Ramadan reflections on day 3

August 24, 2009 at 7:47 pm (God, Islam, personal, Ramadan)

Day 3, around 2 hours until iftar (breaking the fast).

I think the novelty has worn off and I realise that I don’t feel very good. Maybe part of it is that I’m sleeping very late in the morning, and that I’m not really going out much or “stretching my legs”. I planned to take this week off work, but now I’m wondering if going out to work might help distract me from the fasting and make me feel a bit better physically. The tendency to sleep is overwhelming – I feel like I can’t get up in the morning; I get sleepy in the late afternoon, and then again after eating! Then again, maybe I’m just making up for the sleep I lost last week due to (i) my work pace picking up, which made it hard for me to “switch off” and (ii) my nervousness/excitement about the coming of Ramadan.

Maybe I should go out to work. I was worried that the exertion of walking would cause my blood sugar level to drop, as this unfortunately happens quite often in normal life (reactive hypoglycaemia)… but refraining from high-G.I. foods lately has consistently stopped this from happening, and so far, I haven’t had a “hypo” while fasting either. Getting up earlier and going to work may make the fasting more difficult, but since tomorrow is day 4, it should be getting easier anyway.

After congratulating myself for getting through two consecutive days, which is more than I’ve ever done and was by no means a foregone conclusion to me, I guess it’s now starting to dawn on me that there’s a bigger challenge here than merely getting through an individual day or two: getting through a whole month. That challenge has only just begun. Being in it for the long haul is always difficult for me. I guess I’m just weak like that.

Today I’m hungrier than ever. I can see myself getting very tired of feeling this way, and also, of waking at 3am to pack more food and water into my bloated belly. Actually it’s strange to experience these two extremes of satiety, each night and day. It is like summer and winter, each one impossible to imagine while in the midst of the other; yet experiencing them both within each 24 hour period.

At least I know that soon I will have what I ache for, at any given time, whether it’s the comfort of food, a slick of thirst-quenching water, or relief from an over-full stomach. And so maybe the trick is to take each day at a time, looking forward only to the next phase of this daily cycle between extremes. Maybe this is the key to the “long haul” approach I need to develop towards so many challenges in life. Perhaps fasting Ramadan will teach me this and more.

My Ramadan aims, modest in comparison to many bloggers I’ve seen, are (i) to fast and (ii) to read my way through the monstrously big and heavy Muhammad Asad translation of the Quran (which is difficult even to sit and hold when weak with fasting!) I am on target with this so far, but again, looking at its size overwhelms me to the task. I find myself wanting to run ahead of schedule with it, to get to a point where it doesn’t daunt me so much, but realistically there’s a limit to how much I can read and understand in a day.

I am taking notes, including noting down things that challenge me; such as the idea that we are tested by God for patience in adversity, and the radical non-materialism demanded of us. Overall I am finding these long heavy surahs in the beginning quite hard because they are not like one continuous story. Also confusing is that it seems to end passages with things like “Verily, God is [X], [Y]” which don’t seem obviously connected to the passage. Maybe it is too deep for a superficial read. The other thing that is repeated a lot is the notion of rewards for belief and good deeds, and of punishment for lack thereof. All religions seem to require belief in God in order to obtain God’s favour, and this is something I’ve always had difficulty understanding. If God wants us to believe in Him, has He given all of us the means to believe? The Quran talks of clear proof and evidence through the ages, through prophets and scriptures and miracles, so I suppose its answer is “yes”. I still don’t know how one can read a scripture and know it’s from God just based on the content. Maybe time will tell.

Is it a mystery how one comes to believe in God, and is not determined through logic? And what are the consequences, anyway? Is it only really possible to be righteous through believing in God? Are our actions always done for the pleasure of someone else, whether it’s another person or God? This is something I got from one part that I read today. If it’s true, then perhaps the fact that God sees everything we do and every thought and intention we have is what prompts us to be truly righteous… maybe that’s what it means? Maybe it reflects a cynical view of human nature whereby we need to turn ourselves towards a merciful God in order to become good.

