ARTICLE – What does exactly hunger mean during Ramadan ?

Added by Cultures et Croyances on 21 juillet 2014. · No Comments · Share this Post

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*Article by Hiba Malik

It is that time of year again: time for Muslims the world over to fulfill the fourth pillar of their faith by fasting during the month of Ramadan. Among the most common reactions I receive when I tell someone that I am fasting are the following: you are not eating anything from sunrise until sunset for a whole month? Can you at least have water?  How do you keep from becoming dehydrated or nutrient-deficient? Aren’t you losing weight from fasting

Although fasting in Islam is a purely spiritual practice, much of the conversation regarding fasting revolves around the abstinence from food and any possible health concerns that may arise. The reasons why Muslims are directed to fast are best understood when placed in the correct context- the religion of Islam as a whole. In short, the word Islam literally means peace. The purpose of a Muslim’s life is to attain peace- the true peace that comes only with God.

So, Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan with the intention of achieving nearness to God. The Qur’an states,

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous” (2:184).

In other words, fasting is a means to attain greater spiritual clarity. At the physical level, I tend to think of fasting as changing one’s routine intake of food rather than depriving oneself of necessary nourishment. At the spiritual level, it is a practice in both acceptance and empathy.

How?

Dissatisfaction with one’s life is a universal human grievance. We, as humans, are constantly hungry for something or other, such as, wealth, status, power, knowledge, and yes, at the most basic level, food. If we do not attain what we expect, we have failed, and we are likely to fall into a state of suffering. But, for one month, Muslims willingly adopt an alternate daily routine through fasting. Work, school, and daily chores and errands continue normally, but Muslims refrain from eating or drinking while the sun shines. They pay special attention to the moment at hand so as not to allow any negativity to enter, especially feelings of dissatisfaction (in all its forms- anger, regret, frustration, etc.). They learn patience and peace through adversity. Naturally they feel the urge to eat whenever they are hungry but they accept that is not an option for the time being, and instead, turn to prayer for strength. By experiencing these hunger pangs, Muslims also develop a strong empathy for the less fortunate people of the world who do not get enough to eat everyday due to a lack of resources. In fact, extra prayers and contributions to charity are also strongly encouraged during the month of Ramadan.

From personal experience, I can tell you that fasting is not easy (nothing worth achieving ever is!), but it works. A Muslim fast begins with a meal and Prayer at dawn and ends with a meal and Prayer at sunset. No food or drink is permitted during this time, but Muslims have ample opportunity to eat and replenish before sunrise and after sunset. Needless to say, it is especially important to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet during the month of Ramadan. The fast is just long enough to allow spiritual gains but not long enough to become starvation or to cause permanent deficiencies in the body. Even fasting for one day is sufficient to realize the truth of this interesting relationship between food and spiritual health. A month of fasting intensifies the experience and creates a habit of focusing on one’s spiritual well-being.

Finally, Muslims also believe that God is the Gracious and the Merciful. People who are sick or on a journey and women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating are all exempt from fasting. Muslims can make up for missed fasts by fasting the same number of days when they have regained their health or by giving a fixed amount to charity to feed the poor. In this way, those who are unable to fast for valid reasons are provided additional options. Certainly, every effort to move closer to God counts.

*Hiba Malik is a student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center where she is pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Practice Management. She is the head of the Media Outreach department of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Dallas, Texas, USA, chapter.

Quotation :

Hiba Malik, « What does exactly hunger mean during Ramadan ? », in : www.cultures-et-croyances.com, Folder : English Side – Articles, July 2014.

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