During Ramadan, we often pat ourselves on the back for fasting, or think obsessively about the food we can’t eat, or stuff ourselves when we break the fast. But what about those who have no choice, who have no food, who have no one to help them? What are we doing to combat real hunger in this world?
I have a different approach. It’s based on the principle called “feast or famine.” I’ve been justifying my over-eating by telling myself that I’ll soon be going without food every day for a month, so I can afford to eat what I want to ahead of time.
Probably not the best way to prepare for Ramadan.
But you see, I don’t really know how to prepare for Ramadan. I’ve read a lot of advice, both about how to prepare and what to do (or not do) during Ramadan, and all I’ve come away with is the feeling that I’ll never measure up. The only way I know how to do this is to jump in feet first. Like when I’m trying to prepare myself for that first shock of cold water when I go swimming at the lake. Doing it a toe at a time and gradually working up to my head just prolongs the agony.
Not only am I going to stop eating for Ramadan (until after sunset, that is), but I’m also going to stop smoking. Completely. I only celebrated five days of Ramadan last year (I officially became a Muslim on the last day) and I quit smoking then as well. That lasted for about six months and then I started up again. This year I’m going to quit for good, inshallah.
I can’t say the same for eating, of course. In thirty days I’ll go back to eating during the day. But will I have learned anything from fasting? Will it teach me to permanently give up my obsession with food the same way that I’ll be giving up my addiction to nicotine? I pray that it will. I’m thirty pounds overweight (at least) and although that’s partly because of medicines I take and my the post-menopausal weight gain, I can’t hide from the fact that it’s also because I overeat. I love food. Especially ice cream and fresh-made bread. And I eat for the wrong reasons, mainly boredom and depression.
What I hope to accomplish during Ramadan is to give up my weaknesses to God. I know that I can’t develop my strengths as long as my weaknesses overpower me. Allah wants me to use my strengths (that He gave me) to do His will.
I guess what I’m really talking about is self-discipline. I know that Ramadan is about more than that. That it’s supposed to get me to concentrate on Allah and my fellow human beings. But I find that it’s hard for me to do that when I’m being controlled by bad habits.
So, for me, Ramadan is about seeing myself with Allah’s eyes. And listening to His voice. Only then will I have the power to change into a more faithful believer.
I will be praying for that. Hard.