Long-Term Effects: Day 28 of Ramadan

 

As I near the end of Ramadan, I have begun considering what my daily routine will be like without fasting.

I have fallen into a consistent pattern that begins at 4:15 am with a morning meal, chased with lots of water, Bible reading, and prayer. I typically get back into bed for another hour or so of sleep.

Throughout the day, whenever I begin to crave a drink or snack, I snap back to attention before God and whisper a prayer. Then, about 8:15 pm, I grab a date, take a long drink of water, and the fast is broken.

It makes me a little sad that I will be following this routine for only a couple more days.

But I hope that my life is forever changed by the experience, and I hope there are long-term effects of my fast. The whole point of Ramadan is to be changed – for good. It’s not simply a set of exercises that one must endure for thirty days so that you can earn a reward in heaven, or earn a check mark next to your name on the “Good” list.

And living “right” during Ramadan does not give one license to live “wrong” the other eleven months of the year.  As one Muslim friend told me, Ramadan is like a spiritual “boot camp,” training for the rest of the year. It’s intended to make it easier to live in submission to God’s will all the year round.

I’ve heard it explained that fasting is learning how to say “no” to permissible things, in order that it may be easier for us to say “no” to things which are not permissible. I would add that it also helps us to say “yes” to the eternal, spiritual blessings which God offers to us in tiny, subtle ways throughout the day. That is a discipline we all need throughout the year.

Christians make the same mistake, of course. A colleague told me about a parishioner he knew who gave up drinking beer during Lent. On Easter morning, the man loaded a cooler full of beer, and started drinking as soon as the sun came up.

My colleague commented drily, “I don’t think he really understood what Lent was all about.”

When we view the practice of fasting as something which must be endured in order to earn a reward, then we have entirely missed the point. Fasting is a discipline which forms and shapes us, makes us into people who are more responsive to God.

That’s why I don’t think I will know how effective my Ramadan fast has been until a few weeks after Ramadan is over. Will I act differently? Will I be closer to my God? Will I be more loving to my family and neighbors? Will I be more sensitive to people in need, to the poor and destitute?

If I manage to complete the 30-day fast successfully, but end up acting selfishly and hatefully on the thirty-first, or forty-first, or sixtieth day, then my first Ramadan will have been a failure.

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33 comments

  1. ReneeW

    I have faith that will not be the case with you Wes. You are a special person who is forever changed by your experience. May you continue to be blessed for the rest of this life – and beyond!

  2. Ed

    Dear Pastor Wes:

    “If I manage to complete the 30-day fast successfully, but end up acting selfishly and hatefully on the thirty-first, or forty-first, or sixtieth day, then my first Ramadan will have been a failure.”

    The word HUMAN in the Arabic language is “insaan” which comes from the root word “nasa” which means to forget. It is part of our human nature to forget, and for things to wear off on us and weaken over time if we don’t do regular maintenance.

    For the Muslim, regular maintenance procedures include the 5 daily prayers. Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him taught us also something that can help us transport Ramadan with us the rest of the year. He recommended for those who can, to fast every Monday and Thursday. Another fasting is the 3 days in the middle of the lunar month. Or even occasional fasts every now and then, exactly the way we do it in Ramadan, always help. I personally try to do that whenever I feel that I’m wavering and find that it always brings back the spirit of Ramadan.

    Even though with the Will of God we want and expect Ramadan to change us and recharge our batteries for the rest of the year, we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves if we forget, or if we fall again. We are taught in Islam is that if us humans did not sin, God will replace us with other humans that sin and that ask for forgiveness. God expects us to fall and sin as it’s part of our nature – it is not human to not sin. But the “process” of always going back to God when we fall, asking for forgiveness, and humbling ourselves in front of His Glory this is what really shapes our souls, an humbles us, and washes away our egos, and helps us grow spiritually. This is the same humbling that Jesus peace be upon him talked about in many places in the new testament referring that the Kingdom of God is for the meek and not for the arrogant. May God make us all of those who always go back to him when we forget and when we don’t, for He is the near, the All-Hearing, The Forgiving, The Forgiver, The Compassionate, The Loving, The Guide.

