Every parent wants their child to brush their teeth, to study hard, to get enough exercise, to eat their veggies.
But more so, parents want to instill in their children enough love for themselves to care about their future, to make good choices, to do the temporarily hard or briefly uncomfortable thing that will bring a lot of benefit.
Parents want their children to have the discipline to do self-care.
In this way, Ramadan is time for self-care. It is a time to show ourselves enough love to care about our own future, to make good choices, to do the briefly, slightly uncomfortable thing that will bring unbelievable benefit.
The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. (Quran 2:185– emphasis added)
God intends for us ease… this is something the spiritual beginners (everyone has to start somewhere) will grapple with (who hasn’t?)- fasting is hard; how can something like not eating or drinking or doing other fun things create ease for us? It certainly seems like a hardship.
The answer is that fasting is the same kind of self-care our parents taught us to do for ourselves. And the obligatory fast of Ramadan is a way to make sure we do self-care.
According to Raphailia Michael, a licensed Counseling Psychologist:
“Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook.”
Some people think that self-care leads to being selfish. While others think they are not deserving of care and they put themselves last.
Islam negates both of these extreme views. Islam is the middle path. Certainly, we should not be selfish and take self-care to the point of self-absorption, where everything revolves around what the self wants.
But we must know that we are all worthy of self-care. We are a creation of the most Capable. Undervaluing our own self is undervaluing God’s capability to make something worthwhile.
God has given us all a right to self-care because without maintaining good spiritual and physical health, we will not be able to give ourselves or others their rights. As Eleanor Brown, an American novelist, writes, “you cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
The Superficial, Physical Care of Ramadan
[…] fasting as it was decreed upon those before you […] (Quran 2:183)
Fasting was prescribed for every nation because it is good for the human being not only in the spiritual sense but in the physical sense as well.
Fasting improves insulin sensitivity, regenerates our immune system, and increases lifespan! What haven’t people tried to do to avoid disease? So, what’s a few days of fasting to accomplish the same goal?
Fasting also helps regulate hormones that signal hunger, so you won’t be hungry often or eat too much when you do feel actual hunger. Fasting improves brain function and protects your brain from disease.
How many of us are dying to be smarter and thinner? Not eating and drinking for a few hours a day for one month a year is a small price.
Fasting has so many physical benefits because digestion takes up a lot of energy. When less food is being digested, more of the body’s energy can go to other important things. During Ramadan, your body has more energy to care for itself as a whole.
The Deeper, Spiritual Care of Ramadan
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting […] that you may become righteous. (Quran 2:183)
Fasting facilitates spiritual growth and maturity. When you feel hunger or thirst and restrain yourself from eating or drinking and more, your body forces you to think about every action, ever intention, and reminds you to do them all seeking God.
Fasting cultivates spiritual maturity: it nurtures love for God.
Dina Mohamed Basiony, Chief Editor of Productive Muslim, writes, “if you think about it: when we love someone, we want to hear their words, and we want to speak with them and connect with them often. Correct?
This is what Islam (which means submission to The Creator) essentially entails […] People can easily say they “love” someone, but love needs work, effort, and commitment. It also needs faithfulness and dedication. So, spirituality entails true love and faithfulness to The Creator of all humankind […]”
Fasting is the activity of loving and coming closer to God. As a side effect, the soul will experience a deep inner peace, a quietness, a stillness of the soul. A small price for something that so many have paid untold amounts to mentors, experts, and gurus for.
Not only does fasting calm and center the soul, when you fast as an expression of your love for God,—the Creator of this immense and incredible multiverse and all that is in it—God returns your love. You. God loves YOU back.
How many have died broken hearted for want of the love of the fallible, finite creation? All we have to do is experience a little thirst to experience love from the Infinite source of Love.
God promises that if you fast the month of Ramadan with the intention of drawing nearer to Him, He will forgive your sins. And there is no sin too great for God to forgive.
How many have anguished for a lifetime over the regret and shame of a sin? Ramadan is a bargain in comparison.
Fasting has these and so many more spiritual benefits. When you are not constantly fueling your body, more of your energy can go to other important things. During Ramadan, your body has more energy to care for itself as a soul.
Ramadan, Discipline, Self-Love, Self-Care
Discipline comes from a place of self-love, a desire to care for the self. It is telling yourself that you will hold off on eating and drinking for a few hours because you deserve something even better in the future.
Fasting in Ramadan is not a punishment or even meant to be a hardship. Quite the opposite. All the side effects of the fast tell us that it should come out of a place of self-love and a want to care for the self.
Allah (SWT) wants the best for us. We should want the best for ourselves too. God does not wish hardship for us. We should not wish hardship for ourselves. And Ramadan is a prevention of hardship, a renewal of love and care through discipline.