Summer fast a time for reflection

By Aziz Junejo, A Muslim of Mukilteo | Jul 03, 2013

Just after sunset on Monday, July 9, Ramadan will begin. Ramadan is a month-long ritual that requires Muslims to fast each day from sunrise to sunset and for local Muslims, they will be 18-hour days.

The lunar calendar has pushed Ramadan deeper into summer this year, which means longer days to fast, but for me, it’s an opportunity for reflection, reward and the annual renewal of my ever-expanding relationship with the God.

All Abrahamic traditions observe fasting in some form, as it is mentioned in the Bible, the Torah and the Quran.

Fasting universally teaches discipline, self-control while purifying the mind, body and soul resulting in a heightened spiritual awareness.

During Ramadan, Muslims must also control their emotions, anger, passions and desires while performing extra prayers and good deeds, all in complete devotion for God alone.

Ramadan is a time for reflection and introspection. Muslims work to get closer to God as individuals, as families and as a community. Each year, I set new aspirations and spiritual goals that I hope to achieve during this holy month.

I’ve been fasting since I was a small boy and it has given me the ability to control my physical self through drive and discipline. I am humbled and honored to do this for God alone.

Ultimately, the ability to control myself has made me a much stronger person.

Fasting during Ramadan or any other time of year does not cause physical harm to a healthy person and those who are not able to fast are never required to fast.

Asking us to exert more self-control and self-discipline by abstaining from food has always been God’s way of showing believers how to gain control over other aspects of our lives. This in turn helps us to focus on spiritual matters.

During Ramadan, I am especially more conscious of food wastage. When I was a young student at the University of Washington, I worked in the food and beverage department at a major hotel, and I was always shocked at the amount of waste in the food industry.

Protocol called upon diners to leave food on their plates at the end of the meal, an indication the food was plentiful. Rarely did a diner ever asked to take their leftovers home – it made no sense to me.

Now food can sometimes be a distraction during Ramadan, and the time to break fast is called “Iftar” in Arabic. Muslims tend to be especially generous during this month, and they usually will invite guests for Iftar meals.

These events usually feature dates to break the fast, and then mouth-watering foods such as roasted lamb, whole spicy chicken-tandoori served on large trays of saffron rice and every imaginable sweet dessert.

In years past, I have been invited to Iftars so plentiful that I wondered whether we were fasting for the enjoyment of food or for the pleasure of God.

This year, I am working to make food less central and make spirituality my first and most important concern.

I will start by taking smaller servings at mealtime and refraining entirely from second helpings. This will be a big step for me, because during past Ramadans, I have welcomed second helpings whether I was still hungry or not.

This year, I am especially thankful to God for the plentiful food supply we enjoy in this blessed country, and I have promised myself I will not waste.

I am confident that working to reduce my food intake will, over the long term, enhance my capacity to achieve a higher spiritual consciousness.

Knowing I have taken full advantage of the gift of fasting the month of Ramadan, I am confident my relationship with God will be more significant and meaningful in the years to come.

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