x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ramadan: a spiritual detox

The holy month is a time to work on personal weaknesses and try to be a better person.

Last week Muslims world-wide began fasting for the holy month of Ramadan.

The fast includes abstaining from food and liquids from dawn to dusk, as ordained in Islam's holiest book the Quran.

Well, that's the condensed version of Ramadan.

I often find myself explaining to non-Muslims how I function each day without lunch, snacks and coffee or even water. I understand their concerns and curiosity because these are things most take for granted.

However, Ramadan is more than simply denying your body your favourite dish and latte. If it was, it would have become the latest fad diet programme.

I call Ramadan my yearly spiritual detox. It's a chance to reconnect with the spiritual world and flush out the daily worries a busy lifestyle brings.

Like every person starting a new fitness regime, I also have a list of goals to achieve by the end of the month to keep me spiritually healthy: keep up with my prayers; forgive others; be more patient; re-establish ties with "difficult" relatives and be a better son and brother.

These goals are not as easy as they look. When so much of life is governed by daily routines such as the morning coffee and meals, to suddenly be without them gives the body and mind a rude awakening.

As for forgiving, it is sadly easier to choose to be bogged down with grievances rather than to rise above and forgive. I also know people who would rather lose a limb than spend five minutes with a not-so-favourite relative.

The other challenge, of course, is how to maintain the fasting.

The work rate here may drop down a few gears, but UAE society does not halt because of fasting.

The grind of work and daily deadlines continue. All of this makes Ramadan all the more important for me because among the stresses, fasting gives me the opportunity to be more aware of my surroundings.

Since I am conserving energy, I try not to indulge in petty quarrels. A deep breath is better than a shouting match. It also dictates the types of food I eat, as junk food before fasting results in an agonising day of thirst.

Ramadan also gives me the mental space to make decisions on what is truly important in life, such as being more grateful for my family and friends; that I work in a profession I love; and to choose patience when navigating through the daily Ramadan traffic, if it allows me to arrive home safely and break the fast with those close to me.

Now, if I can maintain this outlook throughout my life, then the hunger and thirst of this and future Ramadans will be more than worth it.