I recently traveled to Seattle to attend the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians. I was very excited to go: I was presenting research and a clinical case; my wife was traveling with me; I was going to spend five days in one of the best cities in these United States. There was only one problem: there would be coffee everywhere and...this is Ramadan!

My fears were entirely justified: as soon as we arrived in the airport, there were coffee houses galore. At the conference itself, there was coffee everywhere I looked. There were all types of coffee: regular, decaf, Starbucks, you name it. There was dairy and non-dairy cream. There was regular sugar and sugar substitutes. In the hotel at which I was staying, there was fresh coffee every single morning in the lobby.

Was it torture? Absolutely. But, I did not suffer. I decided to forgo my religious obligation and not fast the entire time I was in Seattle. Was it human weakness? Was it an act of rebellion against the Lord? Was it a sign of my Islam-fatigue? No. I decided to take the "Get Out of Fasting Free" card. I decided to exercise the "travel option."

In the Qur'an, God says that fasting is obligatory on all Muslims during the month of Ramadan. But there is a catch, an asterisk: "O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil). For a certain number of days; but whoever among you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days..." (2:183-184). I was on a journey, so I opted not to fast. And it was great!

I was able to have coffee in the morning again! It was so wonderful to pour that hot, fresh, black drink into my cup; then pour the cool, thick, white cream; then top it of with several packets of sugar substitute. It was a completely spiritual experience, one almost fitting for the month of Ramadan. I have to admit that it was nice to drink my diet soda on the plane during the daylight hours. It was nice to enjoy the free lunch offered by the conference and not have to watch other people eat. It was nice to not have to be tortured by having to fast in the coffee capital of the world. OK, to reiterate: it was nice.

Now, I am sure some may think I am a wimp for not fasting while on my trip. True, traveling at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was much more strenuous than it is now, and it would not have been difficult for me to fly across the country and still staying fasting. But God said that those who travel do not have to fast. Did God not know that human travel technology will advance to such a degree that one can fly across the world in a matter of hours? Of course not. So, why not take advantage of the Divine Loophole?

Eventually, I will have to make up the days I missed. Still, it was a nice vacation during my vacation. Having said that, however, toward the end of my trip, I actually began to miss fasting. The month of Ramadan is just not the same without forgoing food and drink and, yes, even coffee during the day. Even if I cringe now when I see people having coffee and I can't have some, I think of my Ramadan reprieve and am comforted.

Besides, this is the last year I will fast during Central Standard Time for the next thirty years. Ramadan is on a lunar calendar, and each year Ramadan starts eleven days earlier than the previous year. Thus, I will not get to break my fast at 4:45 p.m. again until I am in my sixties. So, I might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

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