Ramadan is the time in the Islamic calendar where Muslims become more religious. Usually, before the commencement of the month, Muslims are told that the thawaab (spiritual blessings of Ramadan) are a thousand times more than in other months. A thousand times is equivalent to eighty-three years of thawaab so who would say no to that? So in addition to the fast, they also recite the Quran (usually at top speed since they want to finish it!) and perform the taraweeh prayers (which also recites the Quran at top speed also since they want to finish it!).
So yes, a busy month for Muslims. But what happen after Ramadan departs? Well, Eid happens and Eid is a great time to get all dressed up, enjoy visiting with family and friends and of course, eat and drink to your heart’s content! But what happens after Eid? Eid doesn’t last for more than a few days, in my experience. So what do we do after that? It appears that we go back to our old habits! We see Muslims enjoying hefty lunches and dinners day in day out. For those who smoke, they return to that old habit straight after Ramadan as well. Ramadan falls by the wayside. Another eleven lunar months before the next one!
Was this how it was meant to be? Was this the intent of Allah to test us one month out of every year only for us to return to the functional level at which we were before our test? I do not believe so. All we have to do to see this is to analyse the only passage in the Quran in which fasting and Ramadan appear and that is Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah) Verses 183-187. In these mere five verses we should be able to see that fasting is indeed a way of life. Reason being, the section of Al-Baqarah in which this passage appears (2/183-207) outlines a whole way of life for Muslims. Fasting becomes the means through which we become robust and are thus able to take on these challenges.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.
If this is true, then the traditional notion of the Ramadan month needs to be revised in order for us to use it as a ‘peak training’ period. Even the word ‘Ramadan’ denotes the hottest period or a state of scorching, as it were. How can we expect to make the change towards a better lifestyle more permanent if we dive straight into it.
Rather, I believe we need to make fasting/abstinence/self-restraint a lifestyle. We would find this type of lifestyle even mentioned in tradition ascribed to the Prophet. These traditions include ones where he instructs us to eat only a third of our capacity, fill another third with water and the last third is to be left empty. Simple as this sounds, it is remarkably profound. This instruction actually helps digestion to a large degree. And of course, the Prophet’s austere lifestyle during Ramadan (exemplified in simply eating dates for iftaar) was not an annual thing. He kept this lifestyle going throughout the year.
I would highly suggest Muslims practise sawm as a lifestyle. After you’ve had your fill of Eid (two or three days should do it, come on!), perhaps start by missing a meal or two. Instead of having both breakfast and lunch, have a small brunch instead. Alternatively, have a light dinner or miss dinner completely. Although we may feel hungry at first or just feel as if something is amiss, we would eventually acclimatise ourselves to that lifestyle. It would be good to remind ourselves that only a few generations ago, people used to eat far less and eat natural rather than processed foods. Consequently, the epidemics we see today such as heart disease and diabetes were relatively unknown.
It would be good to also try other forms of fasting for the purposes of detoxification. Ramadan fasting works well for our blood sugar control but the tradition of eating sweets and sugary drinks tend to undo those benefits. Hence we should also try these other forms of fasting. One type of fasting which seems rather drastic is the water fast. That does what it says on the tin – you drink only water for a few days. Apparently, that type of fast can actually awaken a deep cellular healing. Other types of fast include raw fruits and vegetable fasts which can be quite trying given the speed in which detoxification happens. Whatever you choose to do, you should first get your doctor’s approval and go slow. You cannot change overnight.
So there’s your post Ramadan resolution: keep up this lifestyle of restraint after Eid. Insha Allah, when Ramadan rolls around next, we would be far more ready for it!