As a non-Muslim living in a Muslim country like Egypt, where the value of religious teachings is greatly integrated with the value of traditions—so much that no values now remain, I had not fasted for the past 7 years. At the age of 18 when my life and the political and social atmosphere were different, not allowing so much freedom, I had to lie all Ramadan long and fake my fast, by the age of 20 it was a whole new era and "openly violating Ramadan fast" as Dar al-Efta calls it was something that was becoming somewhat socially acceptable.
Ramadan according to Islam is a month when Muslims get to practice abstention in all manners of life; to restrain oneself from human desires such as eating, drinking, having sex and entertaining, and have a taste of life at its very least. It is Allah's way to teach his followers how to train themselves to dispose all mundane matters and advocate only to his worship and contemplation.
How far are Muslims diverting from that truth nowadays! Ramadan's spirit in most Arab countries is now all about how much food we can get on our tables by the time of Iftar. It is now about drinks and desserts and the endless hours spent watching lame TV shows being aired every hour of the day. It is now about spending much more money that we can afford on family gatherings, and wasting tons of food that the poor eventually pick up from the garbage. It is now about the millions spent on commercials, money that is being stolen from us all year long by mobile networks like Vodafone and other sinister corporations , and we always seem to accept and even welcome the mockery capitalism is making out of us. Ramadan is now about overstraining, not restraining.
I've read so much about the health benefits of fasting and how much it affects our physical and mental wellbeing, but never had I before last week decided to give it a try. Over the past year I've grown attached to things and my desire for food and sex was immerse and unstoppable. I keep/kept remembering days when my soul clung to nothing but the presence of the moon and the stars and the fact of how small I am, and I want that feeling back; the sense of liberty of the desire to possess.
After a 4-day retreat in Dahshour, away from Cairo's noise and close to myself, I realized my only need at the time was to dispose what I am and what I have in order for my soul to purify and my calm and peace are back to me again. Ramadan came soon after and so did a revelation: I have to fast!
|Ardi, an eco-village in Dahshour|
On Ramadan 1st I wasn't thoroughly into the idea, all the food in our fridge was calling me to devour every bit of it and I could not resist. It's then when I got really agitated at myself; why couldn't I resist? It's just food, and decided it was time to free myself.
On Ramadan 2nd, I fasted entirely; meaning no food, no water, no sex, no bad language, and no single desire fulfilled. It was difficult, and on many occasions I was about to break the fast since I was thirsty after a trip to my mother's place. The smell of her cooking filled the house, the day was long and boring and I had to fall asleep to spare myself the thirst and hunger that filled my body to the bones.
At sunset (Iftar time) there was a lot of water drinking until I was almost full, and then too little eating. I was content with that result. I felt I did succeed at curbing my desires although it was tiring and hard.
The 3rd day of Ramadan was almost the same, fasting while paying my in-laws a visit, only this time the trip was horrible. It took my husband and I 2:30 hours to get there, and the heat was unbearable. When we finally got there I was so dehydrated I couldn't stand up. I was dizzy and shaky, which meant I'd lost too much water (thanks to climate change and Cairo's traffic). It fortunately felt better after an hour of rest in a cool room. At Iftar, there was too much food and too little eating.
The night was the most interesting part, on our way home no conversation was held between me and my partner, giving me the chance to think properly of what effects the fast could have on me. I already felt a change within me that I knew was about to change a lot about my current state of mind. I was ready to become calmer and more accepting, putting my place as a human into perspective. I was ready to let go of the things I thought were important in my daily life to make it easier. Whatever anger I held toward the world was not going to go away by excessive indulgence in food and possessions.
Yesterday, the 4th day of Ramadan, I'm at home with my partner working and cooking. We both agreed we should encourage each other to fast during Ramadan and after. We're doing good so far, I can feel our spiritual selves growing while being fed with patience, respect and gratitude.
Overall, after 3 consecutive days of fasting I feel much more calmer and healthier and more grateful for the things I've taken for granted for so long. I used food, coffee, cigarettes, sex and bad language to sooth my anger and it was not helping; in fact, it turned into an addiction of some sort—but I'm now happy for my soul to have started disposing the things it was attached to and yearned to possess, and for my mind to finally realize what it needs and what it doesn't.