“Oh so you’re gonna fast the whole month? Like you can’t even have water?Wow!”

The caption must ring familiar to many of you. Why, I’ve been hearing it for the longest time myself and I wasn’t born or raised in a predominantly non Muslim country . Each year I have a friend who is amazed at the asks of Ramadan and the complete shift in a Muslim’s lifestyle. Many of my friends who are Indian Hindus by origin tell me of the Iftar delicacies that they’ve had a chance of enjoying with their Muslim friends and I’m always heartened to hear their participation in a part of Ramadan. Many of my Christian friends draw a similarity with Lent. Many of my friends from many different religious affiliations discuss with me how Ramadan is similar to a tradition in their own belief system.

Even though many religions practice fasting and believe in specific times of the year when good deeds are rewarded beyond any measure, people worldwide acknowledge Ramadan as a phenomenon and something that they want to know more about.

Many of my non Muslim friends have many questions for Ramadan always. I answer some of them one year and they come back with more the next year. And I’m sure you can relate to the keen observation that these questions are based on. People are observing us and asking us what makes us different during Ramadan. I think this is because human beings pick up on aura and vibes a lot and the aura of a Muslim during Ramadan is one of fortitude, compassion, love and empathy. And people don’t miss that. In the words of Maya Angelou

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel”. This quote might have been in a slightly different vein but I think we can literally use it here. The sanctity of Ramadan to non Muslims is directly because of how Muslims practice their religion in all its warmth, softness and gratitude during this most lovely month. That feeling stays with people and leads to Ramadan being so celebrated worldwide.

When my friends ask me what makes me fast with a smile on my face my answer is simple. This is the only thing I do for Allah. In this particular thing there is only hardship for me with no instant gratification. This is the only way that I can show Allah how much He means to me. Because Allah doesn’t need me. Allah needs nothing from me. But because He doesn’t need me, my physical need to do something for Him is always overwhelming. This is how I show Him how much I can endure for Him. This is how I make myself worthy of His blessing and forgiveness. This is my best effort to make Him see my love for Him. Even though my best , physical hardship remains the most meager form of service that I can offer Him. So I do it with the hope that He will accept it.

So this is what I tell my non Muslim friends.

“No I can’t have food. Not even water! I have to be careful of readjusting my medication timings if I can. But that’s the easy part of Ramadan. That’s the part that I can accomplish without much work. That’s the part that I’ve been training for since I was a little girl and had my first Roza. That’s not the part that I fear will go wrong. The part of my body that I try to protect from slipping and committing a sin isn’t my mouth. I’m not worried about it at all. That’s the part that’s the easiest to control.

The parts of my body that are continually in danger of violating the purity of fasting are my tongue, my ears, my body, my mind and my soul. Those are the parts that can get me in trouble. Those are the parts that need constant monitoring. And because they have to be so closely monitored, the need for food becomes secondary. That leaves my mind. My mind becomes occupied by the million errors that I can commit, while fasting, that will taint my fast. This fear of failing and losing the purity of my fast is so all-consuming that hunger and thirst become secondary and sometimes cease to exist. You see, my fast is a very delicate thing. It can be lost to my tongue or my ears or my soul very easily . And I can’t afford that. I only get Ramadan once a year. So I have to make the most of it. Why you see me being patient and compassionate and loving and forgiving more than usual isn’t the function of a moral responsibility that I perform so well during Ramadan. It’s the function of fear that my most precious thing, my only sacrifice that I perform for my Allah, could be blotted if I wasn’t more careful. This fear of my faults and my love for my Allah combined with my own eagerness to prove myself to Him in this month make me that person you see during Ramadan. The person who doesn’t get tempted by food because she knows that she can’t give into any temptation as one leads to another”.

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