In the Name of God, the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord
At the beginning of Ramadan, I shared with everyone my internal dialogue about having to fast the long (and frequently hot) days of July. Now that Ramadan is almost over, I must admit that...it has indeed been a struggle. Fasting, to remind everyone, is abstaining from all food and drink (yes, even water) from before sunrise to sunset. Thus, this year, the hours of the fast were approximately 3:30 AM until about 8:30 PM. Now, thankfully, the days are getting a little shorter, which brings some relief. Still, the day is long...very long. And for the next decade, Ramadan will continue to be in the summer months, starting a little earlier each subsequent year.
It is not the eating part that gets me the hardest, as I normally try not to eat very much during the day anyway. It is the drinking part that is the hardest: normally, I walk into work with a - rather large - cup of coffee, and then throughout the day, I am sprinkling myself with either more coffee, or tea, or soda. Having to go without that until 8:30 PM has been hard. Furthermore, after I eat, there are special night vigil prayers that we are encouraged to perform, and those can finish anywhere between 11:15 PM to 12 AM, if I were to attend them in the mosque.
When I am working, I simply do not go to the mosque, because I have to be back at work for another day at 7 AM. Yet, even if I perform them at home, I am still not getting enough sleep, and with no coffee to help me the next day, the fatigue can become additive. Add to the that the inevitable fatigue that comes without having any food or drink, and it can get very difficult. And, believe me, it has.
True, I can get up and eat a pre-dawn meal to give me strength, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) definitely encouraged us to do so. Yet, when I do that, I simply cannot put anything in my mouth because, I am still full from the night before! Furthermore, once I'm up, it is very hard to go back to sleep, and thus I wake up extremely tired. And with no coffee...you know how it goes.
I truly admire those Muslims who absolutely love the month of Ramadan, fasting and staying up late into the night praying with a wide smile. I watch their lack of struggle with awe. Yet, I would be lying to you, and to myself, if I told you that "I'm having a fantastic time with fasting!" I am not...I have been struggling.
Indeed, it is a month of tremendous blessing, and that I truly enjoy. Furthermore, I do like the increased emphasis on the book of God which Ramadan brings, and I have enjoyed reading the Qur'an during this month. It is a great time for spiritual reflection, physical and spiritual discipline, and a pause in the daily routine. Moreover, the emphasis on charity that Ramadan also brings is important to keep me grounded and incredibly thankful for all the blessings that I have been given by God.
But, I cannot lie, I have been having a rough time.
Am I being a bit of a baby? Perhaps...well, OK, yes. Are there so many others who - also having to fast - are having a much harder time, in many other aspects in life? Yes, and I pray that their hardships are lifted. Has the fast ever hurt me physically? No. Am I always glad I did it - especially when it is all over, and I am thoroughly enjoying my Venti Skinny Mocha during the day (August 8, I'm talking about you!)? Yes. Still, was it easy? Um...No.
Yet, there is no way - unless I became ill or am traveling - that I would decide not to fast, as some physicians like me have done. Indeed, and tack this up to Ramadan's blessings, the fast has never affected my clinical judgment or work performance in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I enjoy working while I fast...it makes the day go by much, much faster. When I am off, the fast can be almost unbearable.
But - truly, truly - if it wasn't for the fact that the fast was for God, whom I love so very much, there is no way I would be doing this. And because of this, I feel a bit of shame. I am so quick to take, and take, and take, and take from God. Yet, when He asks for something in return - simply delaying eating and drinking until sunset - I cringe, and grimace, and shudder, and frown. In reality, I should be very happy to fast, because of its tremendous blessing.
But, I cannot lie, it has been a struggle, or in other words, a jihad.
So, all I can do is pray to the Lord that He accepts my fast, despite my innumerable sighs at how hard it is. I pray that the Lord forgives me for all my cringes, and grimaces, and shudders, and frowns. I pray that the Lord continues to bless me - and everyone around me - despite the fact that I have been a baby about fasting in July. I pray that the Lord continues to be as beautiful to me as I have been ugly to Him.
For - truly, truly - if it wasn't for my Beloved, there is no way I would be doing this.