As a young ambiguously brown woman, a lot of people are surprised to learn that I am a Muslim. This time of the year many people find out because of my fasting. The exchange usually goes something like this…
Co-worker: Eat this food I brought!
Me: No thank you.
Co-worker: No really eat this food!
Me: I’m okay.
Co-worker: But you have to!
Me: I can’t I’m fasting.
Co-worker: But whhhhhy?
Me: It’s Ramadan.
And just like that, I drop the bomb on them. Not like a real bomb. A metaphorical bomb. At first, people are very supportive and encouraging. That is until they discover that I don’t drink water during the day.
Although going all day without water is not easy, it’s not the health hazard people perceive it to be. I drink water in the morning at breakfast and at night before I go to bed so I never go 24 hours without water. I work out either in the morning before my fast or in evening after I break my fast to make sure I can stay hydrated. Honestly, my biggest challenge is that I am the chattiest Cathy in the world. As I talk more and more throughout the day, my mouth gets dry but this is all part of the experience.
After explaining how I fast during Ramadan people are quick to judge. Saying it’s unhealthy or crazy. But rarely do people ask why and the why is really the most important part.
Ramadan is about growing as a person. That’s why it isn’t just a day or two. Ramadan is a month because it takes time to grow. Hasan Minhaj recently called Ramadan the “ultramarathon of sacrifice” It helps build a deeper sense of gratitude for everything we have. Every day we take for granted our clean water, food, transportation and so many other things. It’s about developing a little more empathy for those that are less fortunate.
I went for a hike that was less than 3 miles round trip. It’s a beautiful hike but short and easy. It only took a few minutes after starting my ascent that I was out of breath. This was a hard blow to a distance runner’s ego. It was a clear and cool day; the perfect temperature for a hike. A hike that any other month out of the year would’ve been cake. I tried to enjoy the sunshine, then my legs began to fatigue. I tried to focus on how beautiful and green the forest was and then my mouth became uncomfortably dry. My legs were heavy and slow. I was practically dragging them across the trail. I was hungry and tired. I thought about quitting or turning around but I couldn’t because I kept thinking about how far some people have to walk to get clean water. How could I so be so easily defeated when my struggle was so miniscule compared to others. So I finished the hike.
Charity is a big part of Ramadan as well. That day I picked one of three charities that I am now involved in: Water First International. The foundation is based out of Washington State which is a bonus for this Seattlite. I started a campaign on their site so please if you have a moment donate at:
All that to say, before judging someone for their beliefs or a practice you don’t understand ask them why. What they do is usually far less important than why they do it.