opinion

"For the next 30 days, I won't eat between sunrise and sunset. It's my happiest time of year."

The holy month of Ramadan kicks off this week, 30 days in the Islamic calendar where Muslims worldwide won’t eat or drink - among many other things - between sunrise and sunset. 

As someone who partakes in Ramadan every year, I’m often asked many questions from non-Muslims about what Ramadan entails and why I choose to participate. 

I’m always happy to answer any questions and do my best to explain, but sometimes even my most sincere and thorough explanation isn’t enough to ward off the shower of sympathy I receive when it becomes apparent that I can’t consume food or drink for hours on end. It’s as though I’m about to unwillingly enter the literal Hunger Games!

Watch: Mia Freedman chats to Susan Carland about Ramadan and Islam. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

I don’t get offended, but I do sometimes wish that people could see the real beauty of Ramadan, and why taking part is not something to pity and certainly not a time Muslims dread. 

I think I speak for many other Muslims when I say it’s one of the most happy, fulfilling, and exciting times of the year.

I won’t lie, though, it’s not without its challenges.

The hunger, thirst, low energy, and all-round incompatibility with modern-western society are all difficult. But the fast, and indeed the month, are about so much more than just abstaining from food and water.

As the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is in fact a commemoration of the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) first revelation of what would later become the Quran. 

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But beyond that, Ramadan is time for Muslims to feast with family, become immersed in religion, and to reinforce devotion to faith.  

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.

Living in the secular society that is Australia and working a full-time corporate job, it’s easy to feel further and further away from your faith as time goes by. 

That’s why I’m always grateful for the opportunity to stop, reconnect and re-evaluate my commitment to my religion, as well as the person who I am. 

I like to think that it’s a chance to be the absolute best version of myself - a test of willpower and restraint. Refraining from impure thoughts and behaviours is a big part of that, because it’s not just about fasting off food and water - it’s stopping anything that would be considered sinful behaviour. 

In my family, we were always told that swearing, lying or treating others with any sort of disrespect, would void your fast for example.

That’s another thing I often get asked, what happens if you break your fast or don’t fast at all? 

These questions are often asked with an ominous tone, and I’m often left stressing that while fasting is an obligation as one of the five pillars of Islam, it’s never been something that has been enforced in my family. 

I’m sure many other Muslim families are the same. Fasting has always been a choice - an opportunity, not a prison sentence. 

And if you don’t fast, you’ll probably get some comments and whispers from your religious community - but the rest of the judgement is left to god. 

Because above all, the reason Muslims fast is to show devotion to god.

Layla Saadat has an interest in exploring faith – specifically her own – and how it applies in modern, Western societies. A former Mamamia intern with a background in journalism, today Layla is an employee communications consultant and content creator.

Feature Image: Supplied.