Fasting

August 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm (Christianity, Islam, personal, Ramadan, religious practices)

I am going to try and fast Ramadan this year. I’ll take a bit of time off work to make it a little easier and allow me to get more reading done.

I am looking forward to the challenge, but also knowing that there is a high chance I will fail at some point. I have fasted whole days in the past, but never more than one day in a row. I think I have to be realistic about the fact that my willpower might give out, and resolve to not get downhearted if it happens, but pick myself up and try again the next day.

When I joined the pentecostal church at 19, and I got to hear about fasting, it was so new and radical to me. I remember being in a conversation about fasting, and being brave enough to ask the “why” question – at which point an uncomfortable silence fell as their faces clocked the realisation that there was an impostor in the ranks! It had just never been a part of my prior Church of Scotland experience. Traditional church gives people a really easy ride.

I enjoyed fasting with the church. I experienced it as stepping out of my comfort zone to reach out to God. I learnt to fast off my own bat when I felt the need, too. Unfortunately my fast was always part of a supplication for something specific. I had learnt that fasting was a tool in badgering God for what I wanted, which sowed seeds of disappointment. Is fasting for the hope of a reward in the afterlife any better? I suppose it is better, but the best motivation would be just to please God and grow more conscious of God, I think.

So now, I simply intend on breaking my enslavement to satiety; experiencing in a renewed way my fragility and utter dependence on sustenance; rediscovering gratitude for the simple fulfilment of a simple need. God knows I take so much for granted.

I want to choose the path of hope and enlightenment. I don’t want to be told I can’t do it by anyone, not even the voice in my head.

I want to choose the path of hope and enlightenment. I tried, I had setbacks, I get bogged down with worries over the details of religion… but I’m still trying.

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15 Comments

  1. Jasmine said,

    Wow! So happy to hear that Sarah!
    You dont have to fast whilst you are menstruating. I usually continue doing what I am doing unless I get really uncomfortable, feeling that if I am able to work, cook, clean etc then I am able to do everything else as well
    With the fast as well, after day 3 you forget about food. Fasting is easier than dieting in fact: no thinking – just..well….fasting!
    Peace and blessings to you Jasmine ;0)x

  2. Aynur said,

    Yes I’ve found that after a few days, I get into a routine. I actually like Ramadan for the fact that I eat with hubby in the morning – normally I don’t since he goes to work early.

  3. Candice said,

    That’s great! I am fasting Ramadan for the first time too this year. I hope it goes well but I’m scared it won’t and I’ll get discouraged about it.
    About mensturation, I hadn’t given it much thought but right now I feel like I am allowed to fast while menstruating, but it is just not obligatory for me to do so. I feel like it’s allowed since we have to make up the days missed. If they were missed, it’s because we could have fasted them… That’s what I make of it.

  4. Sarah said,

    I have noticed that women who are pregnant tend to fast if they feel able. And yet women tend to stop for their periods. This made me think it was a case of not being allowed/the fast not being valid during period or something.

    Jasmine – good to hear it’s easier than dieting! I’m not so good with the dieting.
    Aynur – eating with hubby in the morning is a good point, I think I shall enjoy that too.
    Candice – I think it’s OK to not do everything perfectly from the word go. It will be hard since we’ve not been doing it all our lives. There seem to be a few of us on the blogs doing it for the first time so hopefully we can encourage each other a bit!

  5. susanne430 said,

    It seems you are not allowed to fast or pray while having your period. I did a quick Google search and found this.

    http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080903091626AAmhRsX

  6. Sarah said,

    Thanks, Susanne. Quite a variety of answers were given on that site! There seem to be three basic opinions:
    (1) periods make you unclean and it’s forbidden to fast/do ritual prayer/approach Quran during them
    (2) periods make it difficult to fast/do ritual prayer so you are exempt during them
    (3) periods make no difference (Quran-only view).

    I’m not sure where I stand. I suppose number (1) has Judaic roots, so it seems quite likely that it would have been upheld, but then I’m not sure whether I believe in it on that or any other basis.

  7. NeverEver said,

    I will be a first time “faster” this year too, inshaAllah!!

    I’m curious to know this too, as I’m not really sure when we start back up again or what the reason is for missing fasts and such.

    Excellent post, and excellent question!

  8. Sarah said,

    Salam NeverEver, thanks for commenting. If you find out anything more, please let me know!

