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My First Ramadan Wasn’t What I Expected

It is the first day in the month of Ramadan in the Muslim year 1429 or 2008 in the Christian calendar. Monday the first of September.

My Worries

Since days and weeks I have been nervous, always asking myself the same question, giving myself the same answers and fighting with fears, probably incomprehensible to outsiders.

What if I get hungry or even worse thirsty? Or what if I’m not strong enough? If I can’t do it? Or if I get sick? Where should I draw the line between bearing the suffering and giving up?

Somebody who has always fasted between dawn and sunset during the fasting month is used to it. He is unable to relate to my confusion that is caused by the inner and outer pressure that affects me. The inner, my personal pressure is probably profounder than the outside one.

Just try, don’t pressure yourself. Those are easy words to say for somebody who has been introduced to the whole fasting thing over a long period of time, basically his whole life. But I’m new, totally new and I feel left alone with this.

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Around a year and half ago, I became a Muslim. Fasting during the month of Ramadan was an issue for me from the beginning; the one of the five pillars of Islam, which I would have liked to get around from the beginning.

I wished I could just ignore it. I just could not imagine going a whole day without eating and drinking; especially not being able to drink honestly frightened me.

For me not drinking was closely connected to awful suffering because I was a person taking every possibility to get a sip of water or anything else to drink. I have always been afraid of not getting enough to drink, afraid to get headaches or other strange indispositions.

And now I should not be allowed to drink during daytime over the next four weeks. Impossible!

Anxiety Grows

The pressure I imposed upon myself grew with every day. Adding up to this, I remembered my mother’s words. I was not made to fast.

Didn’t I remember the results, whenever I could not eat on time and had to go hungry for a while? Headaches, attacks of nausea and bad-temper. Was it really necessary to put myself through that, she asked. And honestly, I did not know what to say.

I knew that fasting belongs to one of the five duties of every Muslim, but I also knew that pregnant women and elderly or ill people were exempted of their duty to fast. So, I did not belong to any of these people. I was still young, healthy and not pregnant.

Panic is probably the best word to describe my emotional state of being during these weeks and days before the beginning of Ramadan.

I was a pain for the people around me, always bothering them with the same questions that were supposed to calm my mind: What if? Do I have to? Why? Always getting the same unsatisfying answers.

In the end I surrendered to destiny. No, actually, I decided to just try it, believing that God will stand by me.

Preparing for the First Day of Fasting

Nevertheless, the excitement did not leave me. I was worried to stock enough food and drinks to consume during the hours before dawn – sahur.

I could not think of anything else that I would be able to eat in those early morning hours than rice with egg. Also I bought fresh milk and honey because one of my neighbors had told me that she always drinks milk in the morning during the fasting month.

A few days earlier I had bought a rice cooker to be able to boil rice and keep food warm. This way I was able to cook in the evening and did not have to stand in the kitchen at three o’ clock in the morning.

Read: Ready for Your First Ramadan? 9 Things to Focus on

The night before the first fasting day I was preparing food for the morning, when all of a sudden I was standing in darkness. I was confused, uncertain and desperate and all other words one can think of in such a situation.

I sat on the veranda and starred into the darkness, unable to cry because of such a tiny incident but too desperate to laugh and no other idea how to express my feelings at that moment. Emotional exhaustion, triggered by a power failure.

Luckily I was not alone and after some thinking and trying, my friend came to the conclusion that it was just the fuse.

Unfortunately, there was only this one in the whole house. It has probably been the rice cooker that caused the fuse of lights, but for a few moments I was completely convinced that the electricity provider had cut my electricity the night before the first Ramadan on purpose; revenge because I was often late to pay my bills. Pure paranoia!

Around an hour later we had bought a new fuse and after some trying it actually worked and I was able to continue my preparations for the first Ramadan; cooking rice and frying eggs.

Trying to Adjust

The first day, the second and the third passed and I still fasted. I’m honest, it was especially hard in the first few days, but not really during the fasting but after breaking the fast, when my body without giving any visible warning just switched to emergency power supply and I just wanted to go to sleep instantly, at seven in the evening.

It is the whole adjustment that your body has to go through and the lack of sleep that make the first few fasting days a real challenge. But, I did not have headaches, I was not feeling ill and I was not bad-tempered.

In this regard, I was honestly surprised about myself. I was not even hungry and only in the late afternoon hours, around one hour before breaking the fast did I get thirsty.

I had visualized the fasting in all the gray and black shades that I could find in my conscious. Suffering, pain and suffering again, but none of that happened at least not on the physical level.

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About Claudia Azizah
Claudia Azizah is originally from Germany and mother of two children and writer. She served as Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia until August 2019. She is co-founder of the Ulu-Ilir-Institute in Indonesia. She regularly writes for the German Islamic newspaper. She is interested in Islamic spirituality, art and Southeast Asia. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram: #clazahsei