Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ramadan Reflection Day 9: Beyond Hunger and Thirst

Photo by Aiman Azlan
Bismillah.

The sweet irony of Ramadan is that we suddenly become obsessed with food. In some countries, you see food bazaars popping up like mushrooms, iftar (break fast) deals in restaurants and hotels, iftar recipes in magazines, and suddenly the TV has more food shows.

Don't get me wrong, I think iftar is one of the moments that we can use to create bonds with family and friends. It's awesome and I'm all for it. But when you see a banner that says "All-you-can-eat iftar buffet!", you know that we forgot to hit the breaks.

We either eat too much until we can't breath or we prepare too much food that a lot of it goes to waste.

I think the link between Ramadan and food has to be broken. It is the month when we eat less, not eat more. It is the month when we empty our stomachs and fill our hearts.

Cut down on our food intake - go easy on our suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and our iftar. A trick that works for me is to use a smaller plate. Somehow I have this tendency to fill up my plate, I'd like to see my plate evenly spread with food (ridiculous, I know).

Alhamdulillah, using a smaller plate works - I eat less. If I am still hungry, I'll go for a second round but usually the first round is enough for me. In the beginning, my nafs wants every food that I can get my hands on. That's the nature of the nafs - desires without limits. But really, my stomach is way smaller than my nafs.

So I have to ask myself this question, "Am I putting food in my stomach, or in my nafs?"

Whenever I fast, I remind myself of this scary Hadeeth: "Perhaps a fasting person gains nothing from his fast except hunger and thirst." (Ibn Majah, No. 1690)

The Hadeeth is scary because I think to myself, "What if I am that person?" I think every individual should ask that question to himself/herself. Whenever the Prophet warned us of a group, we should be quick to check on our on state and whether or not we are included in that group.

I don't want to be the person who gains nothing from Ramadan. I don't want to be that loser.

To avoid being that loser, I need to understand that fasting isn't just for the stomach. Fasting is for the whole body, in all its aspects - physical, emotional, and spiritual. Fasting is an all-rounded training of the self.

I also need to understand that the quality of my fast is manifested when I'm fasting and when I'm not. A good measuring stick to see if I'm getting something out of my fasting is to see how I behave when Maghrib time comes in.

Even though fasting only last from Fajr to Maghrib, the spirit of fasting should last 24/7. Just because we have broken our fast at Maghrib, that doesn't mean that Ramadan has ended.

It's still Ramadan.

I think you can see your progress in Ramadan every day after you broke your fast at Maghrib. Do you indulge, or do you restrain? Do you control the self or are you controlled by the self? We can examine that every day in Ramadan, and hopefully we are getting better as each day passes.

Because on the last day of Ramadan, as we wait for the Athaan, I hope that we are all ready when all hell breaks lose.