Z's Personal Blog

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By Zaynab

I don't like fasting (Part 1)

I have always struggled with fasting. I’ve never enjoyed it. When people would talk about how excited they were for Ramadan I couldn’t relate.  All I felt was dread and anxiety. Alhamdulillah, by the mercy of Allah, my attitude towards fasting has changed. I’m not at a point where I enthusiastically enjoy it, but I know I need it and thankfully  Allah has given me the strength to do voluntary fasts. If there’s one thing adulthood has taught me it’s that 30 days of fasting a year is not enough to discipline your nafs. Ramadan is a spiritual reset, but it won’t last you for the rest of the year. You have to top it up regularly.

Let me give you some context.

For most of my life I have been that person who always delayed making up missed fasts either until winter, or until I’d be left with no choice because Ramadan was 2 weeks away. I have never enjoyed voluntary fasts and kinda had like an “aw man” response when I would be reminded to fast. This year is the first year of my life where I have made up my Ramadan days less than 2 months after Ramadan and I did them when the days were LONGER. In Ramadan the latest Maghrib got to was around 8:50. I made up my days where Maghrib was 9:20. I also fasted 6 days of Shawwal but here’s the thing, I do not like fasting. 

When I was younger my entire mantra behind fasting was how to pass the hours. How to wake up as late as possible to feel as little hours of fasting, what TV series to binge and how to move as little as possible because everyone knows that when you’re fasting you’re operating at 0.25% energy levels (That’s a joke btw). Then I lost that luxury when I did a summer internship that coincided with Ramadan.

I had to commute on the central line, which if you live in London, you know it’s the worst line. You can literally feel yourself inhaling the dust. I would commute during rush hour in 33 degree heat, and I’m pretty certain it was hotter on the train carriage since there was no ventilation. I was surrounded by sweaty people and I was absolutely starving. At the internship they hired a fancy catering company for our induction week and every day they had the most magnificent desserts. But could I eat them? No. Could I take them home with me? They said no.

Fasting just felt like a physical inconvenience.

Fast forward to 2015 and there were two talks that I watched about Ramadan. One was about the whole spiritual aspect to it by Nouman Ali Khan, and the training of the nafs etc and it absolutely changed my life, so here it is.  This one hour and a half changed my life. The other video was about food. How to eat healthy during Ramadan by a non Muslim Malaysian fitness youtuber. That year I had my most successful Ramadan (the bar wasn’t very high to begin with tbh). I was eating healthy and in moderation, I was connecting with the Quran, and that month was so spiritually fulfilling. 

But just like your iman, (and your weight), your Ramadan experience also fluctuates, and the quality of mine has waned over time. That’s down to a mixture of things, over-ambitious unrealistic Ramadan goals that burn me out in the first 3 days, the quality of my ibadah in the other 11 months during the year, and also my physical health.

Then lockdown happened and Ramadan in lockdown happened.

What Lockdown Did

One thing about me is I am very scared of death. Not the dying part, but the afterlife and the day of Judgment. I am scared because I don’t measure my spiritual contentment according to the things that I do. That’s an easy way to give me a fuzzy feeling of false satisfaction. Also I feel like today it doesn’t really take much to be worthy of praise  “Omg you pray 5 times a day! mashallah!” You could be talking about your sins, and people will praise you. “Don’t worry about your sins, as long as you’re a nice person that’s what’s important.” And if that works for you, then that’s fine, but I know that Allah created me to do better. 

And so, fear about judgment day is that when I am called to account, Allah is going to show me how many hours, days, months of time I wasted, that He gave me, and I will be questioned about them. Time is a blessing that I can’t get back. Despite whatever visible actions I have done, or whatever praise I get from others, I can’t lie to myself and act like I’ve done enough. There’s a lot of free time that I’m scared of being called to account for. And lockdown really brought those fears into the forefront of my life, because it created a lot of free time for me that was otherwise filled with commuting, housework, working etc.

Free time really is a fitna especially for those of us out here who don’t really have self discipline.

When you’ve seen your own peak performance, and you’ve seen what you’re capable of, it really becomes so much more obvious when you’re operating at a mediocre level, no matter how much you try to delude yourself. Adding to this, when I’ve been at my healthiest peak performance, my spiritual and mental health have been nothing but pure joy. The emotional resilience and the love and devotion to Allah have been so grounding and validating. I’ve experienced that, I know how epic it is, and I know that I am not currently operating at that level.

There’s a whole array of reasons for that, but I decided to focus on my physical well being because that directly impacts my mental and spiritual health. My self discipline was and still is lacking and a big part of that is because restraining the nafs is hard. And so to discipline my nafs, I decided to do the one form of worship that I struggle with the most. Fasting. Outside of Ramadan. Voluntarily.

Dhul Hijjah is due to start next week Wednesday or Thursday Inshallah so if you wanna get in on fasting the first 9 days but you’re feeling anxious because like me you don’t like fasting, click here to read part 2 where I share the practical tips that helped me.

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