The month of Fasting, or rather The Month of Feasting, as it seems to have become, is the Islamic religious period more commonly known as Ramadan. During this period, Muslims fast without food or water from dawn until sunset for a period of thirty days. The spiritual gratification and the patience Muslims are supposed to learn from enduring the day without sustenance, however, becomes fruitless (mind the pun), when it comes to Iftar time – the opening of the fast at sundown. The increasing trend to race to the ‘best’ food (ironically all the unhealthy snacks), and then stuff oneself to the point of lethargy counters the very purpose of Ramadan.

Yet, we all seem to be doing it. I for one am no stranger to stealing a bite of the best dish before it runs out. And why not enjoy the food that we are blessed to have, I hear you ask. But my point here is that the whole concept of Ramadan is compromised by our fixation on food. We spend hours in the kitchen preparing to impress people with our culinary skills, when it would be better for us to recite Quran (with meaning if necessary), complete extra prayers, or engage in Islamic discussion. Instead, food becomes the focus of our day. So much so that after opening our fast, it is harder to concentrate on the reason we were fasting in the first place.

And it is not just what we eat, but also how we eat, and how much of it we eat. Starting with the what, I am sure many of you are familiar with the heavy chicken, meat and rice dishes, preceded by the trays of samosas and pakorahs that are, for example as I have experienced, common to an Asian Iftar. And Suhoor is no different. We gorge on fattening foods, thinking it will help “sustain” us throughout the day. I am not saying we should forego Suhoor. In fact, there is much reward in it. Instead, perhaps we should follow the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s example of starting and breaking our fasts with dates and water. A simple, yet nutritious combination that would help fill up the stomach and provide essential energy for the body.

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Moreover, the habits of eating outlined clearly in the Quran should be practiced everyday, and specifically taken note of in the month of Ramadan. Things like sitting on the floor whilst eating and being mindful about our food are simple and easy tasks, that completely change the attitude one has towards food and consumption.

The unnecessarily large portions people including myself take and eat, make us victims of gluttony. Rather, demonstrating a lack of restraint and self control will help avoid that “too fat to move” post Iftar feeling. As the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “The Almighty Allah has not created any utensil bigger than the stomach” and “when a person takes meal, he should try to divide the whole thing into three parts. One for food, another for water and the third for breathing.”

There are several pieces of advice in the Quran and hadith which help to contribute to a healthy way of living. A way of living in which food aids, and not hinders, our physical health. A way of living that reminds us that food must not be the obsession of Ramadan, but only a small part of it. A way of living that incorporates our spiritual well being. As Muslims, we must remind ourselves of the true virtue of Ramadan. This virtue encourages us to make Ibadaat (worship of Allah) our ‘food’, and repentance of our sins our ‘water’, so that our meals consist of serving Allah, instead of our stomachs.

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About Sana

Sana Soomro

Born and brought up in London, but currently residing in Kuwait, Sana has always had a fondness for exploring different cuisines. Food, in its many arrays, helps fuel her passion for writing. The ability of food, much like language, to transcend cultures and generations is something that she finds inspiring – and definitely worth sharing.