    Peace
    Ed

  3. Aida KK

    I have been following your blog daily, looking at my fast through your eyes. Thank you for reminding me of all the things fasting in Ramadhan is supposed to be, which I’ve just not thought of or have taken for granted. And thank you for reminding me of what I should resolve to do now that Ramadhan is coming to an end.

    For most Muslims, the end of Ramadhan makes us quite emotional, as we don’t know if we’ll get to meet this blessed month again next year. I pray that God will let us have this blessing again next year. And if you decide to fast again then, I look forward to sharing it with you. Salaam to you.

  4. Zaid Aysen (South Africa)

    SubhanAllah Brother Wes.You are indeed special. You have addded a whole new dimension of looking at Ramadaan, of looking at Salaah, of looking at Wudhu… of looking at ourselves as Muslims. We as Muslims sometimes take for granted the rationale behind things that we do and its quite refreshing getting a view from a some-one who is new to our practices and beliefs. Unfortunately, Ramadaan is almost over and we all will be asking the same question which you have so rightfully asked concerning our routine henceforth. Alhamdulilah, we will all hopefully attempt to bring these spiritual changes into our lives in the months to come. However, you, Brother Wes, are in a unique position. You have a tendency of seeing the truth and “expressing it” in ways which we “as Muslims” can only hope and dream to do. You bring a new type of perspective onto issues and daily practices. You shed insight, honesty and heartfelt experience. You can do this, and many of us Muslims cannot. I implore you brother Wes. Do not let it stop at Eid. Continue to share. Continue to write and blog about your experiences. Yes, the month of Ramadaan is over but Islam as a way of life is more than just Ramadaan. Alhamdulilah, you have experienced Salaah and Wudhu and various facets of Islam, which is great. Why not try discovering more about the man who lived and practiced this Islam? Why not find out more about our prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Ask questions about his life and try gaining answers. Questions like what did he look like, why did he sit and eat, why did he eat with his hands, why did he encourage people to eat until their bellies were only 1/3 full and leave space for water and air, why did he lower his gaze when he walked, why did he encourage the brushing of the teeth with a stick known as a Miswaak? These are questions that should be practically implemented into the lives of each and every Muslim. Research this man brother Wes. Understand the ways of our beloved prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) and you will undoubtedly understand Muslims “as they should be understood” (which was the initial aim of you observing Ramadaan to begin with).
    Shukran (thank you) and Jazaak-Allah (May Almighty Allah reward you) for your blogs, your insight and the remarkable manner in which you have brought such insight into this auspicious month.

  5. growingwoman

    I can tell you one thing this Ramadan has helped me with is that the hunger part has become so much more namagerable for me and nowI have recognised that I really need to focus on fasting of the tongue. Inshallah I will fast 6 days of shawal and mondays and thurdays and 3 days each month amoung other days. in other words extra fasts to train my tongue to not wag, even when someone is driving me and my frineds NUTS!
    I showed my friend you blog and made a dua (little prayer) for you. I don’t know about you but I am going to be relived and sad at the same time to see the end of this amazing month.
    The companions of the Prophet SAW would start preparing for the next Ramadan 6 months ahead of time. Also remember to drink more water. Also the Prophet SAW said that you should leave 1/3 for food, 1/3 for drink and 1/3 for air. 🙂

  6. Pingback: American Pastor partakes in the holy month of Ramadan - Page 3
  7. FM

    Dear Reverend,

    I’ve been reading your blog from Day 1 and so many times I have said to myself, “He just gets it!” It is amazing how you have been able to put into words so much of what Ramadan means to us Muslims. In fact you have most certainly made many of us appreciate it in a whole new way. I certainly hope you will continue to blog about your take on Islam amongst other things. Wishing you a blessed Eid!

