By Nada Alwarid, Issaquah Highlands Resident
The first thing I look forward to every morning is my caffeine fix. However, I will part with my morning habit on June 6th, 2016 (which coincides with Ramadan 1st, 1437 in the Hijri lunar calendar), as I join the 1.6 billion Muslims of the world in observing the annual month-long fast.
“Oh you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you, as it has been prescribed upon those who came before you, so that you might attain piety/ God consciousness.”
– Qur’an [2:183]
Ramadan’s significance. Muslims believe that during this holy month, the final testament -the Qur’an- was sent from God to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) through the Archangel Gabriel (PBUH), reaffirming and building on tenets of preceding sacred scriptures, including the Bible and the Torah.
Who cannot fast? Children, pregnant, nursing, or menstruating women, the elderly, travelers, or anyone with a chronic health condition for whom fasting would be harmful.
How and when? Daily: abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sunset (physical). Prohibit the self, mind, and tongue. Do, think, and say in the most excellent manner you can, exercising increased patience (metaphysical). The fast enables greater focus on spiritual nourishment, thus climbing a ladder of personal excellence. Whereas physical mechanics enable ritual practices, the metaphysical realm enriches them with meaning and purpose. This is at the core of the Islamic tradition.
Spiritual nourishment comes in different forms: Reading scriptures, reflecting, praying, feeding and helping the needy, engaging in various community or humanitarian projects, participating in interfaith events, hosting communal iftars (breaking fast), and/or partaking in communal nightly prayers, among other acts of worship.
Ramadan is a month of blessings, mercy, forgiveness, and community. It is a month of increased closeness to the divine, introspection, and soul searching. Observers take this opportunity to atone and start anew, exiting Ramadan feeling spiritually cleansed. Though if they were able to speak, our digestive systems would surely thank us for the break, as well.
Food is still important to us mortal beings. So it is also a time for great dishes, desserts, and communal parties. At iftar time, people say a silent prayer, sip some water, and eat some dates. It is a profound moment – of true appreciation for the provision of sustenance by the Divine.
Muslims are from all colors of the rainbow when it comes to ethnicity, so all cuisines are represented. Typically, people start with soup before the heavier meats, carbs, salads etc. One of my personal favorites is lentil soup. Here is how I make it.