R'11 Day One: In the Beginning

Monday August 1st may be Heritage Day in Alberta and a resulting long weekend, but for Muslims around the world, we're starting the month of Ramadan!! For the next 30 days, we'll be fasting from dusk to dawn, which comes out to around 16 - 17 hours/day depending on where in the world you are fasting. As I explained previously in an entry, Ramadan is not only a time for self-control from food and drink, but also is a time of heightened spirituality, self-awareness, charity to others, and a cleansing of all the bad thoughts (and foods!) that we have running through our system.

So somehow, I promised myself to write 30 blog entries for the 30 days of Ramadan (because when I look back to last year, I don't really have a way to recall what it was like!!). I wonder how I'm going to come up with 30 different entries that don't look something like this:

4:32am: Just took my final drink of water...I hope I don't feel too parched today...time to pray Fajr...and then nap
11:15am: Stomach just grumbled with the noise of a zombie and gremlin combined, awkward look from lady standing next to me in line at Superstore...
3:43pm: Took a one hour nap, turned into two hours...must...get up...for dhuhr prayer!

And so on...

So for today, since I get asked this question a lot by those wanting to learn more about Ramadan, I thought I'd expand upon those individuals who can be exempt from fasting. From the knowledge I have, they fall into these categories:

1. Women who are pregnant
2. Women during their menstrual cycle
3. Women who are breastfeeding have the option to fast, but it is not obligatory
4. Anyone who physically/medically cannot fast due to resulting side effects
5. Those who need to administer medication orally or go through medical treatments
6. Fasting is non-obligatory for children under age of puberty, but many do try it :)

For those who miss fasts, they are encouraged to make up for it, and many do so during the fall and winter months, since the time you're fasting is a lot shorter. If you can't make up the fast, the Quran and Sunnah encourage you to feed one poor person a day in order to make up for not fasting.

And lastly, I often get asked 'how can you make it through the day?' To be honest, and this is just for me personally, it's not the food and water that's hard to restrain from, it's the modification in behaviour and spirituality that's harder!! There are SO many situations during our hectic work and home lives that cause us to react instinctively (if you must know, that's our limbic system kicking in!). So it's up to us to use our pre-frontal cortexes (!!!) to override the negative emotion with a more patient and rational response. Easier said than done.

So there you have it, hopefully a little more information about those exempt from fasting. This just shows Muslims that Allah (swt) is extremely accommodating and forgiving, and provides numerous options to those who aren't able to complete Ramadan in the fasting essence. Muslims believe that if they live to see another Ramadan, they are truly blessed, and that we should cherish every fast we complete...because we never know if this is our final Ramadan, or if we'll be able to physically handle the ordeal in the future.

Iftar (breaking of fast at dusk) is coming up for those in the UK and has already passed further out east! May Allah accept everyone's fasts and prayers, and keep us steadfast during this month!

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