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When a non-Muslim tries fasting during Ramadan

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For the last four days, I’ve been fasting, having volunteered to give a non-Muslim perspective on the practice — and I’m already struggling. It’s harder than it looks, and temptation is everywhere.

To begin with, the sudden change in routine was more jarring than I imagined it to be. In an attempt to replicate what my Muslim friends and colleagues do, I eat my Iftar meal, and then stay up (or wake up early if I can’t) for a Suhur meal a few hours later, before sunrise. After falling asleep and waking up a few hours later, I am already hungry, and very thirsty. I noticed a slight headache early on the first day of my fast, which grew in intensity over time as the seemingly endless 15 hours of day light wore on.

Over the course of time I’ve been following the fasts, I’ve noticed my concentration plummets by early afternoons, soundly defeated by thoughts of water. At one point, for example, I watched an entire BBC newscast, only to realise I hadn’t retained a single bit of information. Writing articles — which I do for a living — seems much harder. Words aren’t coming to me like they normally do.

During fasting, I can’t help but notice that temptation is all around. Walking past a nearby convenience store in the blazing heat, for example, immediately brings to mind images of ice-cold bottles of water, requiring a conscious effort to speed up and not go inside to buy one. I find myself going out of my way to find things — work mostly — to distract me from food and drink. I’ve managed to abstain, but only with great difficulty. It’s now more readily apparent why even non-Muslims are subject to bans on food, drink and smoking cigarettes in public. Removing the temptation helps those who truly have to fast for religious reasons.

By the time it comes to ending the fast, I’m feeling lethargic and useless, with little else on my mind but water, followed closely by food. Despite having myself pointed out that people seem to be carelessly overeating for Iftar, I find it very difficult to control myself on seeing food after a full day of fasting.

The important thing that has become clear is that a non-Muslim can never really understand what Ramadan fasting is all about. Without the religious aspect, the spiritual reflection that is a core part of Ramadan, fasting becomes nothing more than a physical ritual and a mental challenge, with no rewarding inner goal or purpose to it for non-Muslims at all.

[Source: Khaleej Times]


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