Alhamdulillah, my lengthy fast has come to an end, and may Allah accept it from me and guide me closer to Him.
In 36 days of fasting, what did I learn? What did I notice? What do I want to remember and implement in my non-fasting life?
First off, sugar and processed foods are the enemies of concentration in Salat, empathy, patience, quality rest, mood, emotional well-being, and many other things. If fasting alone helps all of that (and it does, mostly), fasting and avoiding junk really helps. Early on in Ramada, I had 5 or 6 days with very little or no processed food, and it felt great. But as soon as I reintroduced junk, even in relatively modest amounts, I noticed increased irritability and distraction.
Second, it takes energy to have energy. One day, late in Ramadan, I helped out loading some groceries into sacks and distributing the sacks of groceries to some of our underprivileged neighbors. I got a good sweat on early, and did some huffing and puffing, various squats and lunges and stretches, climbed stairs in the heat, etc. And I had more energy after that than any other day of fasting, no matter how much sleep I got or how good my nap was.
Third, during Ramadan, we have numerous reminders of Allah azza wa jall. There’s the fast itself, which Allah legislated to us that we may attain consciousness of Him. There are the additional prayers, recitation of the Quran, and late night supplications. There are gatherings of our brothers and sisters in faith to break the fast together and give thanks to Allah for His bounty. Outside of Ramadan, though, there are fewer community reminders: everyone goes back to their jobs and their lives, and I need to work hard to remember Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Thankfully, he gave us many signs.
وَأَوْحَىٰ رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ
ثُمَّ كُلِي مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ فَاسْلُكِي سُبُلَ رَبِّكِ ذُلُلًا ۚ يَخْرُجُ مِن بُطُونِهَا شَرَابٌ مُّخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ فِيهِ شِفَاءٌ لِّلنَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct.
Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.
InshaAllah, going forward, I have a few jobs: I must limit my junk intake and try to work in some exercise, and keep my eyes and heart open to Allah’s signs: they’re everywhere. I have a plan, and I intended to share it with you, but I think I’ll keep it to myself for now and post more about it when it becomes clear to me that I’ve developed new habits and seen some movement. If you have an idea to make a big life change it’s better to keep your intentions to yourself. For now, my biggest goal is to not return to the hard hearted, irritable, impatient person I was back in late May.
To be honest, I fear slipping back into that version of me. While the James I’m aiming to be is far away, and the James I am is not great by any stretch, the James of a month or so ago was much worse in so many ways, and I don’t want to inflict that on my wife. I’m much more active and engaged now than I was, and that’s both good and bad: I’m more available to my wife and family, but I’m also more active in the community, sending out reminders to the brothers and shouting for justice. I’m sure some of my neighbors would send me huge boxes of chocolates if they knew it was a sort of mild kryptonite for me…
Astaghfirullah. Ya Allah, guide me to better, and protect me, my wife, my family, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers from the evil You’ve ordained for me and the evil that’s inside of me. Make me a slave to You and not a slave to my whims and lusts. Help me to be a better servant, a better husband, a better neighbor, a better friend, a better employee, a better boss, and a better James, ameen, ameen, ameen.
If you haven’t started your 6 days of Shawwal yet, there’s no time like the present: I think you could hit 6 before the end of Shawwal just by doing your sunnah fasts (Mondays and Thursdays); you could fast Friday, Saturday, Sunday for the next two weekends; whatever. You have another 23 days or so to earn your year of fasting, so get on with it! And may Allah make it easy on you!
I guess I posted something similar just a few days ago, and apologies. I’m excited though, and I need to keep reminding myself that the little bits of difficulty I encounter in staying away from processed foods and getting a little bit of exercise will InshaAllah earn me huge amounts of ease both now and in the future. Allahu Akbar!