Julie Bartlett , The Circle

Ramadan, for me, is divided into two separate but interconnecting aspects. There is the spiritual renewal of reconnecting to our Islamic faith – committing to living with intention, reveling in the Qur’an’s revelations, and reflecting on our personal relationship to Allah. And then there is the social component in which we strengthen our bonds with brothers and sisters. Much of our socializing revolves around food and ‘breaking bread’ after the shared experience of fasting.

Mosques worldwide will be carpeted with picnic blankets that are overflowing with iftar treats. Fasting of course is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and fardh during Ramadan. Fasting during this period is thought to increase one’s spiritual rewards. But what if you cannot fast? What if for medical or situational reasons you are not able to fast?

Are your prayers less valuable to Allah? Are you really spiritually involved in Ramadan? The hardest part of not fasting is the spiritual and social envy of not meeting Allah’s law. What others take for granted as a part of Ramadan is something I won’t experience. There is always the nagging worry that my prayers are less or that my spiritual Ramadan is fake. I often feel like a fraud. And then there’s longing to experience this spiritual aspect with my friends. There is an intensity to fasting that brings people together, brought into sharp relief as friends and strangers alike come together to share iftar. There is also embarrassment at having to admit, usually in front of a group, that I do not fast. This has sometimes been met with genial suggestions of medicinal foods or praying harder or simply fasting regardless.

My compromise is what I call financial fasting. I thought spiritual guidance and was advised that  I needed to make a daily donation of either money or food to those in need. And so with some internet research into charities with low administrative overhead, I settled on an international food program for worldwide refugees.

Financial fasting isn’t the Islamic ideal but I take some comfort that while I am not fasting this Ramadan, others won’t have to fast after Ramadan because of food shortages


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