Some things for me to think about! (I’m not addressing all these questions to readers, by the way, although feel free to share your view if you like!)

Less than an hour till iftar now 😀

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16 Comments

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

    Well, I have that over-full feeling now since I just had iftar so I don’t think I can tackle all those questions 😛 But I don’t think coming to believe in God is purely logical – it can’t be, because there are so many things about God and belief that can’t be explained in a “rational” or “scientific” way. That said, Islam certainly seems to be the most “rational” and “scientific” religion, from what I’ve read (about all religions) so far.

    Good luck with day 4 🙂

    • Sarah said,

      What a rambling, long post that turned out to be. lol. Thanks for reading. I definitely don’t think it’s just logic either. I think it’s a relationship with God, and that can’t be just based on logic.
      Good luck to you too! 🙂

  2. Stacy said,

    I like how you described the hunger and fullness during Ramadan like summer and winter. Its very poignant and accurate too!

    I am struggling with some of my reading for Ramadan too. I’m struck in the Bible by how ungodly the Israelites were even though they saw verifiable miracles like the splitting of the Sea or the pillars of cloud and fire.

    I am also struggling to make sense of some of the teachings about marriage and divorce in the Quran. I’m actually just finishing a post about that now.

    In terms of simply believing in God, I think that I approach that more emotionally than logically. A lot of it has to do with seeing his presence in creation each day.
    In terms of figuring out what constitutes the word of God or what revelations can be trusted, I guess I’m leaving that more to my logic.

    Be blessed in your feasting and fasting!

    • Sarah said,

      Stacy, thanks for reading my long rambling post as well!
      I wonder what translation of the Quran you’re using? I like Asad for the footnotes, I would never get through it without them. Although it does mean it takes 3 hours to get through 1 juz, lol.
      Blessings to you too!

  3. Aynur said,

    Great post! 🙂 I’m pretty sleepy after eating, and my mind doesn’t seem to be working the best so I don’t have much to say. :p I need to do a posting for my own blog, hey I wanted to say if you would like to get an invite for my blog since it’s private now please e-mail me at aynurs.random.thoughts@gmail.com 🙂

    “If it’s true, then perhaps the fact that God sees everything we do and every thought and intention we have is what prompts us to be truly righteous… maybe that’s what it means?”
    ~I think probably, but even so there are many Muslims who act superficially pious but then when they’re alone at home when no one can see them they won’t pray, or fast, etc etc (from what I’ve heard) … don’t they realize that God sees everything and knows everything? So who are they fooling?

    I need to work on reading the Qur’an, it’s already been a few days into Ramadan and I haven’t tackled it yet.

    • Sarah said,

      Aynur – the type of people you mentioned might be an example of religious belief “not working” for them, but on the other hand, maybe they don’t truly believe, or don’t think seriously about it anyhow. I think in every religious tradition people like to show off how spiritual they are, even though they’re not supposed to strive for other people’s approval. But as you say, they aren’t fooling God!

  4. Sarah said,

    Day 4: went out for a good walk. Didn’t get shaky, and actually feel a lot more alert and “normal” since then, and less hungry too.
    It occurred to me that I might be missing caffeine, that might be partly why I was feeling so sleepy lately.

  5. Sarah said,

    Day 5: I’m ill! I’ve felt a cold coming on for several days, but now it’s really kicked off. I feel more desperate for water today because of that. I will just have to see how it goes. So annoying!

  6. susanne430 said,

    Congrats on making in through these fasting days so far although I’m sorry you have a cold! Blah!

    You asked some great questions. I’m sorry I didn’t read your post until now. Maybe you have come up with answers to them at this point.

    Like Stacy mentioned I’ve often wondered at those Israelites who constantly grumbled and were fearful IN SPITE OF all the proof of God’s faithfulness that they saw. It reminds me how quickly we can forget God’s goodness and blessings .. I certainly am prone towards forgetfulness especially when troubles crop up and unsettle my life!

