So, it is a bit over half way through Ramazan. I haven’t been fasting this year, alhamdulillah. I have some blood sugar issues that I haven’t been able to manage so well and have been taking metformin for it for several months, and I just felt it would be unhealthy to go on the blood sugar roller coaster that fasting causes me, especially with the 16 hour fasts. I have been having a great Ramazan anyway. I think I used to force myself to fast and make myself feel sick just because I thought I had to be fasting to get that ‘Ramazan spirit’ feeling, even when I could have opted out of fasting due to my health issues. (Although I was more in control of the issue in past years. Somehow as I get into my 30s I am finding it harder to keep things under control, that’s why my doctor put me on metformin.) But I decided to stop doing the crazy blood sugar roller coaster and its after effects and to look at other ways to enrich my spirituality and increase my physical worship during Ramazan whether fasting or not.
I have been reading a book called Ramadan: Motivating the Believers to Action: An Interfaith Perspective. It is a collection of essays edited by Laleh Bakhtiar. The essays mainly deal with fasting, but also with other aspects of achieving a spiritually rich Ramazan. Some of the things I have read in the book have been really enlightening and have given me a new or a deeper perspective on issues of personal worship and spirituality. I have also been reading Laleh Bakhtiar’s rendition of the Quran in English.
I haven’t been going to taraveeh prayers since they occur so late at night and I don’t want to keep my kids awake at that time. But to gain the barakah of strengthening community ties during Ramazan, I have hosted three iftaars, one with a charity oriented activity, and two just with family friends. I have also been attending the halaqa and recitation of Dua e Kumail that I mentioned in the previous post. I also went to a few iftars at friends’ homes. Inshallah, next Friday I will attend an iftar and halaqa at the Sunni-Shia intra-faith sisters’ support group that I go to monthly.
For the iftaars I hosted, I made sure that we broke the fast with dates, water, and fruit. Then I served a regular meal afterwards. I noticed that when people serve several heavy items for iftaari and then serve a meal afterwards, nobody eats much of the main meal because everyone fills up on the initially served carby fried items. I think it is healthier for the fasters and wastes less food to do the iftaars with just dates and water, some fruit, and then a well-balanced meal after maghreb prayers. I know that culturally some of our guests were expecting the UFO iftaari (that’s Unidentified Frying Objects!), but everyone enjoyed what I served anyway. My husband has this type of light iftaar everyday whether we have guests or not, too. I might do one pakora night this month just so he can get that backhomeland iftaar feeling, though.
I also decorated the house for Ramazan with my two daughters. We made Ramazan decorations with crafting supplies that I bought at the dollar store. We made (okay, I made, they are just 3 and 5 years old!) a Ramazan calendar. Every night when my husband breaks his fast, we sit together and I say a du’a. Each girl eats a Hershey’s candy to open her baby-roza since neither one likes dates. Then they put a star on the calendar to mark the completion of the day. That has been so much fun. They still don’t really understand the concept of roza, though. My 5-year-old asks, “Where is the roza? Is it inside the khajoor?” Perhaps next year when they are both older, I will introduce them to the concept of a mini-fast and allow them to go for a couple of hours with no snacks or water just to get a taste of the experience. But they are very small now, and like many pre-schoolers, are grazers in their dining habits, meaning that they don’t eat three large meals per day, but eat three small meals and several snacks.
The girls have really enjoyed meeting with their friends for iftaar. Their daadi (paternal grandmother) sent them some suits from Karachi, so I have dressed them up, too. It’s really great to see them and all of their little pre-school friends running around the house in little shalwar qameezes, chooriyan jingling away. This also enhances the Ramazan feeling, too.
So, I have been really really busy and I have not missed fasting one bit. I used to feel so disconnected from Ramazan when I was fasting and had to stop due to my monthly cycle. I used to fast even when it made me feel ill afterwards and was not good at all for my blood sugar and insulin issues. But this year I discovered that you don’t have to feel that you are not “doing Ramazan” if you are not fasting. You can “do Ramazan” in other ways. Some people fast and all they get from it is thirst and hunger, as the saying goes. And now I know that some people don’t fast and they can still attempt to get the most out of this blessed and generous month.