Fasting is a concept practiced by many people of varying religions and even weight loss communities. There are many benefits of fasting.
Here are a few:
1) Relieves stress
2) Allows you to limit distractions
3) Allows you to focus on your overall health
Every year devout Muslims fast during key moments of the year. These key moments are but are not limited to, the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every month, the days before Eid al-Adha, the Islamic new year and The Holy Month of Ramadan. I began to attempt to fast around the age of 7 (which is about the time most Muslim children do). Being one of the few Muslim kids in my grammar school, I remember being shy about telling my friends why I could not eat or drink anything. A few of them purposely tried to get me to eat by making fun of me. I did not want to be that “weird” kid so I caved in once or twice. As a teenager, I knew I fasted because that’s what Muslims “did”. I would look forward to Ramadan because I knew that there would be a large celebration at the end and I would receive gifts and an abundance of delicious lamb. I would get upset if I couldn’t go out with friends or if I had to dress a bit more modestly in the hot summer sun. I never really reflected on the spiritual connection between why I was fasting and what it meant to me. This summer, I turned 26 years old. During my time here on Earth so far, I have met people who were also on a cross roads between the temptations of this world and the constant battle of getting closer to GOD. This year I really wanted to focus on building a solid relationship with GOD and become a productive member of society. It was my goal to begin living on this Earth with the mindset of a visitor who will return home. My friends are religious however, 99% of them were not Muslim so they did not always understand where I was coming from in regards to certain Islamic concepts. I was yearning for a space where I could learn from other individuals my age without feeling judged. I was blessed to be introduced to ProductiveMuslim.com. I finally found a place for millennial Muslims, this moment changed my life. The purpose of this website is to help “urban global Muslims lead a productive lifestyle – spiritually, physically, and socially.” After a few months of reading their blogs and inspirational newsletters, I decided to follow their advice on how to have a productive Ramadan by creating a list of what you would like to accomplish. I kept the majority of this list between GOD and I. Now that the new year is among us, I feel compelled to share this with you all. Alongside not drinking water, I decided to add a few harder tasks to my fast.
1. Talk to GOD (out loud in public)
(I was nervous at first but now this is something I do all the time and I am not ashamed. This seriously helps me remain grounded and realize the beauty of being alive.)
2. No listening to music or watching crude TV
(This was probably the hardest thing for me to do on the list! How could I go a month without J. Cole, Adele, A Tribe Called Quest or Game of Thrones? I started by deleting my music listening apps off of my phone, besides YouTube. I wouldn’t bring my headphones with me every where I went. Every time I would want to listen to music I would read my Productive Musilm book (review and interview with Author, Mohammed Faris, coming soon). I had to get comfortable asking my UBER drivers if they could cut off the radio. Ramadan came right before the final episodes of Game of Thrones which is one of my favorite shows, I had to give that up as well.)
3. No social media
(I had did this before so it wasn’t that bad. I just let all my friends know that I would be off of social media for a month. I did keep my LinkedIn job search app, just to do some research.)
4. Go to the Mosque more
(I am embarrassed to say that in the past I rarely went to the Mosque unless it was a special occasion. This was mostly out of fear of doing something wrong, being judged or going alone. I forced myself to go to the Mosque and it became a spiritual safe haven for me. I met more people, I became accustomed to going every day.)
5. Write letters to friends
(In many ways I am an old soul. I place sentimental value on many things. I have always loved physical letters because they take time to create. I began writing letters to people that mean the most to me in life).
6. Read The Holy Quran
(I read more of this than I had ever read and for that change I am forever grateful.)
7. Read for fun and knowledge
(I have always enjoyed reading, it was not until I was forced to read for school that I started to stray away from it. I wanted to get back into this so I purchased The Productive Muslim Book and began to ignite my passion for reading.)
8. Do not go to parties/major social gatherings
(During “Summer time Chi” it is almost impossible to get away with not finding something fun to do. There are so many events, parties, and food festivals going on. Having to say no to going to your friends birthday parties is a hard task but I was able to manage.)
9. Reach out to more Muslimahs
(If any of my non-muslim friends are reading this, please do not be offended. I love my support system and my friends very dearly. Before this ramadan I had virtually no friends besides my cousin that were muslim. Knowing that the majority of events my friends would go to, I could not during Ramadan, I wanted to branch out and meet more people that shared my faith. I was blessed to meet a few at the Mosque and then, the Takin’ It To The Streets (more on this to come) meeting came. I was immersed into one of the dopest Muslim communities I could have prayed for, IMAN.)
10. Get organized
(As an ENFP on the Myer’s Brigs scale, I have a short attention span. It is hard for me to stay organized because I like things a certain way, I typically work well in organized chaos. The working world and grad school quickly has shown me that this is not the way to live. I attempted this journey during Ramadan and I am still working on it.)
11. Revamp my blog
(I actually did it, I really did it.)
12. Work on my patent
(I reached out to doctors, past patent creators and finally got this process started.)
13. Get closer to my family
(Still a work in progress. All of our schedules vary so it is hard to have quality time with them.)
14. Forgive people
(This is a Ramadan staple but I wanted to make sure I did it. I do not like holding on to grudges. Grudges consume your happiness so I forgave those who have done me wrong and asked others for forgiveness.)
15. Do things out of my comfort zone
( I have always been a relatively shy person. On a good day, I am an introvert who dabbles in the extrovert an introvert. I went on many mini adventures, I went to Seattle with a group of people I had never met in person and I held longer conversations with strangers.)
What was the point of all this? Did I achieve my goals? Do I feel reformed? I can honestly from the bottom of my heart say YES. The reason is not because I had to but because I wanted to. My intention this year was to complete these tasks, some I did and others I did not. I was blessed with the opportunity to “declutter” my mind. I was able to focus on my goals and really allow myself to invest in my soul and my relationship with GOD. I literally felt and still feel liberated, I am not the same person I was a few months ago. I dress differently, I am more conscious of my choice of words, I do not take things given to me in life for granted, I laugh more, I love harder.
For more information on the benefits of fasting check out this informative piece by lifehack.org
I use to think that people who were “reformed” were just exaggerating or trying to seem holier than others. I now understand that this not the case for everyone. Sometimes you really are just in a different space that allows you to see the world differently. The most important lesson I learned from a month without music is to put GOD first in every movement, every endeavor, every cause and you will receive your blessings.