Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak everyone! I cannot believe that Ramadan is over. This is the first time I ever fasted for the entire 30 days, and it was an incredibly cool and rewarding experience. Believe it or not, I am sad to see it come to an end.

Let me explain. “Ramadan” is literally the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. In Islam, healthy adult Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down for the entire month. Unlike in some other religions where fasting is a form of penitence, in Islam fasting is essentially about community, walking in the shoes of the less fortunate, and recognizing the blessing that is the privilege to have food on your plate. And of course, there is the element of obedience. You do it because it is what God wants.

I am absolutely not a religious person. In fact, for me God existing is at most a “good to have”, but with the sole and selfish objective that the spirits of my deceased loved ones are preserved after death. So let’s get this straight, I did not fast for religious reasons or for obedience to God.

So why Ramadan? I am married to a Moroccan. In the past, if I were in Morocco during Ramadan, I’d do as the Moroccans do, but I had never fasted for more than four days. So why fast this year? First, even though I am not religious, I have a huge respect for religion and believers, at least as long as they are respectful of others. I grew up in a mixed household (a Catholic father, Protestant mother) and spent more time in synagogues (for Bar Mitzvahs) than I did in a church. I also love tradition and want my children to celebrate our family’s diverse cultures. So we do Christmas and Thanksgiving. We eat loads of pasta (more than my wife can often bear), and we eat our share of tagine and couscous.

Now that my kids are getting bigger, I want to make sure that Ramadan becomes part of the family culture and that it is not seen as something that only mommy does. Furthermore, you shouldn’t think about Ramadan as a time of extreme sacrifice. It is actually a celebration, and I wanted that in my home.

Next, I wanted to make it easier for my wife because it is really hard to fast and enjoy Ramadan if you are doing it all alone. I also did it out of pride and self-defense. Pride in the sense that if one billion Muslims in the world can fast for one month, then I can too. If my wife can do it, then why can’t I? And by self-defense, I mean to defend myself against my wife when she says, “I am too exhausted from fasting to put the kids to bed,” I can say, ” well, I have been fasting too. You’re not that only one who is exhausted!” Unfortunately, I never got to play that card because my wife — believe it or not — in the 12 years I have known her has never once complained about fasting.

Finally, I wanted to know what it would be like to fast for 30 days. I wanted to know if I could do it, whether it would change the way I thought, and how my body would react. And guess what? It was really special. Here’s what I learned:

I lost 5 kilos (11 pounds), which I will surely gain back by Monday. I learned that your body adjusts to change over time, but that food and nourishment rule your life, from how you use your time, to your ability to think and work. How when you’re hungry you fantasize about food, and your fantasies are almost always of comfort food. It is primordial. While my wife dreamed of tagine, I dreamed of my grandmother’s meatballs. Not hot off the stove, by cold the next morning.

I learned how being able to feed yourself and your family is a privilege, and how not having food makes simple things impossible. How without food, my brain stopped functioning.  I learned that when you challenge yourself with someone else (in my case with my wife, but also with others within a community), you form a special bond.

Because I am not a religious person, I didn’t partake in the spirituality of fasting, but I can imagine that it is very powerful. Overall, Ramadan reminded me of Christmas where I basically celebrate for an entire month, but by Christmas day I am so burnt out that I need it to be over. Then I take down the Christmas tree, and am sad to see it end.

Now I am left with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and an increased feeling of complicity with my wife for having spent this time together.

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