Ramadan Is My Chance To Be A Muslim Woman On My Own Terms
Whenever I say I’m looking forward to Ramadan, my exhilaration for fasting is usually met with furrowed eyebrows and even more confused looks.
’30 days!’ I hear this cry every year when I mention that yes, it’s a whole month of fasting.
Ramadan is observed by 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, give or take, and yet the aspect most popularly known about the holy month is that Muslims don’t eat or drink during sunlight. And yes, that includes even water.
The presumption is that I won’t see anyone for the next month because my entire lifestyle must also change but this initial lack of understanding towards what I’m about to embark on misses a trick.
The reason Ramadan is so sacred to me and to millions of other Muslims is the aspect of self-care and wellbeing that is interlaced within the 30 days.
Fasting is not only supposed to be fasting of the mouth but of all the other senses. It’s not just about understanding what goes into your body but being mindful about what you’re ingesting into your mind.
It’s a time to read only what’s going to be beneficial, not just entertaining, so it’s a chance to pick up that difficult title you’ve had on your bedside table for months. Muslims are also encouraged to be conscious of what they’re watching and why they’re watching it, so that could be fasting off social media or your favourite TV show.
Taking a step back from social media is usually at the top of my list: Ramadan is my excuse to quieten the constant white noise of everyone else’s lives, and a way to be mindful of the stream of information we’re all constantly taking in. Yes, fasting for 30 days can be testing at times but it is also time out from being ‘on’ all the time.
Most importantly, Ramadan is a chance to watch your behavioural patterns. That could be curbing how you speak to those close to you or noticing how you treat your body and mind when you’re at your best and worst.
Constantly being on the go can sometimes mean there’s no time to take a step back to understand your reaction to things, so I always see these 30 days as a time to reflect.
When I take a moment to be present and my thoughts are not racing, I tend to find my voice again during Ramadan and what I truly think and why. Coming home to myself like this also clarifies where the rest of the noise around me has come from.
With Muslims being faced with negative representation every day, Muslim women statistically bare the brunt of Islamaphobic attacks as we’re usually ‘visibly Muslim’.
Having time to be introspective without being a host to others and their grappling of our beliefs, lifestyles and choices, is integral to knowing who we are, past the boxes we are placed in.
Muslim women have to present themselves as ‘the perfect Muslim woman’ according to what both the East and West deem it to be while also being a part of both communities.
Therefore having time to be introspective without being a host to others as they grapple with our beliefs, lifestyles and choices, is integral to knowing who we are, past the boxes we are placed in.
Like many other Muslims, I choose a cause I can help with for the duration of the month as the foundations of fasting are to also practise the act of being grateful, and to be aware of how much you already have.
This year I want to aid refugee women across the world to have access to basic resources, from sanitary towels to community centres where they can gain friendship as well as aid.
The label of being a Muslim woman can mean you’re either seen to be oppressed or something to be feared so bridging a bond with those who have already endured traumatic experiences is just as important as delving into our pockets to help.
Ramadan is a chance to focus on unlearning whatever trait you’ve picked up in the past 12 months, whether that’s overthinking (I’m raising my hand to this) or feeling perpetually lost and without a purpose.
For those who are fasting for the first time or those who are simply interested, Ramadan helps to push your body, mind and will power. Realising how much you can do when you step out of the humdrum of everyday life can be empowering.
Regardless of what your faith may be, these 30 days call for us to see a bigger picture and put ourselves in other people’s shoes. That empathy is sometimes exactly what we all need.