Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Fulfilling Fast-A-Thon

I have a feeling Allah must have rolled his eyes when I RSVP'd to an Iftar dinner three days ago. Yes, I RSVP'd to fast a day in honor of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. I can see Allah now, replying to my email, Thank you for your RSVP, Sara. I welcome your fast.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, having sex, or indulging in anything ill-natured from dawn till dusk. (Borrowed from Wikipedia.) So I did, as Mohammad (peace be upon him) did, and as several hundred millions have done after him.

Before sunrise, I ate a filling breakfast made up of eggs and toast; downed a 20 oz bottle of water; and washed dishes, all before 7:15ish a.m.. Give or take five minutes, I drank the last drops of water before my 13 hour fast.

By noon, I was on campus, and my stomach was demanding its meal right away. I had two classes back-to-back, and made it a point to conserve as much energy possible by mostly sitting. Instinctively, survival mode kicks in. But before I knew it, the time was 5:45 p.m., and only two hours remained. At close to 11 hours without food or a drop of water, I was surprised to only be bothered with a headache. I immediately thought to myself, I can do this! No problem.

The Iftar Ceremony began at 7:30 p.m. Sunset was at 7:51. On each white linen table were a dozen dates, and a silver pitcher full of water. A few minutes before sunset, a soft-spoken woman wearing a navy blue hijab (headscarf) said a few opening words. At 7:51 p.m., the Adhaan, the Call to Prayer, called forth the Muslims in the room. It was like refreshing water to my parched throat, literally. And the sweet dates helped my headache go away.

In the Maghrib Prayer, the prayer after sunset, approximately 40 people gathered facing Mecca, performing a choreographed prayer I have seen before, offered in the streets of Cairo. To the limited spectator, the prayer may remind them of a dance from their youth, a "head, shoulders, knees and toes" movement. I, on the other hand, was taken back to Cairo. Simply humbling, simply beautiful.

Just before the prayer ended, 8:00 o' clock struck, and I am convinced Allah spoke because in the background of the Maghrib, I could hear the faint Catholic church bells ringing.

If you ask me, they harmonized quite beautifully. Indeed, Allahu Akbar, God is great.

If you, like me, are not Muslim, here are a few good things to know when fasting.

  1. Pre stock your fridge with ingredients and food for a filling ( but not stuffing) breakfast.
  2. If possible, avoid driving.
  3. If possible, take a nap.
  4. Do NOT leave mints, tangerines, or gum in your reach (bag, backpack, locker, etc.). It will tempt you.
  5. Do NOT ask me how I know that.
  6. Enjoy it. The experience is cleansing.

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