I have been a South African all my life and what I like is the diversity of races, skin colours, and religions we have. We are a rainbow nation.
The people I have had in my life growing up were from different walks of life. Being a child I didn’t fully grasp this with my head in the clouds enjoying my childhood blissfully unaware. They were my someone I could play with, my friends and that’s all that mattered.
What does stick with me after all these years is once a year for 30 days a few of my then friends who were Muslim wouldn’t be able to eat, drink and swim.
I remember during break time at school my friends would gather together in a circle by this big tree in the field and those who were Muslim said they were fasting. Not much information was shared as to why, but only all the things not to do during fasting. I accepted it, but the back of my mind thought it wasn’t fair. In other words, they were getting the short end of the stick. How ignorant and wrong I was!
Fast forward to being an adult I have a little more knowledge when it comes to knowing what Ramadan is thanks to the people in my life who over the years shared their experiences with me, but since I never fasted I never truly knew what it was like.
After all the stories shared by others, I always wondered how did they do it? Having that amount of self-control should also be able to help in the long run with many things.
On Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 after much deliberation I wanted to do something I never in my life considered to do, fast. I searched on Google fasting times in Cape Town and found the correct timings. I knew I was behind in fasting when it officially started and my disadvantage of being an adult compared to adults who started out fasting when being a child.
I set an alarm early for 6:00 am to wake up, eat, drink and brush my teeth all before the sun rises at 6:15 am. All this was set and ready to happen, but I couldn’t seem to get up that Sunday early morning to do it. Instead, I woke up 2 hours later at 8:00 am all disoriented and annoyed at myself for not being able to do one simple thing. Get up early!
Sunday came and I was with my family together with some friends while having a braai (barbecue) outside. I knew I would be trying to entertain my 7 year old nephew with fun and games. It was frustrating to have missed my chance, however, I made a decision despite being 2 hours behind I wanted to go ahead and do it.
I did have this nagging feeling that I was cheating the system, or in this case, cheating when it came to fasting. I didn’t follow the most important rule and that is to eat BEFORE the sun rises and AFTER the sun sets, but I went ahead with it because I really wanted to see how much self-restraint I could have when it came to not eating and drinking for 11 hours and to try to experience what else fasting entails.
The time was 8:12 am and I quickly made myself toast and drank as much water as possible before 8:30 am. As the clock hit 8:30 am I had this knot in my stomach and wondered would I really be able to do it. Luckily this thought didn’t last too long and disappeared later.
Children are full of never ending energy and that I once again discovered while running after my nephew, jumping on the rocks at the park, sliding down the slide, spinning on the merry-go-round, swinging on the swings, kicking the rugby ball called Rug while running after it in the streets as my nephew laughs his head off at me going to fetch it all the time. Here I thought this would be a chilled out Sunday, turns out it was busier than expected.
When it came to lunchtime everyone sat at the table helping themselves to food. I didn’t want to seem I was insulting the food by not eating, so I offered to wash the dishes in the sink in hopes to get other’s minds off me not eating and mentioned I would eat later.
My stomach made grumbling noises that at the time seemed louder than anything to me, but thankfully no one heard. I knew I was hungry. Like clockwork, my brain knew it was lunch time and time to eat. I didn’t eat though. Looking back on this the fact I ignored the voice inside my head telling me to eat made me realize people do have some control in stopping their negative thoughts that might linger in their mind.
When the time was for me to break my fast I literally ate everything off the plate and some more food. I devoured everything! I never knew I could eat that much. Drinking that soda faster than anything.
I fasted again since my first time wasn’t exactly as it should be.
The very next day on Monday, June 4th, 2017 I once again couldn’t wake up at 6 am but later. I intended to still continue to do the fast since the last time I had eaten and drank was late at night. What did bother me was not being able to wake up before the sun rises to brush my teeth, but thankfully my breath didn’t stink. At least no one told me it does.
I didn’t feel like I was at my best I could have been. I tried to push through it and do my best. My stomach was making more noises which I hope no one noticed and my throat felt dry. This time it didn’t go as well as the first. I’m not sure if the first time was the curiosity fueling me but this time all I could think about was eating and drinking.
It was warm weather, but not baking and the time seemed to go slower. When it came to lunchtime seeing others eat and drink made me feel slightly annoyed while also wanting to breathe in the aromas of the fresh food.
I kept God in my mind to help me get through this day. Fasting is no walk in the park, those fasting know that. What came to mind when fasting is how people on the street feel when starving and thirsty. The fast felt at some moments it would never end, but I knew how fortunate I am to be able to have a warm meal after all this and drink as much as I can. Not everyone can have that luxury.
I didn’t fast the whole month, so I can’t fully walk away with everything but the little I have taken away from fasting is being able to trust in God and knowing he will help you. Fasting isn’t only about not eating, not drinking, it is important to pray and keep God with you in your thoughts. Staying away from all the negative stuff in the world and to help others. Patience, praying and getting rid of old bad habits is so important when it comes to fasting.
We are all a work in progress. What really matters is if you try to better yourself not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually too.
To all the Muslim people who are fasting hats off to you! The sacrifices you make during this holy month of yours is really something to feel proud of. I hope God rewards you in this life and the next.
Life is a learning experience, every experience makes you grow as a person.