No food. No water. 16 hours a day for 30 days.

"Why are you fasting? Ok, I understand not eating, but you can’t even drink any water? Will you not get sick? What do you do when it’s time to eat? What do you get out of it?"

These are questions I get asked during the 30 days of Ramadan and I would like to answer them so you can see why I am fasting and why it’s so incredibly important for me and many other Muslims around the world. Each of those questions will be its own topic and I’ll do my absolute best to make sure I answer it in the best possible way. If you enjoy reading this, I suggest forwarding this link to others so they can also get a better understanding of this month. So, let’s get going and tackle the first question!

Oh and I’d like to point out that this is coming from my point of view and learnings. Everyone is open to their own interpretations so please remember that it is coming from me and nobody else. With that being said, I’d love to talk more about anything in the comments section at the end :)

So, why are you fasting?

Over 1 billion Muslims all over the world began fasting on 18th June 2015 for 30 consecutive days. During this time, we are not allowed to eat, drink or indulge in other pleasures from dawn to dusk. It’s not easy, especially in Canada. I live in Vancouver and we have some of the longest fasts in the world. It starts at approximately 3:15 am and ends at 9:35 pm making it a total of around 18 hours of no eating or drinking in the summer heat.

Overall, Fasting allows me to purify my mind, stay humble, be appreciative of what I’ve been given and it really teaches me about will power and self control. It surprises me every time what the human body is capable of. Also, fasting is not mandatory to people who can not physically fast. For example, if you’re traveling you don’t fast or if you’re sick and aren’t able to, then you don’t. It really is common sense. If you feel you are not able to, then you certainly should not.

Ok, I understand not eating, but you can’t even drink any water?

Yes, no food or water. It really is that simple. People have told me many a time about how not drinking water is the most difficult part of it. I definitely agree. Especially in the summer heat, you do feel it. It just makes it that much more rewarding when it's time to eat. The video below hits some good points on fasting:

But, will you not get sick? 

Good point. There’s always extremes and you should never reach them. If you are running around all day and not eating properly in the evening, you will definitely get sick. If you open your fast with fried chicken and not eat any fruits and veggies, you will definitely get sick. On that last point, I did that, and immediately regretted my decision the next day. Take it from me, don’t try that. Bad bad idea. As mentioned earlier, if you are sick and have illnesses that makes it impossible for you to fast, then you are exempt. If you have diabetes or have a heart condition, or any other illnesses, you must not fast. 

By the way, did you know that there are numerous health benefits that come with fasting? I’d like to list a few because it makes me feel good about how my body will be so clean and healthy when done:

  •  Improves blood fat levels: A study conducted in 1997 in the Annals of Nutrition Metabolism demonstrated that fasting lowered bad “LDL” cholesterol levels by 8%, triglyceride by 30%, and increased good “HDL” levels by 14.3% therefore protecting your heart from cardiovascular disease.
  •  Helps you overcome addictions: Because Ramadan teaches you self-restraint for most of the day, you will come to realize that leaving your addiction all together is not be has hard as you initially thought. For example, I gave up smoking 2 years ago when Ramadan started and haven’t had one since :)
  •  Positive physiological effects: It lowers your blood sugar and cholesterol level and it also lowers systolic blood pressure. 50 extensive studies had taken place on the medical ethics of fasting. Improvement of many health related issues were noted and in no way did fasting worsen any patients' health or their baseline medical condition.

What do you do when it’s time to eat? 

We eat. A lot. Ramadan is a time when communities get together and celebrate. With the month carrying many historical and cultural elements, opening your fast brings with it a lot food, prayers and activities for the young and old. I’ve created a slideshow below for you to see how people all around the world open their fast. Every place is different and they all have their wonderful charms. Might I mention, the tradition that almost every Muslim follows is that the first thing consumed when opening their fast is a date. If you don't know what a date is, you'll see it in the slideshow below:

How Muslims Open their Fasts all Over the World

By Hasnain Raza

  • An Indian man arranges food for the breaking of the fast in Jammu

    By Hasnain Raza

  • Pakistani volunteer lines up food in preparation for Iftar

    By Hasnain Raza

  • A woman displays dates during the fifth Jordanian Dates Exhibition

    By Hasnain Raza

  • People opening their fast in Kuwait

    By Hasnain Raza

  • Indonesians buy traditional sweet snacks for breaking fast 1st of Ramadan

    By Hasnain Raza

  • Afghan men break their fast in a refugee camp in Kabul

    By Hasnain Raza

  • Palestinian employees make pancake-like sweets for Ramadan in Gaza City

    By Hasnain Raza

  • President Obama hosting an Iftar at the White House

    By Hasnain Raza

  • A worker displays cookies during Ramadan at a bakery in Baghdad, Iraq

    By Hasnain Raza

What do you get out of it? 

I think this is one of the most important questions and it’s one I ask myself too. There is no point in doing something without understanding why. Personally, I get a lot out of it. First off, it tells me that if I can not eat or drink anything for 18 hours a day, in summer, for 30 days, I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to, physically or psychologically. Also, it allows me to appreciate everything that has been given to me and keeps me grounded. Not being complacent and being more appreciative is a skill I would love to master and by fasting, it helps me get better at it every year. Finally, it tells me how lucky I am and how much I should thank God for everything He has given to me. Ramadan taught me that With prayers, humility, sacrifice, hard work and sheer determination, you can get through anything and accomplish a lot in life and that is why I fast. It’s a constant reminder of where I am, what I’m doing and where I need to go. 

Conclusion

I really hope you enjoyed reading this post. Personally, it was a great exercise to reflect, again, why I fast and also made me really hungry when doing research for all those food pictures above. Nevertheless, I hope you share this article with people that have the same questions or with individuals you feel will benefit by reading this piece. I really wanted to portray why this month is so special and how it has an effect of over a billion people from all around the world. As always, please feel free to chat with me on Twitter about this or leave a comment below. 

Thank you

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