without water, and without other luxuries that are not necessarily relevant to my life today. That was what it was like to fast in Ramadan in England this summer (2014). Imagine going 18 hours without food or any drink, every single day for a month. There are 24 hours in a day, and for 18 of them you can't eat or drink anything. It was not easy at all, but it sure taught me a lot about myself that I would not have learned otherwise.
The main thing I learned was discipline. It is truly amazing what the human body is capable, if you just change your mindset. When you start getting into shape again, your body screams "stop! stop!" because it hurts and you're tired, but you ignore that and keep going with the end goal in mind. After your tough workout, you feel proud not because you were able to run 2 miles, or lift those 2 kg weights, but because when your body was telling you to stop, you took control and kept going. You pushed through it. Similarly, this was how it felt to fast, but I would say it was much more extreme and harder to say no than it is during a workout.
I was surrounded by food for the entirety of Ramadan, and even cooked iftari (the food you open your fast with - dinner) a few times and never broke my fast. I saw foods I don't normally crave, and I craved them more than I crave foods I do usually crave, but even when my body screamed "eat it", I consciously said "no". I don't think you can understand how hard it is to do this, unless you too try it. Let me explain. For 18 hours every. single. day. for one whole month, I went without food and water. Was that hard? Not really - our bodies are able to go days without these luxuries. Saying no to myself, to my desires... That was where things got difficult. For a moment, my body would scream at me, telling me to give in to my desires and shove that chocolate cake down my throat in one bite, but I would just say no, and then a moment later I was in control again.
Muslims are told to only have a few dates and water for iftaari, pray the maghrib (evening) prayer and then eat as much as they want. This is because it helps jumpstart one's metabolism because after not eating for hours upon hours, your body tends to go on starvation-mode. Even though we're taught to do this, most people just eat and eat and eat as soon as the adhaan (call to prayer) is heard. I was one of those Muslims too, until this Ramadan. I'd eat a few dates, have something to drink, pray, and then finally eat a normal sized portion. I found myself more in control of my hunger because of the discipline I learned through fasting. You'd think that after not eating anything for 18 hours, you'd literally eat a whole cow, but that wasn't the case at all. I've been fasting every Ramadan since I was an extremely little girl, maybe like 9 years old, but this Ramadan was the longest, most rewarding, and surprisingly the easiest.
Of course, I was fasting for religious purposes, but this made me question that if I am capable of doing this, what else can I do if I just put my mind to it? The possibilities are limitless. The human body is amazing, and only by pushing ourselves to our limits are we able to truly see what we can achieve if we just believe.
Another thing I learned from Ramadan is how hard it must be for those who fast not our of their own will, but because they literally have nothing to eat. There are people all over the world who can't afford to eat every night, or don't have access to clean water for days. And I'm not just talking about those starving kids in Africa you see on TV; there are hungry people everywhere, so there is no excuse for us not to help them. If you see a homeless person on the street, and you don't want to give them any money because you're afraid they might spend it on drugs or alcohol, then why not stop by the coffee shop down the road and buy them a sandwich? And if you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where homelessness isn't as common, then why not send your extra change (or perhaps more) to those starving children across the world? No, you won't get to see them give you a huge smile when the receive your aid, but you can rest assured that you've helped someone more than you can imagine. You'll be sure you know where your money went, and you'll be giving that person more than you can imagine. You don't know how it feels really be hungry until you've been in that situation yourself. Even I don't know how it feels, because everyday that I fasted I knew there would be a lot of great food waiting for me to devour it soon enough, but I can only imagine.
In short: Be humble. Be charitable. Believe that you can achieve anything, and you will.