OPINION: What I’ve Learned Observing Ramadan as a Christian

Christian Maldonado, Lifestyle Editor

This year, I have decided to test myself and try something new. For years, I have admired the tradition of Ramadan. This year, for the first time in my life, I am participating in it. At the time of writing, we are exactly halfway through the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and I have had the opportunity to learn many new things about myself and my environment. 

Before embarking on this journey, I felt like my habits with food were not healthy. I found myself eating out of pure boredom sometimes, and the Ramadan fast makes it so that I cannot do that anymore. For those who don’t know, fasting during Ramadan lasts from dawn until sunset. During this period, I have to wake up before 5 a.m. every morning to eat my breakfast, which is supposed to last me until around 7:15a.m.-7:30p.m. When I finally get to eat dinner, my brain thinks that I can still eat the same foods and the same portions that I did before Ramadan started. I realized a couple of days into fasting that this wouldn’t be possible for me. I started to feel sick after eating a regular portion of food, and it frustrated me. 

During the fast, you also are not permitted to drink water. This was the one fact that made me not want to participate in the fast. I know how important it is to drink water, and the fact that I couldn’t felt weird and surreal to me. I have found myself absentmindedly walking up to water fountains, and having to stop myself just before I was going to drink from one. I make sure to drink plenty of water during non-fasting hours in order to keep myself hydrated, but it has made me less inclined to participate in some physical activity. Last year my friends and I played intramural slow-pitch softball, but this year, I did not participate. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to play well and that I would tire myself out very quickly. 

When I researched the guidelines for Ramadan, one of the ones that I paid little attention to stated that the consumption of drugs or alcohol at any point during the month was prohibited. I didn’t pay much attention because I have never had a dependence on either substance. When Ramadan began, I found myself in situations where I would be around my friends who would be enjoying a drink, while I had to refrain from participating. While I don’t have a dependence on alcohol, it still was difficult to be around people who were drinking, as it made me feel like I wasn’t having as good a time as those who were. 

Every time that I have been around people who have been eating food or drinking, I have always felt proud of myself afterward. I realized that, unlike most people, participating in Ramadan was a choice for me, and I could have easily broken my fast and no one would have batted an eye. I have the integrity to stay true to what I started, and I know that it will and has already yielded positive results physically and emotionally for me. 

While there have been plenty of negatives that have come from fasting, I cannot deny the positives that have come from this period. I have grown closer with a friend of mine who has participated in the fast since he was a child. He was one of my biggest supporters in deciding to do this, and he and his family have let me into their home for iftar (the meal eaten after sunset). This has meant a lot for me, because iftar is normally shared with family, and the fact that they let me eat with them really made me feel like I was a part of the family. This fast has done a lot to teach me self-control and discipline. As I mentioned earlier, there have been many times when I have wanted to quit and break my fast, but I have stayed with it. A younger me would not have had the discipline to say no and finish what I started, which is why I believe I chose to participate in Ramadan at the right age. I hope that for me and everyone else participating, these next two weeks are prosperous and bring many blessings. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I am thankful for it.