The experience of fasting for a new Muslim may present a number of challenges. This blog post will look at some of those challenges:
Fasting Around Non-Muslim Family Members
Muslims refrain from food, drink, and intimacy during the hours from dawn to sunset throughout Ramadan. Muslims also stay away from sins and unlawful desires during Ramadan. This is not something many non-Muslims will be familiar with. When surrounded by people who are eating and drinking or committing sins, the new Muslim may feel some discomfort.
It is important to have a place in the house where you can focus on your worship and spiritual well-being. You should plan and try eating the pre-dawn meal, as food is most tempting when you become hungry. It is a good idea to start fasting in the month before Ramadan to make your body accustomed to fasting, as after a while the body adapts and you feel less hungry.
It is your personal judgement call to either involve your family in your experience, if they are accommodating to your Islam. Or to keep your experience private, if they are hostile.
Fasting in a Non-Muslim Society
In non-Muslim countries, most people will be continuing their normal routine during Ramadan. This may mean that you sometimes struggle to find the spirituality you hear about from Muslims in Muslim majority countries associated with Ramadan. A good way to overcome this is to see if there are other Muslims in your area whom you can meet up with, read the Quran or study with, or do a charity project together. Attending your local mosque for a short while is a good way to help you focus and get you in the communal spirit of Ramadan. If you can’t do any of the above, spending time at home praying, reading the Quran, listening to Islamic lectures, or doing general readings on Islamic topics could all be good ways to spend your time during Ramadan. Tune in online to the nightly prayers in any mosque around the world, especially the grand Mosque in Mecca and the Messenger’s Mosque in Medina to get a glimpse of the Ramadan experience.
Fasting & Work
Most Muslims continue to work throughout Ramadan. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, it is to be expected. However, this may require better time management in Ramadan. If you are spending most of the day at work, the evening time should be divided into times for worship and rest. If you hydrate well, have a good portion for your pre-dawn and sunset meals and rest, you can combine work and worship and make the most of Ramadan.
Muslim families often break their fast together and attend the mosque with other Muslims. However, you may not have any Muslims around to do this with or a mosque that is local to you. In this case, perhaps your non-Muslim family members may be willing to change their evening meal time to coincide with sunset to accommodate your meal schedule. You can make a part of your bedroom a place where you sit and focus on worship. This can be where you pray to God, read the Quran and other Islamic books, and offer your daily obligatory devotions, Salah, and the nightly optional devotions.
Fasting for the first time is hard for most people. Your internal clock and entire system will be thrown off if you aren’t used to waking up in the last part of the night to eat the pre-dawn meal. You may experience some or all of the following in various degrees: headaches, fatigue, lack of patience and annoyance (“hangry”), brain fog/mental slowness. These physical experiences generally lessen the more you fast.
You will feel the burning pain of hunger and the strong yearning for even a drop of cool, fresh water. The good news is that these feelings subside. Hunger and thirst are like waves that come and go, and if you are prepared, you can ride the waves and enjoy the journey of struggle, discipline, and endurance, recognizing that you are capable of more than you thought, and experience the sweetness of turning to Allah for help.
You will likely experience many challenges of all sorts while fasting – physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Remember your intention and turn to Allah when it gets hard. Stay busy with planned acts of worship and other beneficial activities. Prepare yourself for the worst and hope for the best, and most importantly…….DON’T GIVE UP!