– The month of fasting.
Everything is fine, about Ramzan. But the thought of staying without water for almost 17 hours is just too much. I’m one of those ‘water freaks’ who guzzles water all day long. If I go out, my bottle of water goes with me. I had panic attacks once, and what got me out of it was – yes, WATER.
“How am I going to fast?” is my greatest apprehension before every Ramzan.
Somehow, as the days approach, my resolve to fast gets strengthened. It’s a matter of fulfilling the body’s need for water, within the intervening time between ** Iftar and *Sahar – which is around 7 to 8 hours. During this time, you make up your need for water and food of course. It is so simple. Two glasses of water, at Iftari, two with sehri. Four in between. SIMPLE! Theory is fine. But the way, Allah makes it all possible is nothing short of a miracle.
I just tell myself “ DO NOT THINK about water.” A strange calm sets into my system, once it realizes that I’m dead serious about fasting. Out of nowhere, I gain the courage to go without water for all those hours. Let me bring you into some of my tricks. Prayers, sleep, reading Holy Quran, and let me confess watching all those yummy food cooking shows. One watches each part of it with great eagerness, resolving to make it tomorrow. Of course, we all know, ‘tomorrow never comes.’ Once all the necessary parts are done: Zakat and charity given, food distributed among the poor. Iftaris sent to neighbors. There is still so much time left to do so many things. Such as, trying to figure out where my life is taking me? Where was I actually going? – How to get out of quite a few of my weird habits. If I can do without water for so long, I’m sure I can stick to my resolve in other matters too.
I guess, the biggest thing one gets during Ramzan is confidence in one’s own self control. Then the next thing is empathy. To learn first-hand, how a poor person feels when he is hungry, and he has to do all these daily chores too.
Recently, I had the option of spending Ramzan in the US or in Pakistan. Of course I chose Pakistan. – In spite of its load shedding, its heat, its power failures and what not. I love Ramzan in Pakistan. Otherwise, the Middle East is good too, where it’s a month of festivities.
In Pakistan, the month long series of almost 24 hours of special Ramzan programs on television, the special comedy shows, the quiz programs and what not. Then the main focus is of course, the food. Usually, Sehri is just one type of favorite of each family member. Everyone is very vehement about what they want. Some say yogurt is important, some just have a bowl of porridge. I love paratha with aumlet or fried egg, and a cup of tea. Some cannot stand tea, some cannot live without tea. Some say you get more thirsty with tea, others say, no, after tea you don’t feel thirsty at all. Yes, as far as preferences go, sky is the limit. Iftar is the real time of feasting. My friend Ayesha once said “Why can’t everyone have exactly what they want?” All year round we have the typical food for lunch and dinner. This is one time in the year, when we all deserve to be pampered. Just give the family the sandwiches, pakoras, dahi bharas, fruit chat and juices that they want. After all being over 16 hours without water and food is tough enough.
The exchange of dishes between homes in the neighborhood is a lovely tradition. Out of the blue, a tray will arrive with goodies packed in. Then either you keep their dishes, to be filled up with more goodies to be sent back the next day or week. Otherwise, one just exchanges their snacks with one’s own, and fills their dishes with what one had just made for oneself. Somehow, in Pakistani dishes there is a lot of ‘barkat’ or it goes round very far. There will be enough for all. It is a month of so much loving and giving – that you love it!
There was a time in my life when I got into the ‘ Iftar Party’ scenario. Each person out doing the other in the matter of extravagance and goodies served at iftar parties. Now, I’m clear about not indulging in these iftar parties . I think it is neither fair to the hostess, nor the staff working in their home. One must be kinder to the staff in this month. So, that’s not possible, when you are making them run around while breaking their fast.
Reading of Holy Quran with meaning has thankfully become very prevalent everywhere now. It is very good. “I just can’t complete the whole Quran in one Ramzan.” I lamented once to my favorite Islamiat teacher in College of Home Economics, Ms. Tamseela. She listened with a smile, and said, “That’s okey, it would be even better if you started the Quran in one Ramzan and finished it in the next Ramzan.” It took me a while to realize what she was saying to me. That it would be even better to read the Holy book throughout the year. So, you benefit from its teachings, all year round. I wish she knew, that now, I’m humbly able to complete almost five to six Qurans in one year. My main focus is on the translations. The meaning is the most important aspect of it. Still every time, I’m touched deeply by the incidents which often tally with my life in today’s world. The prayers make sense to me in my life, and I read them with great feeling, as if I’m praying that prayer for myself. I am.
The stories of the prophets give me strength. Their steadiness in those times, gives me the single mindedness to stay on that same path if I possibly can. – Because in the end, it takes one where every human being wants to go.
Oh, I got so serious.
This is a month of inner peace and tranquility. May God bless each one of you, my dear Readers.
Have a blessed Ramzan.
– Whether you are a Muslim or not, stay blessed.
*Sehri: is the feast one has in the early hours of the morning, around 2.30 am. One finishes eating at the call of prayer around 3.10 am. Then one cannot take a single extra sip or bite of food.
** Iftari: is a time when one breaks the fast, usually with a date which is full of energy.