I have fasted during Ramadan – for the first time in my life. In solidarity with my Omani host family? More out of curiosity. A part of my Bosnian family is Muslim and some family members fast regularly.
Having grown up in Germany I felt crazy to “do it to myself” and not to eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset.
Hard to imagine in my “German” life! I also felt sorry for my Muslim friends and colleagues because they had to get through it.
Nevertheless, there has always been some envy for this control of the body and the soul, something I would hardly dare to do for myself.
“I admit. There were times when I found it quite “irresponsible” what people were expected to do during Ramadan. I couldn’t understand why people would do that to themselves freely. But at some point I came to the conclusion: before I continue to criticize, I want to experience it myself and then judge it.”
Fasting in my host family
Now I live in Oman. For months, people here have been looking forward to the month of Ramadan. When this experience was mentioned, a smile always shone on the lips. How could such a “physical ordeal”, as it is seen by us in the western world, bring such joy? My answer to this question: try it yourself.
So I told my Omani family I was joining the fast. “Really? But you don’t have to. We don’t have a problem with that. There is breakfast and lunch for the children and our housekeepers every day. So don’t worry about it.”
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. According to Islamic opinion in this time the Koran was sent down.
“Yes, I will.” They are impressed and some of my brothers even grin because they can’t imagine that I can hold out.
Let's go - How strict is Ramadan in Oman?
Day one of my first Ramadan. Ramadan in Oman is quite “humane” in terms of time. Sohoor, the breakfast, is taken until around 4 in the morning. Fotoor or Iftar, the breaking of fasting, around 6:50pm.
The times that are respected in Ramadan in Germany are breakfast until 2.45 am and dinner from 8.30 pm on. In addition, eight hours of full energy work are necessary in Germany as usual.
In Oman, there are only five hours of work left during Ramadan. Universities and colleges are still active and exams are also written. So no mercy for the students. I also have to keep going to language school.
I get up shortly after three o’clock because I want to prepare breakfast on my own. My Omani family eats pure rice with yoghurt and drinks a mixed yoghurt-milk drink with it. Bananas are served with it and of course the healthy dates must not be missing. Very important: drink enough water. I’m basically not a breakfast person, but I know I need to eat something. Not eating is not a big problem for me, but water?
I decide to keep my usual breakfast: Almond milk banana avocado shake with ginger powder. I also drink a lot of warm water with rose water and eat dates with it – always in an odd amount.
The first Day
If I don’t have lessons or have to meet a deadline, I definitely sleep longer. During the day I avoid going outside in the midday heat, as it is currently up to 42 degrees Celsius hot. Physically I am doing surprisingly well on the first day! Also my water balance seems to be good!
In the house it is quieter than usual and only in the late afternoon it comes to life. In the kitchen, people work hard to prepare dinner. There are delicious soups with oat flakes and lots of vegetables, samosas, filled puff pastry rolls, as well as crepes with honey and Gheimat, a kind of quark balls with honey and sesame. And of course plenty of water with rose water and dates, with which the fast-breaking is opened. Everyone is in a good mood, smiling and eating together in gratitude for the fasting together. Around ten o’clock in the evening we have a classic dinner. Many fresh fruits are served as dessert. My family is very sensitive about nutrition.
I feel very good! Of course, this can just be the initial enthusiasm. I’ll see what happens next within the coming days.
Fasting - Time for Reflection
But also in the next days I feel well. But what’s changing is my attitude. Because I do not add anything to my body to eat and drink, there is a lot of energy because it does not have to digest anything. This energy is now taken up by the mind and brutally catapults me into thoughts about myself, my life, my present existence … and what do I really want?
For years I haven’t dealt with myself so intensively. Sure, I fulfilled my dream, gave up some things and moved to Oman to learn the language. But also to get to know the traditions and to live with them.
ut what are my deepest wishes? These are usually not perceived by us at all and if they do appear on the surface they are repressed because they are “absurd and unrealizable”.
We deal with many unimportant things, but with ourselves least of all. Well, fasting forces you to – because there is no escape.
These were my personal experiences. During this time, the thought of eating and drinking did not come to the fore. The soul and the body wanted me to deal with them.
I have doubts about myself. Do I even know myself? Who am I? Who am I? What have I ever done in my life? Am I viable? Do I even deserve this life? That was anything but easy. I felt like I was going crazy. Thought I was going crazy. Should I at least drink or eat something again? No, the body and mind don’t want to! You’re forcing me to keep dealing with me. Well, I’ll jump in the cold water and do it!
What I need to keep in mind: Only someone who is physically fit is allowed to fast. Sick women, pregnant women, nursing mothers, women with periods and children are excluded. By the way, it is a false view that menstruating women are considered impure during the month of fasting and are therefore not allowed to fast. The reason is simple: bleeding weakens the body and most women are in pain. That's why they're exempt.
Since it would be too exhausting to keep to the times, travellers do not fast either. The missed days are made up in the course of the year.
But then I have to travel and stop fasting for three days. At first I thought it would do me good. But the opposite occurred.
I miss it because I feel that the confrontation with myself is not over! I’m glad to be able to continue on my return! Already on the plane on the way to Oman I start fasting again. I enjoy getting up so early and taking my sohoor outside under the moon and the stars and listening to the prayer before going back to bed to sleep. Sometimes, on weekends, I go through the night to the Sohoor. I don’t like going out in the evening – too much traffic. We take care of everything in the morning or immediately after breaking the fast. The streets and the tills are pretty empty.
For the Community and Society
My family asks me how I experience Ramadan. I’m telling them the truth. They calm me down and confirm that everyone’s fine. That’s what the month of fasting is for. It’s not about depriving the body of food and drink. This process gives our mind the power to find itself. People also spend a lot of time with the family in the evening to strengthen the sense of community again – also to the society out there and worldwide. In this time it is made clear to us once again that all people are equal and that love and respect are in the foreground.
My Resume - to live and let live
Ramadan is now over. I am grateful that I could and was allowed to empathize with him in all aspects. This intense time with myself has changed me – for the better. Now I have more respect for myself and I trust my body even more! And I pay more attention to my soul!
Overcoming the superficiality of everyday life, which can be marked by materialistic things and unimportant worries, felt tremendously good. But what it has taught me above all: Humility in front of all the Muslim fellow citizens who practice fasting and that adapted to our daily work and life rhythm without losing their smile. I am ashamed that I did not take them seriously before, or even considered them irresponsible. But this is also Ramadan – to recognize the truth without neglecting everyday life, which naturally is an important part of our daily life and the continued existence of the international community.