Their very first Ramadan

Omneya Yousry, Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

In Ramadan, everyone has something to do or wait for, but how does it feel for those who are fasting for the very first time.

Ramadan
Ramadan

 

When the crescent moon marked the beginning of Ramadan, Muslims around the world embarked on a sacred journey of fasting, reflection, and spiritual growth. For those new to the practice, observing Ramadan for the first time is a deeply personal and transformative experience that goes beyond abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours. 

For those fasting for the first time, Ramadan offers a unique opportunity to deepen their faith, cultivate mindfulness, and foster a sense of community. The pre-dawn meal, Sohour, and the evening meal Iftar become moments of shared joy and gratitude with family and friends.

During this holiest month in the Islamic calendar, believers fast from dawn until sunset as an act of devotion and self-discipline. It is a time to purify the body, mind, and soul, to strengthen one’s connection with Allah, and to empathise with those who are less fortunate.

Rita Sabri, newly Muslim and a 31-year-old from Philadelphia and living in Morocco, shared her first fasting experience. “For me, the hardest days were the first. My body had to adjust to going without food and liquids until dusk, or roughly 7:30pm in Morocco.”

“They were the hardest because at the start of Ramadan, when I woke up at three in the morning for Sohour before the sun rose, I only drank water instead of eating. I became much hungrier during the day as a result.”

“Since I was the only one in my family who was fasting, I occasionally ordered food in advance or waited until my family had dinner at 8:00pm. After a week of Ramadan, my neighbours found out that I was fasting. They invited me to visit their home right before Iftar so I could have their traditional Moroccan harira soup.” 

“The family welcomed me into their home with a tray of freshly prepared Moroccan food, including various savoury and sweet desserts. They asked me to pick up a tray for Iftar every evening. I didn’t want to, at first as I felt it was rude. However, they warned me that if I didn’t come every day, they would get upset. Therefore, I went to my neighbour’s house every night and always found something new,” Sabri said. 

 “After my initial Iftar, I developed a stomachache that prevented me from doing anything, so I began to consider a proper Ramadan diet and recalled the Prophet Mohamed’s (Peace be Upon Him) sunnah or advice.”

 “For me, the entire month of Ramadan has been a great experience of fasting. I am pleased with my accomplishments, and I have received a lot of support from others. I have truly valued the neighbourly spirit of sharing and the generous culture. The fact that so many people still lack access to food has taught me another valuable lesson. It wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated, and I exercised restraint. I was glad I finished it, and I am excited for the following year.”

“I converted to Islam five months ago,” said Alexandra West, a 22-year-old American woman. “This will be my first Ramadan, God willing. I know this is the time in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed (Peace be Upon Him), and it is a month in the lunar calendar where good deeds are increased. I am expecting to wake up early before dawn time to pray and eat and then to fast until sunset and the Maghreb prayer. After that, I will attend the Mosque’s Iftar and taraweeh prayers,” she said.

“I have tried to increase my good deeds like doing the prayers on time, reading the Quran, and attending classes and studies at the mosque, as well as stopping myself from bad practices that take away the focus from Allah.”

 “I am alone in practising my faith, so relying on the community at the mosque has been essential. I thought I would be celebrating alone, but the kindness of other Muslims has helped me to stay educated and prepared. Most importantly, though, they have helped me not feel so alone.” 

Ramadan is not just about physical abstinence, of course. It is also about spiritual nourishment. Many use the month to engage in extra prayers, recite the Quran more frequently, perform acts of charity (zakat), and seek forgiveness for past wrongdoings.

“Before I fasted during Ramadan, as a first-year Muslim I was a little scared. It was hard for me to envision going a day without food and drink because I had never fasted before,” said Andrea Melina, a 36-year-old Greek man who converted to Islam seven years ago. 

“My close friends and family members made the issue worse because they all wanted to share their thoughts on what they saw as the folly and meaninglessness of depleting an organism, as well as the dangers of going for extended periods without eating or drinking. They used to try to persuade me that Ramadan would make it impossible for me to study effectively. However, the more they attempted to persuade me, the more committed I became to fasting.”

 “Ramadan in Muslim countries, where we can witness happiness, gifts, and decorations and when everything changes and everyone is smiling, is completely different from fasting in a non-Muslim nation. As for me, I had recently converted to Islam, and so I didn’t have many Muslim companions to spend the holy month with. However, fasting was actually quite easy; it was far more difficult to fast when one was apart from close friends and family and not sharing in the festive, joyous, and happy environment. Every day I had to make a celebration for myself.”

“Ramadan is a great time to accomplish good deeds, like giving someone food, lending a hand, or simply spreading happiness. When a Muslim meets a brother in Islam in a non-Muslim nation and celebrates Ramadan together, the Muslim feels extremely happy,” Melina said.

“Whenever I would get home from the market and begin to unpack my bags, I would always find little gifts from Muslim salesmen. It was really great, even if it was only one peach, and it made me want to help more people as well.”

As the days pass and one’s resolve is tested, each moment of hunger becomes a reminder of gratitude for life’s blessings. The breaking of the fast at sunset in Ramadan becomes a celebration of resilience and faith. 

For those observing Ramadan for the first time, may this month be filled with peace, blessings, and enlightenment. Embrace each day as an opportunity for growth, reflection, and spiritual renewal. Wishing you a blessed Ramadan filled with light!

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