Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims around the world, commemorating the revelation of the Holy Quran that was revealed to Prophet Mohammad. For approximately 30 days, Muslims make fast, refraining from food and water. It is a time that is known for prayer, meditation, and reciting of the Holy Quran.
Every year, my family and I await the news of when Ramadan will begin, considering it is based on the Lunar Calendar, and specifically the moon sighting (looking for the crescent moon). Each night is an opportunity for quality time with family as we count down to sunset, and gather around the dinner table to break fast together.
As I reflect back on this time, I think of all the lessons I learned and how to implement these lessons into my everyday life.
This year Ramadan began on March 20th, and that day was quickly approaching. As the day came closer, I worried about how I would be able to last a whole month without coffee! I wasn’t too concerned about the food aspect, but I just knew I needed the energy from my morning coffee. Jeez, how would I find the energy to continue taking care of the house, the kids, and my work, all without a single drop of food or water?
Hold on. Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, I remind myself; it is a time to empathize with the less fortunate. Deep breaths. I will figure it out as each day passes. I remind myself that I am able to achieve this every year, and this year will be no different. God-willing I will be strong enough to carry through.
Walking With Intention
It’s always amazing to me how our intentions impact our behaviors. In Ramadan, millions of Muslims set out the intention to refrain from eating and drinking, something they couldn’t imagine doing at any other time of the year. Yet here we are for 30 days making the intention to fast from dawn to dusk, and somehow we get through it.
Before Ramadan began, my non-Muslim friend asked me to reiterate once again: ”Nothing, not even water? I don’t think I can do it!” As I answered her, I pondered on the idea that I could last a whole month with no food or water for approximately 15 hours, yet on a normal day I couldn’t even handle having less than three meals a day!
So what sets Ramadan apart from all the other days? My intention. My intention shifts my mindset from one that I need to eat and drink all day, to one of sacrifice for a greater purpose. I know that fasting will benefit me and for that reason, I choose to sacrifice and reap the benefits.
And so, this Ramadan, I learned to walk with intention for the rest of the year. I wanted to work on my passions and walk with purpose not only for Ramadan but every day; and Ramadan would be the perfect time to practice this. I will intend on following my dreams, being courageous, walking in my purpose each and every day, and I will watch the benefits unfold before my eyes.
Sacrifice + Self-Discipline
Another important lesson was sacrifice and self-discipline. From dawn to dusk we would sacrifice eating and drinking. This year, my 11-year-old son would also be fasting (although children are not obligated to perform fasting). Of course this wouldn’t be easy, but some of the biggest lessons would come from hardship.
The lesson of sacrifice would be such a beneficial one in a world that teaches us to be selfish. I watched him give up eating and drinking for 30 days and was in awe at his selflessness, self-restraint, and self-discipline. I was a proud mama that he was able to refrain from something so essential and foresee that he was participating in a greater purpose; pretty impressive for an 11-year-old boy.
Sacrificing food and water was a given, but the idea of giving things up was not limited to food. Muslims are also encouraged to give up bad thoughts, foul language, gossiping, and bad behavior. I, personally, had a goal of giving up self-limiting beliefs. This Ramadan in particular, I decided not only that I would sacrifice, but I would also add positive habits into my lifestyle. I thought of a future self filled with patience, courage, and ambition.
It may sound cliché, but you truly never know what you have until it’s missing. When we sacrifice eating and drinking, we also change our entire routine. This change in routine is a result of:
- staying up later for iftar (our evening meals after sunset)
- waking up early for prayer and suhoor (the meal before dawn)
- pouring time into prayer, supplications, and meditation
- making God a point of focus for the entire month
These changes give you a newfound appreciation for your everyday life. On my fasting journey, I made it a point to put my gratitude journal to use every day. It helped me recognize all the blessings that I am surrounded with, that I may have lost sight of. I am even more grateful now for all these blessings!
This gratitude is felt deeply even after Ramadan comes to an end. That first cup of coffee on the day of Eid (our post-Ramadan celebration) hits just a little differently than any other day! It’s the appreciation that comes from sacrificing something for so long and being so grateful for it when you have it again.
As soon as you can wake up and have breakfast for the first time after a month, something in your gut feels so appreciative of the meal on the table–for its rich flavors, the excitement of having a meal to begin your day, and the energy it gives you to get through your day.
Ramadan has taught me so many valuable lessons. It has ingrained in me sacrifice, gratitude, and self-discipline. I hope to take these lessons and carry them with me for the rest of the year.