Growing up, I attended school with predominately Catholic, Christian, and Jewish students. There were not many Muslim students in the school I went to, and I remember my family advising us on the things that were permissible during Ramadan, and what was not. As memories come to mind, I recall my family encouraging us kids to start — or at least attempt fasting —- beginning at the age of 8. According to my mother, my grandfather was big on rewarding us for trying. It was a form of positive encouragement. However, since I was very petite as a little girl, my family did not force me to fast because they were concerned that I may not get enough nutrition needed for my size throughout the day.
On the days I did participate, let’s just say it was not easy. I remember watching friends eat while I sat there trying to conceal my thirst and hunger. I recall birthdays during the month of Ramadan that I was unable to participate in due to the food that was brought in. Can you imagine being a kid and not being allowed to eat a cupcake for a birthday celebration? TRAGIC!
Kids did not understand the concept or reason behind Ramadan. It was not a topic discussed in school. On the other hand, other holidays and religious days were recognized in school, but not Ramadan or Eid in my case. As I grew older, more Muslim students began to appear, so thankfully I was not always going through the #RamadanStruggle alone.
High school, however, was the start of the judging and finger pointing. If someone you knew was not fasting and they were Muslim, they were automatically a “horrible person.” As for the ones who did fast, every day you had a non-Muslim friend asking you the following:
- “Want gum?”
- “Can you just take a sip of water?”
- “Are you allowed to chew gum?”
- “How long do you have to starve for?”
- “Why can’t you eat?”
- “How do you manage to not eat? I’d DIE if I had to do this!”
- “So, a girl does not have to fast if she’s on her period?”
- “Oh! Sorry, I forgot you’re fasting.”
- “When does fasting end?”
…. and the list can go on
As you become older and more mature, fasting becomes even harder in my opinion. You experience things as an adult, and you participate in activities that are not allowed during the month of Ramadan. You also change, physically, emotionally, and mentally. You are no longer a child with little to no stress. You are not being fed by parents; you are responsible for feeding yourself — and now possibly a husband and/or a child.
You have more responsibilities that can put physical and mental stress on a person. All of this, as well as not being able to release frustration through food, can become overwhelming. While you’re a child, you don’t understand the true meaning and concept of Ramadan and fasting. As you mature, you are informed of the do’s and don’ts. Here are the following don’ts:
- No cursing
- No listening to music (especially the kind that has curse words and explicit content)
- No watching TV shows or movies that include adult content/heavy language/nudity
- You cannot be intimate with your spouse until the fast has been properly broken
- No smoking
- You cannot gossip or back bite against someone (speak negatively of them)
- No cheating, lying, slandering, gossiping, accusations, or spreading rumors
- No wasting or overspending
- No laziness or oversleeping (fasting is meant to be participated in, not avoided by sleeping the entire time)
- Not to forget the less fortunate (poor)
- Do not get angry, insult others, or lose control
… and I am sure there are many more.
The best is when you are not fasting and people ask you why you are not fasting. Like, I’m sorry…is it any of your business? Last time I checked, it’s not cool for you to ask about someone else’s fast, or to even bring it up. The reason behind someone not fasting should have nothing to do with any other person. It is between GOD and that individual. Some people are embarrassed to answer while others (such as myself) will bluntly spell it out for the nosy people. You know, most females will experience a monthly period, which is not a switch you can turn off. So it is expected that for five to seven days —sometimes longer — we may not be fasting. If you’ve attended schools in the states, I’m pretty sure you’ve had health class where we learn about the reproductive system. It’s that class that teaches about periods that girls get at the on start of puberty. It is no hidden secret.
On the other hand, some people do not participate in Ramadan and fasting because they have a medical condition that places a physical stress on the individual. For about seven to eight years, I have gone to numerous doctors to explain why I am always fatigued and in pain. Daily activities that most people can complete, I struggle with. For the last seven to eight years, I struggled to participate in Ramadan. I am always tired. I experience many health issues when I do not stay hydrated and eat, which causes pain all over my body requiring me to take medication, or else I am debilitated. It is very stressful to have to go through Ramadan with a health condition, as most people want to complete this holy requirement and please GOD, but you feel somewhat guilty when you cannot.
While this has been my personal struggle, I try to complete Ramadan in other forms, such as feeding the less fortunate. A part of me feels like it is not enough, though. I am hard on myself as it is, and essentially people do not make it easier on your guilty conscious when they are always giving you the look of disappointment, and it feels as if they are frustrated with you and your limitations.
With all of this being said, I love Ramadan and the meaning behind it. Aside from dealing with a monthly visit that seems to be the topic of discussion “ONLY DURING RAMADAN,” I can happily say that Ramadan truly does bring a community together. Families are more likely to eat dinner together rather than eating at different times of the day. Friends are more likely to be available to hang out and possibly grab dessert after the fast has been completed. You are able to enjoy people’s company because this is a time to come together.
Ramadan was not placed on Muslims to be a form of punishment. It was to teach Muslims to be humble and grateful, in remembrance of God and the Holy Quran. I’ll end by saying Ramadan Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters! May this year of fasting be easy on all of you, may you become closer to God and obtain many blessings this year and the years to come! AMEEN!