  8. The Rev. Keith Owen

    Wes,

    I have so enjoyed your blog. I also am a pastor, and also fasting in Ramadan. This is my second year. Last year, I was in Nablus, Palestine for the entire month. You might find my blog posts from that time interesting: http://www.stpeterslakewood.org/category/news/keiths-sabbatical-blog/
    Your insights and experiences have tracked mine almost exactly.

    My wife had an insight about this year that captured the difference for me. Last year, I was so cognizant of being in a community for the fast. This year, it was a more isolating experience. Though I enjoy many Muslim acquaintances, they are not the core of my relational circle. Further, getting up and eating before dawn, breaking fast and eating dinner at almost 9:00 at night, and sleeping for long portions of each day, tended to isolate me from my family’s regular rhythm. Lunches and coffees for pastoral care were also awkward, as it made people uncomfortable to eat or drink while I abstained. My usually vigorous exercise regime diminished. And I have suffered from lack of sleep. Truth be told, I will welcome the Eid with relief.

    However, always however, again the experience was priceless. Fasting in Islam, as you have so well written, is about mindfulness of God, solidarity with the poor, and thanksgiving for blessings. It is much less about penitential purgation and suffering, as I think we Christians usually envision it. I have found it such a rich experience that I have embraced the Prophet’s (PBUH) teaching to fast twice weekly (Monday and Friday). This has been a deeply satisfying practice. It also transformed my Lent this past year, when I embraced a very significant fasting discipline. Again, it was deeply spiritually and physically transformational. I have begun studying the physiology of fasting, which is quite fascinating.

    In short, I know from personal experience that your fast will have lasting impact. Years from now, you will look back over your life and count this one of God’s great interventions in your life. Islam is a beautiful religion, which offers many great gifts and important challenges to our beloved Christianity. Insha-allah, may your ministry, and mine, and that of people like us, continue to help overcome the deadly ignorance and prejudice that afflict the relations between all of Ibrahim’s children.

    To you and all your Muslim correspondents, Eid il-fitr mubarak wa as-salaamu aleikom!

    To you and all our fellow Christians, Salaam al-meseeh aleikom. The peace of Christ be upon you.

  9. jami

    Many people, when they learn about Ramadan, express amazement that it is the time of year that Muslims joyfully anticipate. They don’t get it. Without the experience, they think of fasting almost as a punishment, certainly something to be avoided. But many, many Muslims are sad to see the month depart. It is, for us, the most wonderful time of the year.

    That being said, there is nothing quite like that first cup of tea (or coffee) during the daylight hours on the first day after Ramadan. It brings immediate expressions of gratitude, which is another blessing of the month — those opportunities to thank God for the little things that give us comfort.

    Farewell, O Ramadan. May we live to greet you again next year, God willing.

  10. Jen

    I have been following your blog and have really enjoyed your posts. I echo many other Muslims who have commented–what you have done is much appreciated by our community. Also the one above who said “you just get it.” I felt the same way reading your musings about the fast. I love that you did not just participate in the physical fast, but you contemplated the deeper spiritual meaning of it as well.

    I invite you to join us in fasting next Ramadan. I am sure you are looking forward to eating normally again, but trust me…..you will be spiritually hungry for the fasting around this time next year. 🙂 May we all live to see the next Ramadan, ameen.

  11. Aziz Poonawalla

    Pastor Wes,

    I am a muslim blogger at Beliefnet.com and at Patheos.com. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and am the co-founder of the Brass Crescent Awards (brasscrescent.org). If you are amenable, would you consent to an interview after Ramadan has ended about your experience? And hopefully, continuing dialogue? Please do drop me an email (apoonawa dash blog at yahoo), I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards
    Aziz Poonawalla

  12. palrubaii

    A few lessons I have learned over the years of fasting:

    1. Appreciation of what you do have. The pleasures we do have our creator has allowed those to us as a gift. We should appreciate what he does for us.
    2. Allah is the one who matters. He is the one who will know if I have kept my fast or broken it when no one is looking. Jesus will never know that.
    3. Control of desires especially those desires the shatan wishes to exploit among the people.
    4. Patience – other people live in this world with me and they have needs also.
    5. A reality that I am going to be judged. Allah will hold me accountable for my actions.

