Ramadan is a time to reflect on oneself, increase in worship, develop better habits, and seek the pleasure of our Creator. But it’s also a time to fast.
As a revert to Islam, the first four things sounded lovely when I first heard about them. The last one, however, had me in a limbo.
Having lived in places where the Islamic lifestyle is nowhere in sight, I was eager to take up what I considered a new challenge: thirty days of fasting.
Before I get to the nitty-gritty, let me tell you a bit about myself.
I was born in Venezuela, moved to the US when I was ten months old, left for Brazil when I was fourteen, returned to Venezuela when I was sixteen, and moved to China when I was eighteen. Aside from China, the other three countries have very little exposure to Islam.
All I knew about fasting is that it is something mentioned in all religions, yet it never crossed my mind that I would ever do such a thing. Something even more unfathomable to me (at the time) is that I would embrace Islam in China two weeks before Ramadan in 2010. Not only had I never fasted, but I had always lived in places where food is a really big deal. So much so, that many people try to eat more than their friends just to boast about how much food they can stomach (if you consider drowning your liver to be a noble deed).
It’s hard to explain the eagerness that I felt upon embracing Islam to submit to the command of the Creator.
I basically thought, “If this is what He wants me to do, then I’ll do it. If I have to pray, I’ll pray. If I have to fast, I’ll fast. If I have to wake up at 4 AM, so be it.”
So there I was, at 4 AM, getting ready for my first sahur. It was all sunshine and rainbows for the first few hours until noon, where I started getting the grumbles. Remember, that was the first time I was about to skip lunch after twenty years!
All the reading I had done about Ramadan was coming back to me. The reward of fasting, how virtuous the month is, how good this is for the body, and the list goes on. But I was battling my own self, I realized. Not just physically, but mentally.
My first Ramadan taught me that fasting is not about counting down the days, it’s about making the days count.
“How much time is left before maghrib?”
“How much time do I have left on this earth?”
Ramadan is a harvest just waiting to be reaped. May we all reap its benefits before it’s too late!
Written by Daniel Vasquez Marinez
Daniel Vasquez Marinez is a teacher and professional nomad. Born in Venezuela, he was raised in the US and had two-year stints in Brazil and Venezuela before moving to China for five years, where he embraced Islam in August of 2010. He currently resides in Kuala Lumpur.