Ramadan for dummies

18 Jun

Today, about one and a half billion muslims around the world celebrate the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, during which there will not be any eating, drinking, smoking, sex, cursing, lying or gossiping from dawn untill sunset. At least, that’s the idea. But whether or not all those one and a half billion muslims actually manage to observe it, that’s another question.
Because a month of spiritual and physical abstinence is easier said than done, I too noticed when I participated for the first time.
I was living and working in Tunisia at the time, where most of the country seemed to slow down a notch those days. It was a hot late summer, and already after half a day of fasting my head started spinning. I could manage the not-eating-part. But Lord, did I crave a sip of water. How hard it was to concentrate on my work, let alone keep my cool in traffic, where everybody else was probably just as dazed and confused as I was. Thankfully, there were nice neighbours, friends and colleagues, who invited me over to break the fast with milk, dates and a bowl of steamy lentil soup. I can still taste it.
What a different experience I had back home in the Netherlands, where I had to explain at least ten times a day what Ramadan was all about, why I participated, being a non-muslim. Wasn’t that very bad for my health? And wasn’t I even allowed a mint, against that bad breath? And shouldn’t I really have a glass of water? And how did I know when it was ok to eat? And wasn’t it hard, all by myself? And wouldn’t I die of starvation, after 30 days of fasting?
No, I never died. Thank God. After those first days of suffering (symptoms: dizziness, headache and fatigue) you get into a special kind of groove, where oddly enough there seems to be more space for rest and reflection than for the sounds of that empty stomach. And yes, bad breath unfortunately comes with temporarily shutting down your digestive system. A mint? No, thanks. No water either. Not even one sip? Not even one sip. Not even when noone is watching? No, not even when noone is watching.
Why I participated then? Because in these times of increasing contrasts between those who do and those who don’t participate in our global ratrace of consumption, I found it a rather refreshing experience to consciously distance myself from my needs and wants for a month. To learn how to control and restrain myself for 30 days, whenever my heart or body spoke to me. To be able to once again focus on ‘being’ in stead of always having to ‘have’, ‘say’ or ‘do’. And all of that following the rythm of the sun and the moon. Now you tell me: when was the last time you got to do that?

Freedom, that’s what I wish all muslims this Ramadan. Freedom to be, to believe, to pray, to fast, or to choose not to. رمضان كريم, Ramadan Kareem, a blessed month of fasting.

One Response to “Ramadan for dummies”

  1. nazik August 12, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    Hoi kirsten. Ik heb met veel plezier je blog gelezen over de ramadan. Heel treffend. Je hebt de kern geraakt van het doel van het vasten. Ik wens je verder veel succes. Mocht je mij nog terug willen mailen graag. Ik ben je oud klasgenote van het Alexander Hegius.

    Nazik Rayman

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