Today was the first day of Ramadan. I am always surprised by how quick Ramadan comes, and goes. But this particular year- most probably the next four or five years- Ramadan will be difficult. Todays fast was approximately 14 hours. Fasting for Muslims requires forgoing food and water through out the day from sunrise to sunset. While fasting today I realized how difficult it was for me to function at one point, where the hunger and thirst made me lethargic and incompetent, all the while the need for me to accomplish my tasks was ever-present. All I wanted was some water to quench the thirst, some sweet morsel combination of sugar and carbohydrates to get my body and mind functioning again. Without either my default was to lie down on the ground and just cease thinking and slowly breath until the hours passed away.
Yet my fasting was nothing. It was an insignificant test. There are millions around the world who are fasting without a choice. They go days without food, get by with small amounts of water, which in most likelihood is unclean and unsafe to drink. There are people who have to steal food, who have to dig through rubbish to find rotten food, or to pick at scraps off the ground in order to eat.
While I choose to fast, I sit in the luxury of air-conditioned rooms, in the privilege of driving from location to location, with the ability to earn an income to pay for my food and most likely to through large portions of it away without a second thought. I can sip on water that is safe to drink, that is as cold as the water found in the Arctic regions. So it was with a guilty heart that I admitted to everyone that this first day of fasting was difficult. It was gruelling and inconvenient. Fasting today was a burden.
But I am willing to take on this burden, because its truly a blessing that God has not tested me with hunger and thirst that is without choice. God has given me the ability and the privilege to not lack in those things. But with this blessing comes a great responsiblity and often times we all get caught up with all the freedoms we have, the privilege we forget we have access to, neglecting that all of this comes with a question that will be asked of us on the day of Judgement by God: what is it that you did with your youth? Your wealth? Your status? Your life?
I reflect back on this first day of Ramadan and fasting to remind myself of the Hadith of the Prophet SAW, as found in Bukhari, “None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.”
Currently a famine is ravaging East Africa Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea. Experts believe that it will be much worse than the Sahel Drought that affected East Africa during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. A man said in a news article on the first day of Ramadan, “today is the first day of Ramadan, but we have been fasting for the past seven days trying to walk toward food and shelter.”
The ability to eat a date, to drink water, to have shade is an immense blessing. We here have an obligation to help others, especially when they are our brothers and sisters in Islam. I urge you all to donate to Islamic Relief, which is working hard to provide food and water to those making it across the Somalia border into Kenya and its surrounding countries.