Week 2 in the ‘fast’ lane by Farhana Begum
July has got off to a blistering start, with the temperature in some places reaching highs of over 30 degrees. And whilst most of Britain has been determinedly working on its tan, many Muslims have been a little more reserved in their consumption of all that golden sunshine.
We’re almost a week into Ramadan now, and my family and many of our Muslim friends are convinced that the ‘worst’ (in terms of physical hardship) is behind us.
The first few days are usually the hardest: where your body is still trying to get used to the somewhat dramatic shift in eating patterns and disrupted sleeping patterns, all whilst trying to regulate itself in the summer heat. This is the first Ramadan that I’ve experienced which has fallen directly in the middle of summertime, and in all honesty it’s not easy. Naive as I am, I was very much under the impression that I could embark upon a month of fasting without making any changes or allowances in my fairly hectic social and professional calendar! Ramadan is all about taking stock of the way you live your life, to reflect upon the decisions you make and to learn self discipline, and boy, did I learn that last lesson quick!
Although Ramadan encourages you to think beyond the physical and concentrate on the spiritual, it also, quite strangely, emphasises the physical too. The lack of eating and drinking brings your body’s workings to the forefront and allows you to appreciate what you usually would take for granted. I learnt quite quickly that I’m not invincible, and whilst I’m participating in Ramadan, there’s only so much my body can take, so I’ve reigned in the amount that I do in a day so as to prevent myself from getting exhausted, but it’s also meant that I have much more time for family and friends: a central purpose of Ramadan.
I’m usually quite shy of direct sunlight anyway, so being sensible in the sun hasn’t been a huge sacrifice for me. That said, I do recommend drinking lots of water in the hours where it is permissible to eat and drink. Rehydrating in those hours as well as during sehri allows your body to cope much better with the heat of the upcoming day. In addition to drinking lots of water, make sure to eat foods with a high water content such as fruit and vegetables, as your body will be able to make use of that too. It doesn’t need to be said, but avoid deep fried foods, as they are harder to digest and in this heat will make you feel incredibly lethargic.
As I mentioned in my last blog, Ramadan is a time where Muslims are encouraged to practice self restraint and to adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you can implement changes in your diet which have been brought about by participating in Ramadan, then that can only be a good thing.
Nonetheless, many Muslims have not been able to undertake this year’s Ramadan due to the incredibly long days and the high temperatures. My grandmother, who is a type 2 diabetic is in her late 70s and has made the intention of fasting this year and is doing a brilliantly so far, making sure to eat well and to check her blood glucose levels regularly. That said she is very much aware of her age and of her abilities and has paid fidyah (the daily equivalent of two meals for a person for each day of fasting missed) for the whole month in advance, just in case she can’t participate for the whole month. This may seem excessive, but charity is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and a compulsory part of the faith. And in the month of Ramadan especially, every Muslim is encouraged to give more to charity, to be more compassionate and to try to alleviate the suffering of those worse off.