Tamana Miyazada, The Circle
The first time I fasted during the holy month of Ramadan, I was twelve years old. On the first day, I remember thirst, hunger and fatigue overcome me, but I was determined. I sat in class pondering over all the years I had waited to finally be given the okay from my parents to fast. Here I was, twelve years of age, and a quarter through my first fast. What an honour, I thought. To a Muslim child, being able to fast was the ultimate gift, although, an intangible one. It’s the kind of gift that grows with you, the kind you can only appreciate with time.
At school, during the first day of my fast, my friends prepared to eat during lunch hour. They noticed I didn’t have my lunch bag with me, so they asked me where my lunch was. I explained that during Ramadan, Muslims fasted during daylight hours. To which they responded, “Can you have water?” When I responded, “no,” they were in shock but questioned it no further. When it was home time, my friend and I walked home together. During which the topic of Ramadan came up again. She asked, “Why do Muslims fast?” To which, shockingly I didn’t have an answer.
As soon as I got home that day, the first question I asked my parents, was, exactly that. “Mom, Dad, why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?” They responded with something they’d think my twelve-year-old mind would comprehend. “To sympathize with the poor,” they responded. The next day when I saw my friend at school, that’s exactly what I told her, and the topic was laid to rest, but not for long.
Each following Ramadan, I would ask myself that question and would ponder the purpose of this practice that I held so dear to my heart. I was given a solid explanation at the age of twelve, but as I grew and blossomed spiritually, my desire to learn intensified at an extraordinary rate. The explanation I was given at twelve no longer sufficed at the age of thirteen, and each passing year I wanted more heartfelt answers to “why?”
As Muslims, we are given the answers, in the Quran, and in the Sunnah, but we only truly understand and appreciate the reasoning behind our religion through experiences. At each stage of my life, I took the gift of fasting that I was given at the ripe age of twelve and learned to see it through different lenses. I looked at it through the varying circumstances in my life. I looked at it through happiness, through sadness, and through grief. I learned this. When our core desires are weakened, the magnitude of our kindness is amplified. We learn to put others on the pedestal, and for once put ourselves second. I practiced this every Ramadan, but only truly benefited when I took the wisdom I had gained, and implemented it in my daily life long after Ramadan had passed.