Earlier I told you all about Ramadan and what it is. You can read more about it here.
Ramadan is a really exciting time for Muslims. It provides a dedicated time to meditate and focus on yourself and your faith and bring faith back to its simplest form.
But you want to know what the typical day is really like.
Since we have to wait for the sighting of the moon, the first day of Ramadan is never certain. So on the maybe-this-is-the-first-day day, I get up and nervously walk around the house, being really aware of my actions and making sure I don’t do something stupid like shove food in my mouth until I’ve checked my phone and Facebook and WhatsApp and Google to see what the rest of the Islamic world is doing. Although I may be certain that no one else is fasting, this uncertainty lasts until about midday. So it’s like a half-fast.
On the first real day of Ramadan, I get up just before sunrise and brush my teeth and have a bit of water. I pray and crawl back into bed. I wake up properly in the morning and almost accidentally put things into my mouth about 20 times.
Many others choose to wake up for suhoor, that is, a breakfast before sunrise to prepare for the day. My aunt regularly talks about how she would roast a chicken every evening for my cousin to have for breakfast at 5am. People usually have whatever they usually would for breakfast. I feel like doing this actually makes me hungry during the day – so it’s easier for me to go from dinner to dinner each day.
So! I get myself ready and head to work. I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty. I mean, I don’t usually have breakfast so there’s no difference yet. As it gets closer to lunch time, I think about lunch and what I’m going to have. Then I realise that won’t happen. Oops. It’s okay, I just focus on whatever I’m doing.
The amazing thing is that sometimes I go the entire day without eating anything or even realising that I haven’t – you get busy and forget. But when I’m Ramadaning and actively not eating and drinking, I can’t stop thinking about how I’m not eating or drinking.
It’s around midday when my tummy goes ‘OI. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING. STOP IT.’ This is around the time that I’d usually be eating something. Nope, keep going. Later in the afternoon, you start realising that this might just be a longer day than expected. You start telling yourself it’s fine. You ain’t even hungry. You take a quick look at a prayer time chart to see what time maghrib (or sunset) is. There’s usually a prayer around this time, and although you might know on regular days that maghrib is at about 5pm but in Ramadan, I promise you, we all know it to the exact second. Then you think… hmm… what if that maghrib time is wrong. I better Google ‘sunset’ and just double check.
Whether you’re fasting in summer or winter, that last hour feels like the worst. And then the last 15 minutes. And although you could probably fast for another couple of hours without it actually hurting, you tend to do some sulking.
All day, you’ve been fantasising about eating and how amazingly delicious whatever you’re going to eat will be and how you’re going to eat everything. When it’s time to eat, it never happens because you get full pretty quickly. It is traditional to break your fast with some milk and dates, so that’s what I do. I will usually have some soup to go easy on my tummy and then whatever I would have usually had for dinner. It’s amazing. Granted, many will just slowly eat for the entire night so that really, they haven’t missed out on anything.
It’s an interesting time to figure out what actually being hungry feels like. Sometimes you can go the whole day and realise you haven’t been hungry. Just thirsty. Other days there are physical pains and you realise – crap. There are people who live their entire lives like this, suffering from meal to infrequent meal.
During the day, most Muslims will dedicate time to worship, including reading the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Many of us will try to read the entire Quran during the 30 days. This is a fabulous way to refresh your knowledge and understanding of religion. Many will spend a majority of the night in prayer, including Tarawih Prayers at the mosque which aim to complete the Quran during the month. People will of course have their own special traditions – this year I’m going to attempt to answer some common questions about Islam.
There is a real sense of community during the month. People invite each other over for dinner, as there is a great honour in providing the meal for someone to break their fast with. My brothers and I even race each other to see who will give my parents their first date for the night. A lot of families also visit each other after iftar and hang out well into the early hours of the morning. Sometimes they will even hang out long enough to share their suhoor (or pre-sunrise breakfast) together! It truly is a beautiful time. I’ve had many aunties attempt to feed me roast chicken, grilled meats, fabulous pasteries and spiced rices for breakfast.
The first few days of Ramadan are a little physically uncomfortable, but it doesn’t take long for you to adjust and then it becomes part of your routine. You realise how fortunate you are to be able to eat your three meals a day and drink your clean, fresh water. You realise how much you spend on your meals and how simple it would be to eat for less and use the rest of the money to support someone else who is less fortunate. But it’s so much more than remembering the importance and simplicity of helping others.
In fasting for 30 days in a row you are reminded of your own capabilities. If you are able to refrain from eating and drinking – a need, a requirement to stay alive – then you are able to refrain from being a negative nancy. You are able to refrain from talking badly about people, from lying or cheating. From being a lesser person than you really are. You are able to see that if you focus and find a centre, your clarity, you are able to apply the same patience to your day to day life.
Instead of wasting an unnecessary amount of time on worldly pleasures, you are able to stop and self reflect. Have you become a little snarkier than usual? Have you become impatient? Have you been judging people’s actions? Have you stopped looking at everything through a positive lens? Are you holding on to any unnecessary hate, pain and anger? Be honest with yourself.
I’ll be honest with you – I know I have. I know that I’ve been jumping to the worst conclusions instead of jumping to the best, like I used to. I don’t know if I’ve been worn down by an awfully tough year or if this is just part of growing up, but I am currently not entirely the person I want to be. So I promise you that this Ramadan, I will focus on taking a deep breath, remembering who I really am and bringing that woman out from underneath that pile of rubbish.
Whether or not you’re Muslim, whether or not you’re fasting this Ramadan – I want you to do the same thing, I want you to self-reflect with me. I want you to remember who you always wanted to be and to be this person. I want you to take the positive lessons that Islam teaches of helping others and do it. It only takes a moment and will cost you a few dollars. Bake for the people you love, give to charities and just be an all round amazingly kick-ass human being. A little bit of good from us all will go a long way.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous Ramadan and pray that you find what it is you need to be the best human you can be.
Next up – Ramadan: Is it Dangerous?
Want to keep up to date with new posts?