Ramadan is without a doubt the most special period for every Muslim. The month of Ramadan is the month of fasting. Muslims believe that during the month of Ramadan, the Holy Quran has descended. As a result, this month is full of blessings in which people look for themselves in this worldly chaos.
We do not only fast by not eating or drinking anything but it is important to diminish our ego and sins. What “fasting” means in the European context is completely different compared to “fasting” viewed in the Islamic context. Fasting in the Christian faith is rather the reduction of food, unlike in Islam where fasting means that you literally can’t eat food or drink water from dawn to dusk. That’s a reason why a lot of European people are always surprised about the fasting methods of Muslims.
Every year, I hear the same questions in my family like: “Can you not even drink some water?” or “How can you even survive without eating or drinking for 2 hours, you must be suffering really hard”. I have tried to explain several times that if you have a good intention and you love your faith, everything get’s easy. In fact, we, as Muslims, even look forward to the month of ramadan just because we know that we will be happier and more focused on our faith. Because during this month, we finally do what we were created to do.
The feeling of loneliness
The month of Ramadan is not only the holiest month for Muslims, but also the month where spend a lot of time with our family. Often, families come together and break their fast together. The month of Ramadan for a convert is often the most lonely month. There is no one in your family who is making any effort to experience fasting nor anyone with whom you can have a good conversation at the table. The lonely nights are like a rut for a convert. While other families pleasantly break their fast together with elaborate meals, a convert often sits alone at the table with pre packaged meals.
There is also an additional burden for converts who still live with their parents. Their parents are not used to the late hours and they usually have no understanding of why we eat so late. In Flemish families, dinner is something that must be done as a family. For example, my father asked me eight times when I would return to my ‘normal’ eating habits. In the end, it took another two weeks before he fully realized that I was fasting. Even my mom, who was already further in the process at that time, came to warn me several times that I shouldn’t eat late, to have a good night’s sleep.
The tensions can even rise higher during the exam period. For example, parents will be more inclined to blame the bad results on fasting, while good results will be attributed to the fact that they have always “warned” you. Again not realizing that the period of fasting actually has little or no influence on the exams or other activities. Personally, I even perform better during fasting than in other periods, because my concentration is much higher. Even more remarkable is that I am also more active during this period while I usually get less sleep. It always seems as if I can get more endurance just by sleeping less. Ultimately, there is not even an excuse not to fast or to break your fast because of having exams or having work to do. Especially not if you know that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, even during wars and trade journeys, the act of fasting was performed.
The celebration of the end of Ramadan is known in Arabic as “Eid-al fitr”. This is celebrated exuberantly. This celebration also depends strongly on culture and origins. For a convert, this is also just another lonely day because there are no family ties. Fortunately, this has greatly improved in recent years due to the growth of converts within the Muslim community. It is becoming increasingly common for converts to unite with each other to give a special value to that day.
I recently attended a ‘convert party’ in which Eid-al fitr was celebrated in brotherhood. Quite funny if you realize that instead of tajine or couscous, you eat a dish with Belgian fries and chicken. For dessert, there was no fruit, just chocolate mousse or rice pudding. Sometimes it is also possible to invite friends to enjoy the festivities or you can celebrate it in groups in the mosque with other believers. In short, I can say that every Ramadan has a special value, both religiously and culturally.