it would conserve my energy for later. It became apparent to me that I was worried about being outside for too long and becoming dehydrated or spending a lot of time in social settings that require high levels of energy. Although, I thought that when I pick up my girlfriend in the afternoon that she would be able to give me some pointers to get through the day.
Once I picked up my girlfriend she let me know that she was disappointed that I ‘cheated’ and had breakfast in the morning. Thankfully she gave me a get out of jail free card, although, didn’t provide me with any tricks. Not as retribution for breakfast-gate, but because my girlfriend is a pragmatist and what tricks are there when you simply aren’t eating or drinking during the day? I began to think I was fairly naïve to believe there is a life hack for fasting. Although, while watching the soccer match between Wales and Belgium in the afternoon, I began to realize I was using television as a crutch to get through the day as opposed to spending it with family and friends.
So, at 5 p.m., my friend came over and the three of us headed out to play catch until around 9:00 p.m. During that time, we all talked about millennial topics like renting versus buying a home, career development, continuing with education or not, romantic relationships, and so on. This way of passing the time made it very easy for myself to forget about fasting for a while and simply enjoy my day as opposed to sitting at home and napping by myself in the morning. Most importantly, we decided to go to a restaurant to have something to eat for when I broke my fast that day. All I could think about on the way to the restaurant was having a chocolate milkshake, burger, and fries – with the possibility of a salad on the side because of health and all that.
Once we arrived at the restaurant and ordered our meals the argument began about whose phone clock to use as the official time for sun set. For a moment, I had no girlfriend or friends at the table as they all made me go by the slowest clock we had at the table, which was three minutes behind mine. Too tired to argue, I waited those vexing minutes and began to think about everything the three of us had talked about that day. Consequently, I started to think about an idiom that reads: t he same water that boils the potato, hardens the egg. Your environment is very important in dictating how you handle things, although you are the sum of your experiences and those experiences are individual and makes everyone who they are.
My one day with Ramadan was not a watershed moment for a religious enlightenment or to pretend like I know more about the Muslim culture in a significant way. Instead, my one day with Ramadan made me think that we are all unique and that we will all react in our own ways to the environment around us. However, it is important to constantly remind yourself that we are all more similar than we are different and that having shared experiences is important to bring us all together.
[this article was originally written in 2016]