Ramadan marks a month of fasting for Muslims where they abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and greatly important to the faith. The dates for Ramadan follow the lunar calendar, so the month of Ramadan falls on a different season each year. When Ramadan is held in winter months, the days are short so the fasting is a bit easier. But when Ramadan takes place in June, you better get used to being hungry and thirsty.
10:45 am Ramadan begins for me with accidentally sleeping in, then waking up slowly with a few cups of coffee. Traditionally, Muslims awake early before dawn to eat their first meal of the day, known as Suhoor. When the sun rises, they begin their fast for the day. During days of fasting, Muslims do not even drink water, must less coffee.
11:15 My mother cancels lunch plans with me, saying that she is going to fast in solidarity with Muslims today for Ramadan. I think this is a fantastic idea, and my mind starts weighing out the pros and cons of partaking in it myself.
Googling “Ramadan” I find that the president of the US has commented on the beginning of the fasting period, by bringing up recent suicide bombings in Britain. He does not mention the Muslims in the Middle East who have recently been killed by drone attacks and military bombings. He does not mention the recent cholera outbreak in Yemen that is a direct result of the US funding the Saudi Arabian military.
11:30 I decide to participate in Ramadan, if only as a big fuck you to Trump. But mostly as a form of solidarity and attempt at learning about a religion different from the one I grew up in, and the people who make up that religion.
In addition, as my stomach starts to rumble, I realize that I am feeling similar to the way the migrants in the Washington Tacoma detention center felt on their first day of their hunger strike. The way the current hunger Palestinian hunger strikers in Israel are feeling.
Since it is summer, and since this is my first time trying to fast, I have decided to alter my Ramadan fast to abstaining from food, but allowing myself to drink.
1:00 pm I’m starting to waver. I don’t actually have to do this, I’m not Muslim, no one will know if I just don’t do it, right? My thoughts begin to wander as I begin to think about pizza. I haven’t had pizza in a long time…
I get a text from my Mom telling me why she decided to participate in Ramadan this year:
“This young lady at the mosque told me that the point of Ramadan is to get closer to god when you are at your lowest…hungry, tired even miserable…and to trust in him. When we are at our lowest and hungry like the poor of the world as well, this is solidarity. “
Community and family are so essential in helping one to follow through on hard things. I can see how fasting for the month of Ramadan would help if everyone around you was also fasting, and how hard it would be if you were the only one fasting.
When I worked at a refugee resettlement agency last year, many of my coworkers were Muslim. One day we had a staff meeting, and the executive director bought lunch for everyone. The Muslim workers participated in the meeting still, while watching everyone else eat. I wanted to feel that solidarity this year.
2:00 pm I go running for the first time in a very long time, and I feel very present in my body. The sun is out, and I am sweating. This definitely would not be a good idea if I were abstaining from water during the day, but since I’m not, I run hard. It feels good, and I feel like I can achieve more than I thought I could before- sometimes it’s a matter of mind over body. I drink a glass of orange juice when I return home, to add some sugar into my body and energy for the rest of the day.
3:00 pm I go out and buy supplies to make homemade pizza. I’ve been really picky about food over the past year, and feeling hunger is reminding me that it’s a privilege to be able to be picky. I knew this before, of course, but feeling the actual hunger fills me with a sense of presence and placement in where I am at in my life. It allows time for reflection, almost like hitting a pause button.
While driving, I think about how for Muslims, 1/12 of their life is spent feeling this feeling of hunger and thirst (as they fast once a month every year). I wonder how this would affect the way Muslims ability to empathize and understand the plight of the poor, the hungry, the lost. I begin to like this twinge of hunger within me similar to when you get a new tattoo- the pain feels good in that you know that you are growing. Not only are my thoughts going in new directions today because of the fasting, but also I’m experiencing a feeling that I hear about, but hardly ever experience. I’m learning.
6:00 Being hungry has quickly lost its thrill, and is now becoming a dull burden to bear. I almost break fast and tear into a loaf of bread, but I hold myself back. Instead, I crack open a beer. Which is most definitely not appropriate to drink during Ramadan, much less any other time during the year for Muslims. But I’m still abstaining from food, which was my original goal for today, so in my mind today is still a success.
My boyfriend Carp makes dough for the pizza we’re having for dinner. I’ve absolutely never put this much thought into making dinner before- usually it’s rice and beans- not a homemade pizza dough with marinara sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese.
9:00 p.m. I’m out on my front porch, watching for the sun to go down. As soon as it passes the horizon, I run inside and take the steaming pizza out of the oven. The meal at the end of the fasting day is known as Iftar, and it is good.
Did I do Ramadan perfectly right? Definitely not the way an imam would explain it, I’m sure. But solidarity and attempts at understanding another’s perspective are usually welcome, especially at a time when the president of our country is actively standing in opposition to a people who make up 24% of the world’s population.
There were people saying that if Trump was elected in America, they would convert to Islam to stand in solidarity with the Muslims of the world. Apart from fasting though, it takes a lot of learning to actually convert to Islam. One must learn what being a Muslim involves, read Islamic scripture, speak with an imam, say the Shahada (the declaration of faith) with witnesses present, wash and purify yourself immediately after coming into the faith, and continue to live according to Islamic principles.
Though we may not convert to Islam, the next thirty days are a chance to experience part of what being Muslim is about. A chance to see what our Muslim brothers and sisters are experiencing during the long summer days. If you’re not religious you don’t have to be mindful of god, but be mindful of the hunger and suffering that is facing much of the world today, even though we in America throw away food. Be mindful of the people who are fasting right now across the world, and our relationship as human beings together.