In order to gain a better perspective, I asked my good friend Usman to write about what fasting and Ramadan truly means to him. Here it is, enjoy.
When thinking of what to write about Ramadan, the following came to my mind;
Family, generosity, friends, selflessness, piety and determination.
These are the values that are more or less enshrined by a Muslim during the month of Ramadan while fasting. It is a reminder of everything worldly as a blessing from God. It is appreciating life and the sustenance provided to us. It is a time of coming together as friends and peaceful human beings, to overlook differences and be generous, merciful and calm. Ramadan is just a window into the life of how a Muslim should lead his/her life, and a practice that they should follow to be more respectful, generous, and selfless.
Fasting is not a unique concept in Islam, rather a common practice in the monotheistic religions and Hinduism. The underlying concept; to allow oneself to appreciate the value of food, the suffering of those less fortunate is similar among these religions with the difference lying in as to the duration and manners of observing them.
This is my second Ramadan away from home and is a time when there is no immediate family for me. There is a considerable difference from how fasting is done here and back home. Although this might be part of growing up and learning to live on my own, it is a reminder of how the things we take for granted should be valued.
In Pakistan, the family; and by Asian family standards I mean extended families, and relatives you never knew existed until now, are an important aspect during Ramadan. Working hours are considerably short which means people get to spend time with their family more than usual. It is a time when people host more feasts, a real festivity. It is a celebration of the life we have, and including those near and far in our celebrations. One thing I do not miss is the heat, even though fasts are longer due to long days in the summer in the UK, they are made bearable by the weather.
Food has a rather important role to play in forming families and cultures at home and sacrificing something that forms bonds, can make us really understand the importance of it and each other.
However, those values of generosity, friendliness, selflessness are translated across borders where friends have replaced family at iftar. There has not been a single day when I have not been blessed to break my fast without friends, furthermore I have been able to inspire a close friend to try fasting as a means of improving her eating habits.
While living in the UK, it is quite common to be with friends who aren’t fasting. It is definitely tempting to have the odd ice cream when it’s sweltering hot (like it recently was), grab a coffee while out in town, or go out for lunch with friends. It’s hard to describe how one feels when others are eating and you aren’t, but it’s something fasting teaches; to have a degree of self-control. Though my friends have been really accommodating and have asked permission in the past if they know that I am fasting, it makes it worthwhile to know that someone appreciates and respects your choice to fast.
The process of fasting is rather enlightening, humbling and more fulfilling than it might come across initially – with the thought of not having to eat or drink from dawn to dusk. Contrary to it, the body is instinctively capable to handle such prolonged periods of abstaining from food and water. It is completely eye opening and something worth experiencing yourself – just like my friend who believed it, tried it and hopefully benefited from it. If one can fast for a continuous period of time, one can be determined enough to do more than just fast.
I think having inspired one person to try to fast, even though for health reasons, is in my view an act of showing just how peaceful and beneficial the values of Islam are, and can have a positive effect on one’s outlook on life, and our purpose.