    I won’t delve into all your queries, but I believe God gives us light to know about Him. HE opens our spiritual “eyes” to see Him and know Him. The Bible talks of us being dead in our sins and He quickened us — or made us alive. King David mentions being in a miry pit so I often think of God as “the Hand” that pulls us out of that pit of sin and darkness, cleans us and sets our feet on the Rock. (see Psalm 40:2)

    You wrote: “Maybe it reflects a cynical view of human nature whereby we need to turn ourselves towards a merciful God in order to become good.”

    Exactly! Check out the first few verses of John 15. This is exactly what Jesus teaches. And remember when He speaks of “fruit” in those verses what the “fruit of the Spirit” is.

    22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5).

    Thanks for sharing what you are learning in your reading. Hope you feel much better soon!

  7. robert_9112 said,

    Nice read for day 3, hopefully you feel better soon!

    I’ve been a muslim now for 7 years (geez that made me think there) and im finding this fast the hardest. I think mainly due to the reason that my body is missing the water that i usually consume copious amounts of recently due to my training regime.

    From your read I feel that god has supplied us with the biggest tool, the brain, to find information out and explore what surrounds us in the world. Probably rambling here due to de-hydration!

    Luckily i have been off work so far this week so spent it trying to stay awake alot of the time! – im debating wether or not to fast tomorrow to try and restore some energy back to my body as im not feeling good.

    Keep updating the progress, are you muslim?

  8. Sarah said,

    Susanne and Robert, thanks for your comments. I’m still mulling things over! Brain is fuzzy today due to cold.
    Robert, you sound like me, trying to stay awake! I’ve taken days off work this week too, but I can’t take the whole month off. But I think I will be OK once I get rid of this cold. It did seem it was getting easier before I started feeling ill. I hope it gets easier for you the rest of the month!

  9. Candice said,

    I went through the same thoughts about belief in God… I didn’t even believe in God for a long time, even after I met my husband and got married. But I was interested in Islam a long time before that. Don’t know why, couldn’t explain it. But I was definitely lacking the belief in God. I wondered how a person could believe in God if they just didn’t. If we didn’t even have the capacity to believe (because I sure was trying!), then how was this fair?

    I came to the conclusion that concepts like good and truth are not only from God, but are God in some way. A person who embraces these ideas are embracing God as far as I’m concerned. But there are different ways and different levels.

  10. robert_9112 said,

    Taking the whole month off doesnt sound too bad to me 🙂 – just finished eating so thought id post a quick reply. Insha’Allah it will get easier for you as the illness starts to fade, my first day back at work today and it didnt go too bad, i think its more the sleep element thats proving a problem for me…zzzzzzz

    hope you feel better soon

  11. Sarah said,

    Day 6: had a horrible night, got up at 3am and decided not to fast today, at my husband’s suggestion. It would have been really hard without being able to take cold remedies and replace the water that I’m losing through my nose, lol. By this evening I feel a good bit better and so I will try to fast again tomorrow.

    Candice – I’ve always believed in God, but I also wonder how someone could come to believe if they just didn’t. I like what you say about recognising the existence of goodness and truth, and that being belief in God in a way (even if not expressed as such).

    Robert – I guess you must be in the UK or Ireland given the time at which you break fast. I’m in Scotland. 🙂 I think getting enough sleep AND enough food AND working is almost impossible with these long days. But hey, it’s only a month…

  12. robert_9112 said,

    I also like what you say about goodness and truth Candice, unfortunately there is not a lot of it left in this world…… I would say that I have become tainted and fallen into a less caring state as the years have rolled on.

    In terms of actually believing in God i have always looked at the world as a whole and everything around us, the concept of this all being by chance or there being no after life isnt something that ever sat with me even before i was muslim.

    Yep Sarah i am in London, well close enough, too true about it being a month. People in Africa etc have to go through this day in day out, so i shouldnt complain. Someone bough samaoa’s into the office today so it was really smelly.

    Keep up eating and drinking, maybe take some lemsip and try to flush the cold out of your system. Problem with eating and drinking at this kind of time is that when it comes to closing fast i feel full already 😦

  13. Achelois said,

    Ramadan is tough in the UK. So proud of you!

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