As Ramadan aproaches as Muslims we all feel a mixture of excitement and worry. We all worry for valid and various reasons. You may be feeling that right now. I sure am. For me the worry comes from different reasons each year.
This year it’s,”will I find it hard to fast and breastfeed under the hot summer sun?”
A few reverts have told me their worries about fasting for the first time and their reasons. As a revert of 5 years this will be my 5th Ramadan. Through my experience I know how worrying the whole thing can be.
How do I explain to my family?
How do I explain to my friends and work collegues?
After all, if they didn’t know you were Muslim before they certainly will now. Food is such a big part of life and people usually notice if your not eating.
So I planned on writing my 1st Ramadan story for new reverts to read and reasure them its not that bad.
The thing is I can’t remember it in any detail. What kind of story will this be? I went online and started reading other peoples stories. Some of them are awful and its all because of their bad diets. As a bit of a health freak and part vegetarian that doesn’t eat processed food and drinks mainly water I’ve not had these problems.
So here goes. Lets see what I can remember.
I know we woke up for Suhoor and prayed Fajr. Then I went back to sleep. That day I went to a kids party.
What a party. It was on a far away industrial estate that took 2 buses to reach. It was a typical kids party i.e a themed room with kids food. Not my kinda thing. What about the adults? We get hungry too!
So it was pretty easy to get away with not eating because no-one else was. At this point I wasn’t a full time hijabi either so nobody knew I was a Muslim. The party came to an end and everyone left. We walked outside and waited for the bus..and waited… and waited… none turned up.
It was a beautiful sunny day. I was lost and the sun was beating down on me. After 30 minutes or so I decided we should walk up the road and find another bus stop. We walked and walked and walked. There were none to be seen. I was getting worried about becoming dehydrated. The road had no trees, no buildings, no shelter. Just a wide open sunny landscape on the hottest day of the year and I was getting sunburn.
Eventually we found our bus after 40 minutes of waiting and wandering around . And you know what apart from that dry lip feeling I didnt feel too bad.
When Iftar came I can’t tell you the joy of that first glass of water. I wanted no food, my hunger had gone by then after 17 hours of nothing. I didn’t want anything fancy . I just wanted that first glass of beautiful refreshing tap water.
I don’t know why Allah put me in that situation on my first fast. But believe me it made me realise how amazing and resilient our bodies are. If I could get through that on the first day I could get through just about anything.
The rest of that Ramadan was pretty uneventful.
Even though I knew and had that brilliant experience the next few Ramadans were still worrying for me. The first two Ramadans my parents were on holiday for most of the month so I didn’t have the worry of telling them I was Muslim. The 3rd Ramadan I told them I was fasting. They were a bit surprised at first but Alhamdulillah they seemed to accept it with ease.
I work in a BIG cafe which involves alot of physical and dirty work. The kitchen is boiling and has no adequate air conditioning so you can just imagine how the sweat drips off you on a summers day. After 4 hours of none stop working in those conditions wearing hot clothing you can imagine how it must feel. But Subhanallah I could do a 17 hour fast and keep up with the busy pace. My work colleagues were shocked that I could work in those conditions without at least a glass of water. This just goes to show how amazing our bodies are.
I think the key is down to our intentions and our diets. I try and eat as clean as possible and drink only water and juice at home. (I wrote more in detail about that in “Ramadan Made Easy“.)
I posed the question in a Facebook group to some sisters.
“If you had one piece of advice to give to a new sister what would it be?”
Here are their responses:
“Its hard especially if your not normally a breakfast person but it really does help to wake up for sehri and eat even a little. It helps the stomach and you hopefully wont get the hunger pains too early in the day”.
“Take each minute at a time I found the whole day was too daunting at first (last year was my official first). Allah knows your intentions don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete a whole day.
Know when you do get into a rhythm your period will come an disturb your rythm it’s not your fault it’s a mercy from Allah.
Make sure you wake up for breakfast because honestly it will make it ten times worse. Get up an eat!! This is a mercy from Allah an one which will help big time.Don’t go out getting no big shopping, I promise you won’t eat it an then it will waste especially if you’ve brought the whole fresh fruit isle.
Make sure you drink loads before you start fasting an after ilftar. Dehydration causes the headaches.”
“Cut out all stimulants a week before hand this will make fasting much easier. So things like coffee, coke, sugar etc. When we start fasting and cut these foods out – the detox symptoms can be horrendous!
Yes and be mindful of what you eat at iftar. Nutritious foods, fruits, nuts, soups, grilled meats/fish.
Lots of people fast all day then eat dirty foods at iftar, defeats the point of Ramadan and doesn’t help your body one bit.”
“DRINK like your life depends on it at suhoor!”
and one I wished I had done,
“Journal every moment”.
Journaling you thoughts and feelings on such a special occasion could help you in so many ways and would be nice to look back on in the future. Have you every done this?
So the main points are eat and drink healthily before Ramadan in preparation. Eat and drink healthily during Ramadan.
If you want to practise before the big day you could try fasting ‘The White Days’ i.e every Monday and Thursday as this is Sunnah. Don’t overthink or worry too much. Allah is the best of planners and remember.
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can handle.”
Surah Baqarah 286
This year I do wonder how I will fast. My baby is 11 months old and still has milk 4-5 times during the day not to mention at night. When I feed him I need to have a drink and small meal after! It will be interesting to see if my body really does need all this food and drink or its just in my head. I seem to have no OFF switch anymore. I also won’t be working this year so I hope my days will still be full and out of the house to give me a distraction.
I am looking forward to seeing how my body reacts and changes whilst fasting. We always learn a lot about ourselves during this time. I am most looking forward to that community feeling that comes at this time of year. The fact that all the Muslims around me and all the Muslims around the world are in the same boat is an amazing feeling to be a part of.
I am also lucky to live around brilliant Muslim neighbours that support and feed each other. We also have a local masjid that provides Iftar every night so if you don’t want to cook you know where to go. The atmosphere there is something special.
But if you have none of these it really doesn’t matter as it will leave more space in your life to get closer to Allah.
This year I have two children instead of one so I have so much planned to make it an extra special time, which I haven’t really done before. I feel it is important for them have something Islamic to feel excited about and look forward to and having each other makes it all the more fun.
I hope this year we can all have a fun,relaxed and spiritual time, Inshallah.
Do you remember the first time you fasted?
What would your advice be to someone fasting for the first time?
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