Tonight, Ramadan sets in. It’s the month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims fast each day from dawn until sunset. With the month soon upon us, families are stocking up on dates (the food traditionally used to open the fast), charities are organizing fundraising drives and civic volunteer days and mosques around the world are preparing for optimum spiritual exercise. It’s the holiday season, summer style, but without the turkey, and potatoes, and corn, and apple cider...alright, food generally.
Because of the hot and long summer days, and an all-around aura of vacation and laziness, Ramadan won’t exactly be a piece of cake (we know--it’s ironic). Last year, we provided some Ramadan advice to fasting Muslims’ non-Muslim co-workers. This year, the fasters themselves have sought advice, asking us imploringly: How will we survive?
Here are some tips on how to not just survive, but maximize Ramadan:
DO eat the pre-dawn meal (in Arabic, “suhoor”): Waking up at 3am to eat seems like mission impossible, especially after coming home late from a Ramadan food fest. However, you need to remember that another intense day of fasting awaits you in just a few hours, and you need to pull yourself out of bed to stock up on carbs (and other good stuff!). Oh yea, it’s also highly recommended by the prophet, and a source of blessings on top of the day-long fast.
Since this will be the meal that will have to keep you energized for most of the day, make sure to get in your protein and grains. For some great gourmet recipes, check out Epicurious and our very own, Altmuslimah.
DON’T say “no” to H20: You know how we’re always told to drink at least eight glasses of water during the day? Well, no need to down all eight during suhoor, but definitely take in as much as you can. Water is mandatory!
DO get enough sleep: Without that cup of tea or coffee to rely on in the morning, getting restful sleep becomes even more important. Keeping in mind the pre-dawn meal that will inevitably interrupt your sleep, remember to get to bed early.
Despite your best efforts, though, expect to have at least two “zombie” days--you know, those days when you’re walking around asleep, your eyes glazed over, and your arms sticking out in front of you.
DO send the kids to their grandparents’ house: For those of us who are parents of young children, fasting is made doubly hard by the fact that it’s impossible for us to sleep off part of the fast. While others are kinda-cheating by foregoing the struggle with a nice, long nap, waking up just in time to fry those samosas, we face the ever-energized young ones who require us to be ever-energized too--right when we’re powering down. So our advice is: send ‘em off! Grandparents have a hard time saying no, so let them enjoy all that bubbly energy.
DO keep busy during the workday: We know you just want to drop your head on your desk at work and snooze. No caffeine. Long days. The heat. But Ramadan may be the best time to let your talents shine at work. Without the distraction (and time wasted) of lunch and snacking, this is the time to really delve into your work. And believe it or not, it’ll make the day go by faster. As the saying goes, an idle brain...is filled with food. But a busy one helps get us to the food sooner.
DON’T squander your nights. After breaking fast, Muslims are encouraged to partake in special night prayers, either at the mosque or at home. It can be a trying exercise to stand in prayer for up to three hours after a day without food. But prayer does more than revitalize you spiritually--it helps you out physically as well. If you’re like us, you’d have managed to eat almost a day’s worth of food in the couple hours since sunset, and night prayer offers the perfect food-coma-workout.
Prayer is also a perfect Ramadan substitute for late night partying. Take the time to focus spiritually and earn what for most of us is much-needed spiritual “extra credit.”
And finally, the most important survival tip of all is to remember one of the biggest lessons about Ramadan: While most of us will eventually get to have both a great dinner and our Starbucks latte, many in the world will not. Remember their suffering and yours will dim in comparison.