Ramadan and the fasting bring for the Muslim world is supposed to remind us of the importance of changing our regular eating habits, abstention from food and drink for long hours. Beyond all those, is the reminder that there is a distinct difference between what we need and what our wants are. Too often we end up with more material things that we really need. We buy or hoard things that could be avoided. The money spent behind whimsical spending could be saved, and hoarded items may be put to someone who could use it.
It is the time of the year to avail oneself to deeds of kindness, to fast, and to express gratefulness to our Creator. While the month-long unity of fasting brings the Muslim world closer to each other, there is the reminder also to reach out to your friends and neighbours regardless of their faith or race, renew the bonds of friendship with the sharing of gifts. My friend Jolly, living in Raleigh in North Carolina, keeps her doors open to all the neighbours on the day of Eid. She sends invites to them to come any part of the day and share the food. Visiting her one Eid, I was fascinated by her reaching out to the broader community, and when I saw the smiling faces of the happy neighbours, it melted my heart. And before Eid, Jolly sends messages to her neighbours to join the iftar pot-luck in the local masjid. On the day of Eid, she had people of different faiths sharing food and bringing the world together with their laughter and joy.Fasting in Ramadan in some western countries may be hard with the time frame stretching to sixteen or nearly eighteen hours. But the benefits of fasting are immense, and the challenge is worth taking. Fasting as one of the five pillars of Islam benefits the body by bringing a change to the physical and the mental self as we abstain from the usual routines of eating and drinking. Although different religions advocate fasting in other forms, the month-long abstention from food and drink in Islam is one of the most challenging ones. There is more to fasting than what meets the eyes. Health advocates in the modern world are encouraging withdrawal from regular food habits in many ways. Revolutionising the health sector is the research on intermittent fasting. According to Wikipedia, “Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period. Intermittent fasting can also be used with calorie restriction for weight loss”. Fasting can mean not eating for twelve to sixteen hours, but some people recommend drinking water with the intermittent one. Nancy, a mother of two small children, says, “With my long hours of work it was impossible to enter into any fitness programmes. But intermittent fasting has helped me lose weight and even brought down my blood sugar.”
For people who are not aware of the physical and mental benefits of the fasting in Ramadan, and tend to avoid fasting, the intermittent fasting is an eye-opener. Our body is for us to take care of in return for the life that we derive from it. Ramadan is like a reminder to the whole being of a human, like an annual cleaning of the soul and body. It is also the month to strengthen our belief in our Creator and to express gratefulness. It also a reminder to hold in our prayer the millions of refugees left without food and shelter, to help people struck by natural disasters and to make sure one’s neighbour is not in hunger. As Mother Teresa had said, “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
There are times in life when we need to act besides praying for the world. The crisis of thousands of stranded Rohingyas in Bangladesh, calls for every drop of aid that they could get. Many organisations are working on their behalf, and it is worth a while to add to our giving part to the desperate people in those camps. The social media pages like Facebook or Twitter bring fundraising to our fingertips, to donate or to collect on behalf of a good cause.
Ramadan need not be a just one-month thing, it should be a reminder to be the best of our selves through times coming ahead. Like all religions, the message of Islam is peace, to sail in life with useful purpose and anchor in the shore of humanity. A life story is not only about being kind to other humans but also to respect all kinds of living things, to take care of the planet we live in. The whole world is like a big family, the members taking care of each other is what will determine how long we sustain on the Earth.
Yes, we buy new clothes, eat good iftars and have a great Eid, but that should also be the occasion to share the less fortunate among us. The acts of charity need not be flaunted on Facebook or bragged about, charity is best done with quietness. After all, one who has more than the others just happens to the luckier one. The shoes could change within a day, and a millionaire of today may end up on the streets, or vice-versa. While hunger rages through the stomach and many of us fortunate to know that we have food waiting for us, many others go hungry around the year, with no food waiting for them.
The hectic ways of life in the modern world at times makes us overlook some priorities, and while not practicing charity may not be intentional, it might be a good idea to put some reminders on our to-do list, and ask, “Knock, knock on our daily life: what do we share every day? Are we making a difference in someone’s life?” Neither money nor food, for some few kinds words and a smile, might make their day. All we need is to take a look around and do what we can.Dear Readers have a blessed Ramadan!
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA