In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good and Merciful
Make no mistake about it: it is hard. Very hard.
Ramadan is in full swing. Because of Islam’s sacred lunar calendar, the month of fasting will be during the summer for the next decade, and this means that Muslims must fast from about 3:30 AM until 8:30 PM. Normally, I love the long days of summer, despite their heat. Even after coming home at 6PM from a long day’s work, I still have two and a half hours of daylight during which I can play and frolic with my family.
I love the warm weather, though I can do without the oppressive heat and humidity. It is nice not to have to wear heavy jackets everywhere; not having to drive through snow, and slush, and ice, and salt; to walk out a feel the nice, warm breeze on your face.
Yet, all those great things about the summertime suddenly became dreadful on July 10, the day Ramadan began. Fasting, you see, means forgoing food and drink (even water) from dawn to sunset. Now, after I get home at 6PM, I can’t have dinner…for two and a half hours! If I “play and frolic” in that nice, warm sun while fasting, I can get even more thirsty and hungry than I already am. Gone are the days of playing golf early in the morning, before my kids wake up, because it will make me even more thirsty during the day. The lunches that are served at work are now a distant memory. No more 3PM cup of coffee, which has become one of my favorite pastimes.
Make no mistake about it: Ramadan in July is hard. Very hard.
Yet I do it anyway because…because simply I love God so much. For my entire life, He has been so good to me; He has showered His love over me and has granted me comfort with it. He has blessed me with many great things, and He has always shown me a Beautiful Face, despite the ugliness that I frequently show in return.
Thus, when He asks me to get a little hungry and thirsty for Him, how can I say “no”?
Now, of course, if one is ill or cannot physically perform the fast, he or she does not have to do so and can either make up the day later or feed a hungry person instead. Pregnant and nursing mothers are also exempt from fasting.
For those who can and do fast, however, Ramadan accomplishes many things: it allows one to contemplate over the blessings of food and drink, blessings which many people are not fortunate enough to have at will. It allows one to fix his or her character flaws, for when one is fasting, he or she must behave in a moral manner as well. It allows one to re-connect with the Divine and His Word, for each night in Ramadan, Muslims gather together to pray special night vigil prayers. It is a month of tremendous spirituality, tremendous discipline, tremendous faith, and tremendous blessing, and tremendous mercy.
But, being in July, it is one of tremendous physical hardship. Yet, whenever the heat of the day gets searing; whenever the throat becomes parched; whenever the pangs of hunger becomes unbearable, it is important to remember that it is the Beloved who has asked for this outward act of piety. Because He loves us so much and envelops us with His love each and every day, we willingly forgo food and drink in the long days of July. How can we say “no”?