Ramadan can be a daunting experience for any Muslim: young, old or new convert! When I first learned about the way that Muslims fast in Ramadan, I said “You do WHAT?!” I simply couldn’t believe that it was possible to refrain from food and drink for the entire day, and be nice about it!
I still remember my first day of fasting. I was not yet a Muslim, but wanted to attempt to fast in solidarity with my Muslim friends. I was unsure how to prepare myself, but a dear friend coached me through the experience quite well. I managed to complete the whole day, and was stunned and proud that I survived.
Fasting offers the opportunity to learn many important lessons about oneself, one’s life and Islamic spirituality. It is a beautiful time that is designed to encourage growth. What follows are lessons learned, and helpful advice from family and friends on the adventures of fasting.
Prepare during Shaban (The month before Ramadan in the Islamic calendar)
- Take some time during the month to cut down and/or stop any bad habits that would make fasting difficult, such as smoking.
- Begin slowly reducing the amount of food you eat during the day. Instead have a larger meal in the evening.
- With doctor approval, adjust the schedule of the medications you may take daily in order to consume them before you start fasting or after you break your fast.
- Try fasting during Shaban until midday prayer; then afternoon prayer, etc. until you are able to reach prayer at dusk.
- Whatever you do, do not panic! The hunger pangs will come and go. Be assured that you will not be hungry for the whole day. Keep yourself busy and distracted to help pass the time. Fasting successfully is about mind over matter.
- Fast from the heart! Dedicate every moment, every discomfort, every breaking of the fast to The All Mighty (exalted be He). Be willing to change your schedule, make sacrifices, slowdown your pace and focus on pleasing God.
- Wake-up and eat a good, healthy pre-dawn meal which is also known as suhur. This is from the Prophetic example, and has been proven to be a critical survival tool for many. Without the pre-dawn meal or suhur, you are actually fasting much longer than necessary. This can be accomplished by simply drinking lots of water or eating.
- Recite the Qur’an and make dhikr, praising God, during the fast. Use the time to help yourself get closer to God.
- If you feel very tired and groggy and cannot take a nap, make wudu or go for a walk outside. In short, keep moving. Activity will give you energy. Some people even exercise in the last hour before breaking the fast.
- If you get a headache during the day, find a quiet place for a nap. Increase your fluids in the evening. Be sure to take drinks that do not have too much caffeine or sugar! Both will leave you thirsty and dehydrated.