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The Fasting and the Furious

In General Posts on August 18, 2009 by Suhaila

Hello and as-salaamu ‘alaykum (peace be upon you). I’m going to try to keep a Ramadan journal this year. Journals and I generally don’t do well together, but we’ll see how this goes.

I went to a lecture called “The Fasting and the Furious” this evening by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Shareef at Al-Huda Institute. It’s available online at ilminar.com, or you can use the embedded player below (there is a Qur’an recitation at the beginning, and the lecture starts in English after about 3 minutes).

There are 3 main points that stuck with me from this lecture:

  1. There was a nice analogy at the start. The Shaykh mentioned that at the starting line of a marathon, there are a lot of people, and at the finish line of a marathon, there are a lot of people, but in the middle of the marathon, there are only a few people. Only a certain type of people get to see the middle of the marathon, and those are the participants. All of the other people who only show up for the beginning and end are merely spectators. Ramadan is a lot like a marathon: there are people who start out sprinting, but quickly run out of steam and fall behind, and there are people who only show up at the end for the extra blessings of the last 10 days, but there are few who are able to push through the beginning, middle, and end with a consistent effort. May Allah help us stay motivated throughout the middle of Ramadan, and make us all worthy participants in the race.
  2. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “fast for you will become healthy.” By fasting, the body gets a break from all the poisons we give it on a day to day basis — all the junk food, sugar, chemicals, and pollution. When we eat our regular processed, scientifically “enhanced” foods, the body needs time to recuperate, but by the time it starts, it’s time for another meal! By fasting, the body has a chance to cleanse itself. Most people will get headaches or other such symptoms near the beginning of the month, but as the Shaykh said, “it’s not the fast that makes you sick, it’s the 11 months that came before it.” If fasting is executed properly, depending on how bad the diet was previously, the first few days will probably be a bit hazy; by the fourth or fifth day, the fog starts to lift; and by the sixth day, the body comes out stronger than before.

    However, that’s only if the fast is executed properly. We tend to treat Ramadan as the month of eating, rather than the month of fasting. We go home to break our fasts with multiple plates of biryani with enough curry to feed a small town in Africa (okay, a bit of an exaggeration, you get the point though). As a result, whenever our body tries to cleanse, we stuff down more poison and have to start all over the next day. By doing this, we never read the ideal “sixth day”, and are doomed to spend all of Ramadan fatigued and cranky — not the most conducive environment for spiritual reflection and development. Also note that it is not possible to lead taraweeh prayers with so much food in one’s stomach. And if you stuff yourself in the evening, there is no way you’re waking up for suhoor (the morning meal).

    The Shaykh recommended a detox program. Personally, I don’t think we need detox programs. Hopefully some of my readers can shed some light on these because I don’t know a lot about detox programs. But really, for the majority of us, I think it should suffice as enough of a detox to just eat what humans naturally eat and have eaten for countless generations before us. And to not only do that for a six week period, but to do it your entire life. I’m pretty sure the shock our bodies will go through as a result of cutting out all sugar, all high fructose corn syrup, and all edible food-like substances, is more than enough. I encourage you all to check out the Paleo diet, which can be summed up in a sentence: eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Even simpler: don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food (that means no Pizza Pops). Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food is a great read as well.

  3. The Shaykh mentioned a story in which the enemies of Islam referred to the Muslims at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) as “monks in the evening, warriors in the morning.” I’d never heard this story before and I just thought it summarized the goal of every Muslim so succinctly. The ideal Muslim wants to spend his nights in prayer and his days fighting evil (yes, we all want to be superheroes, even Muslims), and in Ramadan this is intensified due to the tradition of performing taraweeh prayers at night and the requirement to fast during the day. I’ve named my blog after this quote because I think we (myself first and foremost) need a reminder about the warrior aspect of life. It’s easy, especially during Ramadan, to get carried away with spiritual activities and worship, and that is good, but we tend to neglect the day-time parts of fasting, including commanding the good and forbidding the evil, and seeking to improve oneself in secular matters as well as religious ones. This month I’m seeking to better myself by reading the Qur’an and praying extra prayers, but also by fixing my eating habits and regularly going to the gym, to make myself a stronger person both mentally and physically.

I’ll be updating this blog throughout the month of Ramadan, with various reflections related to Islam, CrossFit, and food (or lack thereof). Hopefully, this blog will help me stay on track with all my goals and maybe create a bridge between two areas of my life that have always for the most part been completely separate.

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