This week we passed the middle of Ramadan and it probably means little-to-nothing to you so it makes no sense getting into the whos, the wheres and the whys about this topic because the aim here is not to convince you of anything political, religious or otherwise. It’s just an appeal to take three minutes of your WhatsApp time to think about something pretty deep.
For whatever reason, those who choose Allah as their bulwark/bastion have decided to honour this particular month as Ramadan and to only eat when the sun declines each day. They’re fasting a fast that doesn’t include water or any other oral sustenance at all.
Sounds simple, but to say it is one thing; to do it is another thing altogether.
To observe the proxy of this choice would be to look at the elderly Muslim man with the dry lips and the hungry breath or the lady wearing the hijab working in your Sainsbury’s Local moving a little slower than usual to conserve her energy in the 27˚ weather so she doesn’t pass out.
You may think ‘Well, nobody made her do it’. You may have a point but there is something very noble about the discipline she holds. It seems that discipline, and the benefits of it, is now a forgotten practice that has been locked up in a dungeon somewhere.
We have, most anonymously, been told that freedom is to have the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want to. In this way, freedom is just a poor synonym for recklessness. In fact, freedom is not doing whatever you feel to, it’s the ability to be creative within the rules of nature (which others call God).
We have been offered a world of super-liberal, over-compensating, politically-correct menus, a world that finds itself in a conundrum trying to satisfy every desire of every person with no guidelines, which is impossible.
So while you stand in Pret-A-Manger on your lunch break, talking of how hungry you are, missing your breakfast and all, while trying to decide what to eat, salivating on the pickled mayonnaise with rocket and salmon to all neatly wash it away with a lemonade, Shahida is back there going through the mental training of a Buddhist Monk.
Maybe you might decide it will be a boiled egg, anchovy and tuna salad with a fresh OJ and a pecan brownie. Whatever it is, don’t forget to think that Omar in the office would want exactly that but will resist it (by choice) until 9.00 pm-ish, while you, on the other hand, will be running to the toilet to release your evening dessert after having left work 3 hours prior.
Thing about Ramadan is it’s humbling too. It comes when it’s ready, not when you’re ready, that’s the beautiful contradiction. You can refuse it and make up every excuse not to participate. Excuses that you don’t even believe yourself, rather than just saying ‘I just can’t go without food for that long’. But even within the excuses, there’s a jewel of a question as to what you’re trying to prove and to whom?
Remember, you don’t have to be a Muslim to fast in Ramadan, no more than you have to be an athlete to hit the gym. It’s more a desire to park your desire or to recognise that your greater desires require sacrifice. Maybe it’s the Islamic version of a pentathlon and all of the jubilations towards the end. No food, water, sex, negative thoughts or aggression, while the sun is watching, for a full month and then: party; temperately of course.
It could be that it would take one day of voluntary fasting to ask yourself why you should endure any more of this mind-body restraint to realise the type of powerful mind that’s hidden behind the burka. But if you really want to see a character that can carry out a job with thoroughness and discipline you may want to look at fasting from a whole new angle.
Ramadan Mubarak from UDL.