It’s the time of the year again. It’s time for Ramadan – the time where Muslims all over the world fast from dawn till sundown.
It is a common perception that Ramadan is a month of tribulation and difficulty, and that sentiment does not appear to be limited to non-Muslims only. On my part I have heard about some of my Muslim brothers and sisters talking about how it will be difficult for them, or that they have to prepare for it.
Now, I find it to be a great mistake to consider Ramadan to be a source of difficulty and tribulation. The way I see it, it is a source of difficulty only if you want it to be. If all that matters about Ramadan to you is gluttony for sahur, hunger and thirst during the day, followed by more gluttony for iftar, then that is all that you will experience in Ramadan: a 30 one-day cycles of gluttony, hunger, and more gluttony.
Rather, one should see Ramadan as an opportunity. And by that I mean several kinds of opportunity, namely:
1. The opportunity to test your ability to teach yourself self-restraint and personal discipline by rejecting the temptation to chug that drink or eat that donut at 10 am.
2. The opportunity to be more charitable. Remember that charity is one of the tenets of Islam, and one should work towards becoming more charitable in this sacred month. See it this way: now that you don’t have to spend money on lunch, why don’t you just give your lunch money away on charity?
3. The opportunity to be healthier. From a scientific point of view, the fast during Ramadan is what is known as intermittent fasting (since we’re not going hungry the whole month – only 13 hours per day). And it has been proven by various controlled studies that there are many health benefits to intermittent fasting, ranging from an improved lipid profile (i.e. lower LDL cholesterol levels), reduced body fat levels, and an overall decreased mortality rate.
4. The opportunity to be a better person all round by remembering that fasting is not just about controlling your own hunger and thirst. It also has a lot to do with controlling your speech and actions, that is, to refrain from doing actions that hurt others.
The last point is especially important, for I feel that it is a point that is lost on many people who are fasting (and I admit, myself as well). Frankly the hunger and thirst is the easy part. The hard part is dealing with all the ‘small stuff’ that we’re supposed to care about but we normally don’t. Fasting is more than just about going without food and water for a few hours.
On that point too, I would like to take this opportunity to rail against one of the excesses of Ramadan: gluttony during the daily break of fast. I have always been critical of how Ramadan appears to be used by restaurants and the like as a means of promoting huge ‘Ramadan feasts’ and so on.
For one thing, these restaurants tend to cook up to 5kg of food per person….. when the average person can only eat 2kg at most. So something like 60% of all the food that gets cooked goes to waste. Gluttony and wastage of food certainly is never a good thing. All the more so in the holy month of Ramadan.
I don’t mean to preach, and I apologize if it sounds as though I am. Just some things I gotta get off my chest.