The first thing I have gained is a greater sense of spirituality. Your connection to your Creator gets a little closer. You have more time to reflect on that connection. As Ramadan comes to a close, I reflect on the lessons learned from my first time fasting. For those that don’t understand Ramadan, it is the month of the Islamic calendar that the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). It is also the month that Muslims observe fasting. Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Not only do we not eat or drink, but we abstain from sexual activity and other worldly desires. I am a recent convert to Islam from Christianity. The closest that I got to fasting previously was changing my diet on Fridays throughout Lent to that of fish. I had never experienced hunger for more than just a few hours before. What reason was there to do that?
Well, the reasons become ever more obvious when one starts fasting. I never realized how food-centered we all are. Before Ramadan started, I would center an entire day’s plans on where I was going to eat. Often times I would glutton myself until it hurt. I never realized how much my coworkers and friends talked about food. Everything is centered around lunch or dinner plans. As I end my fast, I have a completely different perspective that I will take with me. There are benefits that are not just beneficial to Muslims but to anyone who may participate in fasting.
The first thing I have gained is a greater sense of spirituality. Your connection to your Creator gets a little closer. You have more time to reflect on that connection. The time can be used for prayer. It can be used for simple meditation. It can be time just to have a restive state. You’re not consumed with the worldly things that surround you. You are almost transcended beyond the hustle and bustle, which I found to be very therapeutic.
The second thing was more or less something I learned about myself. I have self-discipline! I was unsure that I could keep my fast when I began. There were certainly some difficult days where the stomach had a mind of its own, but I never gave in to those hunger pangs. I never relinquished control to my desires, and in the end, I think that says a lot about me. My will was greater than my desire, and a few years ago, I would have never been able to say that. I remember numerous times when I ate too much or drank too much, not because I really wanted to, but because I did not have the discipline to change my course. This Ramadan, I proved to myself that I will never be the same person that I was before. I am more resilient than I thought possible.
Lastly, you are more aware of the devastation that occurs with hunger. I gave up food for approximately fifteen hours a day and received parched lips and a few hunger pangs. There are others in our own community, nonetheless around the world, who go days on end without eating. They are hungry, and they need our help. I not only have a sense of empathy now because of fasting, but I have a sense of urgency to help be a part of a solution to hunger in the community and on a grander scale. I am enabled to be a difference maker because I caught a mere glimpse of what ‘hunger’ meant.
Ramadan is a religious month. It is held sacred to Muslims. The benefits to fasting, however, should be obvious to everyone. It’s not merely to deprive oneself, but it is to gain something more in return. We make gains spiritually. We make gains physically and mentally. We also gain perspective, which can not be taken lightly.
Stefan Czelutsa is a revert to Islam and part of the Shia community in Austin, Texas.