  9. ellen557 said,

    Yaaay!!! My first time was last year and it was great! It’s a wonderful experience and you will (I promise) have the willpower to do it, because after a day you just get into it. It’s fun, too.
    Re the menstruating… I always stop and only start again after I’m done. I know this site that I’m giving you is a Shia, but the section to read is general advice so you’re fine to follow it. Go to http://www.leader.ir and go to FAQ and “newly asked questions” and the rest of the Q&A stuff (on the sidebar) and you will find more indepth q&as related to periods + fasting/prayer. It helps to check it out because sometimes there is (yep I’m going to say it hah!) discharge after finishing and such and it’s good to be able to clarify that it’s fine to start fasting again without making ghusl again.

    And I wouldn’t trust yahoo answers with anything related to religion, many people who offer answers are very misinformed (I had a crap time there last year).

    Anyway, Ramadan is beautiful. The hardest thing for me (and it will be even harder this year) is feeling like I’m not doing it 100% because I’m not Muslim. But then God sees all that we do so that’s no reason not to do it (speaking to myself now hah).

    Sorry for the long comment! Just wanted to try and share how wonderful you really will feel during it. Word of advice though: don’t make your iftars (dinner after a day of fasting) massive or you’ll become an oompa loompa (I only just lost the weight I gained last year hahah eek). I hope you enjoy fasting! ūüėÄ

  10. Sarah said,

    Hey Ellen,
    don’t apologise… I love long comments! It’s good to hear that Ramadan is so enjoyable and not so difficult. I know lots of Muslims say that, but I always wondered if it was some sort of Islamic bravado. ūüėČ Hearing it from you guys gives me more confidence.
    I can’t see myself overeating because I’m too afraid of vomiting – actually that should have gone on my 10 honest things – I have a phobia of vomiting!
    Going without water is the thing I think will be most difficult, and so I think I will want to drink quite a bit in the evening and early morning. If that means I eat less, I think that will be OK. My husband always says forget water and go straight to the food first otherwise the water will fill me up and I won’t be able to eat… but honestly the first thing I want to reach for is a glass of water! In fact make that a whole jug!
    Thanks for the link. I had a look but I didn’t find exactly what you mentioned. I will have another look later when I have more time. Thanks as well for being candid – knowing when to start fasting again is the problem, and it’s difficult to find advice that goes into that. I’m thinking the exemption/prohibition for fasting during menstruation can’t be about being ritually unclean, because you don’t have to be in wudu all day while you’re fasting (if that were even possible). So it must be about the hardship of it. I’m still not sure if it’s exemption or prohibition, and if prohibition, at what point the period is considered to have ended. So I’ll have another look at that site.

  11. Sarah said,

    http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543620

    It is about the hardship, and not about being unclean. HOWEVER praying and fasting is prohibited, not merely exempted. Why would that be, when ill or pregnant people are exempted and not prohibited, nor are they prohibited from touching the Quran?

    This view about women not touching the Quran during menstruation is clearly nothing to do with hardship, so it seems to me that there is a very confused mixture of traditions going on. No source may explicitly say that women are unclean, but that seems to be the implication of these other traditions that prohibit women from worship.

  12. Sara (cairo, lusaka, amsterdam) said,

    Congrats on your decision to fast this year! Good luck!
    Last year was my first time fasting after “becoming a Muslim” (well I was born one but still :P) and it was hard because it was sooo hot in Egypt. This year I think will also be hard cause in Holland Maghrib is around 9 pm. So fasting is about 17-19 hours (!!).
    The hardest part in Egypt was not being able to drink in 40 degree Celsius weather but I think here it’ll be not having any energy for almost the whole day. After 5-6 hours I usually don’t have a lot of energy left and that’s an annoying feeling.
    That said, it really is an amazing spiritual experience. Fasting without the religious belief makes it easy to stop or not do the whole month, but if you believe in it it gets much much easier.
    Good luck and let us know how it goes!

    • Sarah said,

      Sara: Edinburgh’s fasting hours will be around 4am till 8pm. It’s about the same as Holland I think because you are roughly the same latitude (but your clock is an hour ahead of us). I’m telling myself it’s just like having an early breakfast, skipping lunch, and having a later dinner. Doesn’t sound so bad that way.
      Good luck to you too, with the longer hours this year!

  13. Achelois said,

    How was your Ramadan? Did you enjoy it?

    • Wrestling said,

      I enjoyed feeling that hey, I can do this!
      I can’t say it was special in any other way as my hub left me alone for the second half and I didn’t have any fasting friends I could eat with.

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