CT MUSING: Ramadan Reflections in Dubai

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CT MUSING: Ramadan Reflections in Dubai

What does Ramadan mean to you and how does it change your outlook on life?

By Maán Jalal

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Published: Sat 18 Jun 2016, 3:27 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Aug 2016, 6:50 PM

Everyone experiences Ramadan differently. Though I don't think there is anything that constitutes as an objective experience, this account is only, truly a subjective one.

Ramadan, if you allow it, can truly impact your life. This might sound shocking to some but fasting is more than just abstaining from food. Choosing not to eat from dawn until dusk is just the start.

As a child the concept of fasting was made simple. Fast in order to empathise with the poor. Often or not during the first few days of fasting, while your body adapts to the idea of not eating, your thoughts wander. Some people live like this everyday. They don't get to break fast when the sun sets with a date, a bowl of soup, a homemade meal followed by quality time with the family and possibly a games night with friends. They probably starve throughout the night.

At this embarrassingly obvious realisation, I begin to obsessively promise myself that when I break fast, and even after Ramadan is over, I will never waste food again. Each grain of rice will be devoured on my plate, every drop of water will be drunk, did I really not finish that sandwich? Why didn't I lick the smeared chocolate on the inside of that Kit Kat wrapper? How can I not be grateful for the variety of food so easily available to me?

As a teenager I was told, fast in order to learn how to resist temptation. When your body becomes used to not eating, hunger is constantly there in the background and food is an after thought. Then true fasting begins. I don't know if everyone understands this concept or arrives to it in the same way that I do, but fasting isn't only fighting off the temptation to eat. It is fasting from cursing, from gossip, from anger, from your own shortcomings, you're fasting from the faults of your character. This is where things get complicated. I'm definitely not a lose your temper kind of man, but cursing to me has always been second nature. As for gossip, I never partake in passing on rumours, however when a friend of mine calls me up with some news about someone we went to school with, the satisfaction of hearing about the life of someone I really don't care about anymore can be as deliriously satisfying as that first succulent, ecstasy filled bite from a burger at Salt. Can you tell that I'm hungry while I'm writing this?

When fasting forces inward reflection and you become aware of how you act, you also start to notice how others act too. The actions of people around you, their nature, perhaps not always directed at you, is more apparent. I'm not saying you turn into a mind reading superhero when you fast but you start to notice the difference between people who, although know you're fasting, feel no shame to eat in front of you, and those who choose to leave the room and eat alone out of respect for your decision. Fasting forces you to slow down and you begin to see anger, sadness, kindness, empathy, patience or lack of it, in people you thought you knew.

Perhaps the biggest revelation I get every Ramadan is how fickle the human mind is. I use myself as an example. Every Ramadan these realisations come to me almost in the exact same order, and I promise to keep in my head and heart for the remainder of the year. But do I? Probably not. It is human to error and unfortunately, being satisfied makes you blind to all the gluttonous, ingenuine details of life that make you less of the person you should be.

Everyone experiences Ramadan differently. This is simply how I experience it and what I take out of it every year, hoping that some residue of what I learnt, what came to me and what I experience, manages to make me understand myself and the world with clearer, kinder, and with more patient empathy.


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