Friday, 26 May 2017

The Ramadan 'Challenge’: A quest for religious understanding

I am eternally a researcher at heart. Somehow, I was born with a natural sense of curiosity that leads me to question the things around me in an attempt to understand. One of the things I have been “researching” for most of my life is religion. And while I have yet to find one that I can truly identify with, I’m still on the continual path in search of a potential higher power1.

Tonight at sundown, marks the commencement of Ramadan – a month-long fast that is part of the Muslim religion. I have talked about this in a prior post, while living in Manchester, and the struggle I faced having to go half a day without food. But given that many of the people I’m surrounded by here in Jinja (and numerous other friends around the world) are Muslim – from the family I stay with, to the people who supply me with my weekly groceries, to those who get me safely from place to place – I thought it might be a good time to exercise my inner-researcher and go through the fast alongside them. After all, I’m not sure how appreciative my neighbours, in particular, would be if they had to put up with me cooking and snacking all day long, whilst they go without!

If I’m being honest, I am a bit nervous about it all. I know I can get through the daytime hours without eating, even though it will be a challenge. For me, it’s more that I’m not an early morning eater, or that I just genuinely like to eat2. But that’s not really the point of Ramadan, is it?

Ramadan, in fact, is about reflection. It’s about enacting charitable behaviours onto those less fortunate. And, it’s about prayer. In other words, the purpose of Ramadan is to honour the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammed, but it’s through these three observances (fasting, prayer and charity) that this takes place.

So how will this work for a non-Muslim, non-praying, pig-loving Orange Canadian? It’s simple:

  • Fasting is standard, based on the area of the world you find yourself in. As I’ll be in Jinja, I will have to finish eating around 6:15AM, and will be allowed to take my next meal beginning at 7:10PM. During this time, I cannot eat or drink – not even water – so it means I will have to learn to consume enough water to keep me hydrated and enough food to get me through the daytime hours before the break of dawn. This will be a challenge, but not one that I’m unable to complete.
  • For the charitable component, I will aim to do one good deed each day and to be mindful of others. This part will be a bit more open, or flexible, shall we say.
  • And finally, the prayer aspect. As part of Ramadan, Muslims pray 5 times a day3, and as I’ve already stated, prayer isn’t something I do. So, I will alter this ever-so-slightly. Instead of praying, I will spend that time meditating and making a conscious effort to record something I am thankful for4.
This is what the month ahead looks like for me. Today, I had my last normal time breakfast, where I (probably blasphemously) had my last taste of bacon for a while. I’m looking forward to this solidarity I will share with those around me. I’m looking forward to the potential for spiritual enlightenment. And, I’m looking forward to achieving a better understanding of a religion for which I have come to admire over the last few years.

So, with that, I wish all my friends beginning their fast this evening Ramadan Mubarak. See you on the other side!

-the Orange Canadian

1As of now I consider myself as Agnostic. My quest for a religion has been strengthened partly following my Mother’s passing, and seeing how so many around me have been comforted by their faith. I’ve also pretty much riled out Christianity for many reasons. But to be fair, I can’t see myself converting to Islam, not because it isn’t a beautiful faith, but because I love to consume piggly-wigglies far too much!
2I currently take breakfast at around 11AM, and tend to eat out of boredom – how privileged is that?! Yuck!
3For me this will take place at approximately 5:30AM, 12:50PM, 4:14PM, 6:55PM, and finally at 8:00PM.

4That will be approximately 150 things at the end of the fast, by the way!

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