I can’t remember at what age I started to fast a full Ramadan month but once I started, I didn’t really stop.
It’s only when I’m on my period or that when I’m sick that I’d miss out some days and would pay back my dues. Otherwise, I wouldn’t miss a day for no good reason.
Not even when travelling in the summer heat.
In my 25 years of living, I’ve experienced Ramadan in several different situations and I’d like to share them with you!
At Home With Family
This is probably the majority of my Ramadan experience.
I grew up in a comfortable home with a family of five (sometimes four when papa had to go overseas for work or when bro/sis studied in America).
There’s a routine when I’m at home with my family.
For Suhoor, I’d wake up at 04:45 and met with the wonderful smell of food. But some days it could be as simple as toast, which was wonderful all the same.
For Iftar, I’d be in the kitchen about 20 minutes before the adhan to help lay out the dishes on the table. This didn’t feel like a chore for me. I felt glad to be of help and to distract my mind from the hunger or build the excitement for food.
We’d eat together at both times.
We’d mostly eat in silence, sometimes engage in small talk, and rarely discuss deeper topics. That’s just the way my family is. Even though I wished we could discuss politics or literature, I’m still grateful for the time spent together.
What I Learned:
- Being grateful for being with family
- Helping out whenever I can
- Start a conversation
I lived in the UK for 3 years for my undergraduate studies.
Each year’s Ramadan was different and I’d spend about half of the month at University and the other half back at home for summer break and Eid. Except for my final year (read below).
So in my first year, I was in the student accommodation or “halls” as they called it.
It was the end of summer term and all exams were done.
The dining hall which provided catering 3 times a day couldn’t provide Suhoor at 3am. So I made sure that I had toast or cereal in the hall’s communal kitchen which was not meant to be used to cook so much.
Honestly, I can’t remember much of my first year but on my second year, I lived out so I had a bit more of flexibility in terms of what I could cook.
Only on certain nights that I broke the fast with my Muslim friends and the rest would be by my own. It was of course enjoyable with friends but I didn’t mind my own company either.
Suffice to say, Ramadan alone at University was rather peaceful and little did I know, it was preparing me for this coronavirus lockdown period.
What I Learned:
- Cooking food for myself
- Being content with my own company
- Seek out friends for iftar when in need
Ramadan In Lockdown
Although I’m no longer in the UK, I’m still living away from my family. But at least we’re just a 15-minute drive away instead of a 15-hour flight.
I’m now living with a housemate and we’ve been in quarantine together since mid-March.
Almost every night, we would break our fast together and catch up on what we’ve been doing throughout the day. We’re usually busy with work and wouldn’t have the chance to talk during the day. So dinner has been a good time to do so.
We’ve also been experimenting with new foods or improving existing ones such as vegan miso soup, oat pancakes and brownies.
I’d say that this lockdown period has been both calming and exciting.
What I Learned:
- Make time to create new things with housemate
- Eating together during iftar helps a lot in clearing the mind of the day’s struggle
- I can actually bake if I set my mind to it and prepare the right ingredients!
Travelling In Europe
Back to the end of my final year of university, I had the chance to travel.
It was summertime and also Ramadan month. Yet the heat and the thirst did not stop my friends and I from enjoying our Europe trip.
We went to Munich, Venice and Rome.
It was a bit sad that we couldn’t enjoy the local foods as the days were long and by the time it was Iftar, restaurants were closing.
Unlike Malaysia, Europe didn’t seem to have a 24-hour eatery.
So we resorted to buying ingredients at the supermarket and cooking at our AirBnB. I didn’t mind this much as we actually spent less than we would have if we had eaten out. And I was just happy that we could explore each city fully without being interrupted by the need for food.
What I Learned:
- Walking around a new city helped to distract me from the hunger
- But I did feel thirsty towards the end of the day so I didn’t exert myself too much
- Fasting with friends while travelling made the situation so much bearable
Seek Experience And Discomfort
Ramadan is meant to be a challenge no matter where you are or what you do.
So might as well make the most of it and try to experience different ways of living during Ramadan.
I’ve been very lucky indeed to have had the opportunity to go through Ramadan at different places and different seasons. I still have yet to experience Ramadan in winter but perhaps in a few years, maybe?
If you really are seeking the next level of spiritual growth or extreme patience, I’d highly recommend that you try fasting during the long day of summertime. But the trick is to keep moving about and not lounge at the couch.
And if you’re at home with family or alone, be just as grateful and make the most of your time, even if it means just sitting on the sofa reading a novel.
As long as you learn something new each day.