I see it in my children, when the beginning of Ramadan starts.
The food stash, otherwise known as hoarding.
During the day, they see something that they want to eat, and then they take a little. Then they hide it for themselves for later, when they break their fast.
Typical. Natural, even. Encouraging yourself to keep going, so you can have that tasty treat you saved for yourself.
Chances are the treat is not a healthy, nutritious thing. It’s junk. But our eyes want it, and our stomachs agree, at least at first.
During Ramadan, however, you have precious few meals, and those have to last. They have to be good, and wholesome, and beneficial.
God gave you food and drink that was meant to nourish you.
Here are some other things that fasting can teach you. May God bless you with learning these things as you fast this month:
You don’t really appreciate the taste of water until you’ve tasted water after a whole day. That water-date combination can feel like the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten, when you’ve been fasting.
One time all I had to break my fast was a bit of watered-down pop left over in a paper cup. What I probably would have thrown away any other time, I cherished and made sure to sip every drop!
So to waste food in a month when we are not eating most of the time should really turn our stomachs. Leftovers are great for the early morning meal, and extra food at dinner can be brought to a neighbor to share with!
Clean your plate when you are finished eating. In a report from the Messenger, he commanded the licking of fingers and the cleaning of the dish, saying, “You do not know in which portion the blessing lies.”
Ramadan fasting teaches us about avoiding waste. We get a better understanding of how real hunger feels, and can appreciate what the truly poor go through on a daily basis. It makes us treasure the food we have.
Sharing the Good
You know the saying ‘sharing means caring’? Ramadan can bring about a sincere care for our fellow humans through sharing food.
We might not know it, but a neighbor of ours could go hungry each month. Perhaps someone in our neighborhood could use some food. We share with our neighbors, and perhaps invite them to eat with us, out of care for our fellow human beings.
Feeling the pain of hunger makes us want to try to make sure that the pangs of hunger we feel are not felt by anyone. We donate money and food to those less fortunate because of that feeling.
We are blessed with more than enough, and Ramadan motivates us to share what we have with others. Invite others to eat with you, too:
‘O Messenger of God, we eat but are not satiated.’ The Messenger of God said: ‘Perhaps you eat separately?’ They replied that they did. He said: ‘Eat your food together and say Bismillah before you start, that will bring blessings into your food.”
Quality vs Quantity
As the month progresses and we are more and more aware of our bodies and what they need, we see ourselves making better and better food choices.
We follow the advice of others. But we also get to know what foods are going to help us with our fasting: healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and plain old water.
Our bodies have such a small amount of time each night to absorb those nutrients in our food, so we choose better things to eat. It helps us with our fasting, and it helps us be strong after we break our fast, so that we can stand and offer more devotions in the night.
It’s a funny mental exercise that we have to do daily when we fast. We have to program ourselves that over-eating will NOT help us the next day, as if we were camels filling up on water before a desert trek.
That food and drink make us slow, and sluggish and bad-tempered.
As the month progresses we realize that that a full belly is not our friend. If we stretch our stomachs’ capacity in one night, the next day becomes so much more difficult to fast!
When we choose smaller, more valuable meals, then we continue to train our body and have mercy on our digestive systems. We have mercy on ourselves by training our body, giving it nourishing food, and letting our digestive system have a break.
We learn to hold ourselves back from what’s in front of us. We learn to think ahead, and plan out how best to conduct ourselves. We learn that holding ourselves back from things is rewarding, and this translates to other things in our lives that may cause us problems in the long run.
Eyes and Stomach the Exact Same Size
Ever heard the phrase, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? That can happen at the beginning of Ramadan.
At first, we have a misunderstanding that the more we eat in the evening and early morning, the better we will handle fasting. In reality, it’s just the opposite.
We think about our dinner all day long, and perhaps prepare or go out and get a lot of food. Then when it’s time to break our fast, we stuff ourselves.
Or at least we try.
As the month progresses, we get to know our capacity, and we hold ourselves back from a huge plate at either meal. We eat what is enough for us, in accordance with the report:
“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” Messenger Muhammad.
May God bless us with being able to experience these great lessons that fasting can teach us, to strengthen and train our bodies, and to make the most out of every day, and every meal.