An American Islam
I Fast for Him, and Him Alone
For the past six months, at least, I have felt a growing sense of dread. That dread has grown more acute as July 20 came and went. That is because, on July 20, the month of Ramadan started. So now I am refraining from food, drink (yes, even water), and other sensual pleasures from about 4 a.m. until about 8 p.m. And, it is very tough. The day is long (very long), and the weather is hot. That makes it quite difficult. And, due to the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan will occur during the summer months for the next ten years or so.
I remember Ramadan being in about May or June about 29 years ago. Yeah, the day was long, but the fasting was not that bad. But, I am much older now, and fasting during the summer takes its toll. Even if I have a long day at work, when I come home, there are still several hours left until I can eat or drink. Then, after I eat, there is barely any time before I have to sleep for work the next day. And when I wake up, I am fasting again! If I tell you that I have been looking forward to Ramadan, I would be lying.
Yet that is when I have to stop and think about why I am fasting today and every day until August 19. Why am I fasting? To lose weight? I don't have to deprive myself of water for 16 hours a day to do that. In fact, I don't really eat during the day when it is not Ramadan, and I basically drink green tea, coffee, and diet soda until dinner.
To show off? Really? No one is watching me as I navigate the hospital and office throughout the week. I can easily eat and drink in the car between hospitals, and no one would know that I was cheating or not fasting at all.
To go along with the crowd? Absolutely not. One of the joys of my day is having an ice cold Frappucino after Friday prayers, and I wouldn't deprive myself of that for 30 days "to be like everyone else."
No. I am fasting for the Beloved. Period. Ever since I took my very first breath on this earth, the Beloved has been there for me. He gave me my parents, whose love and selflessness carried me throughout my life. He gave me my career, which I love with all my heart and for which I am grateful every single day. He gave me my wife, with whom I have had my beautiful children, and she has given me such joy as I have never felt before in my life. When my eldest child went back to Allah, He gave me His comfort and strength at a time when my entire world was crumbling before me. He has been with me every moment of my life (even when I thought He was not).
That is why I fast. For Him, and Him alone. In a sacred prophetic tradition, the Lord says:
Every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for that is solely for Me. I give the reward for it.
That is why I fast. He asked me to do so, and so I do it. It is the very least I can do. No, I make no secret that I am scared of having to fast the very (very, very, very) long and hot days of the summer. But, I simply have to do so. There is no way—barring illness or travel—that I cannot fast. For my Beloved has asked me to do so. And I love Him so much that I will do it in a heartbeat.
I just would be a lot happier if it was in December.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based physician and writer. He is author of, most recently, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry (Faithful Word Press). You can follow Hesham Hassaballa on Facebook.