    And that is just 5. Imagine doing this over and over and over again and again the benefits and lessons learned?

    I am an American Muslimah.

  13. Ansar

    Wes I hope you have had a great experience. As the young Imam said today during the Friday Sermon, that today is a bitter sweet day. Friday is a blessed day and the last Friday of the month of Ramadan is even more special than others. Many Muslims will take off this day. The sad part is that it signals the end of this blessed month.
    We hope to carry some of the lessons learned or the extra things we did during this month to the year coming ahead.
    There is one verse in the Quran, Q2:183, where the Almighty Creator (Allah) says the He has prescribed fasting for you (Muslims or Believers) as it was prescribed for those before you.
    Notice the word that Allah used is ‘Prescribed’, not mandated or ordered, it is like the doctor of medicine who gives us prescription for our earthly ailments.
    Fasting has thus been prescribed for us as a medicine for all our ailments (known and unknown to us). As is being noted from an earlier post that fasting two days a week helps with Alziemer desease. Two days of fasting a week was the habit of the Prophet (pbuh), and is a tradition followed by few devout Muslims. These instructions were give to us more than 1400 years ago ! We are just understanding the benefits they provide.
    Regards

  14. Susan Miller

    New Friends of Pastor Wes,

    I, too, have been folllowing this blog with great interest. I am a Christian, a member of his congregation and attend the worship service during which he preaches at First United Methodist Church. I would like to say, “I get it.”

    We are called to: Love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, heart, and mind. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
    We should strive to learn about each other’s beliefs, encourage friendships with those who believe differently, and respectfully dialogue to find commonalities in our beliefs.

    However, for many people this is difficult. It is too far outside their zone of comfort. I am reminded of a common saying here in America, ” You are a product of your environment.” The environment in which we grew up can be very different. We seem to forget that. Some might have experienced growing up in circumstances that limited their interaction with people who were of a different belief, race, or socio-economic level. They may have had limited access to information that would have more positively influenced their way of thinking. This is true not only in America, but all over the world. Others have been placed in more worldly places providing a myriad of experiences for these individuals.

    All this is to say, a number of individuals have expressed concern about Pastor Wes’ participation in Ramadan, an Islamic tradition. It has started a very intense discussion among church members and opened a process that must be followed in accordance with church policy. This process has just begun.

    Pray for Pastor Wes, his family, and our church. Families occasionally have to have difficult discussions. Respectful open communication is central to resolving misunderstandings.

    Perhaps it is God’s purpose for a little blog by a United Methodist minister, in a place most people have never heard of, to rattle a few of us. All in the quest for spiritual renewal and connection with our triune God.

    If you have not read the first entries under Pastor Wes’ Main Menu, you should. He shares some very personal thoughts and lays out his reasons for fasting. There is no reference to changing his belief system or attempting to influence others to Christianty. Try to read it nonjudgementally and I think you will find Pastor Wes’ journey an interesting, learning experience.

    May the peace of God be with you now and forever more.

    Susan Miller

  15. Nancy

    I have been following your Ramadan blog and as a Muslim, I would like to thank you for your spiritual insight into so many of our rituals. You have been an inspiration to me and my friends (I shared some on facebook). I have loved how you “get” Ramadan, and how you have reminded us why we are fasting. God bless you and guide you. Have a happy Eid.

  16. dogman70

    Pastor Wes, your whole blog was great & I’ve enjoyed following your experiences through Ramadan. This one part you wrote near the end really hit me – I loved this –

    “When we view the practice of fasting as something which must be endured in order to earn a reward, then we have entirely missed the point. Fasting is a discipline which forms and shapes us, makes us into people who are more responsive to God.”

    I did the fasting like you, however there were 3 days where I didn’t complete the fast, but overall I am satisified with where I am now. I feel less cynical, little more peaceful & my goal now is to continue to let this experience transform my heart and mind & to draw myself into greater submission to God.

  17. Amina

    dear Pastor,
    it has been a real pleasure and honor to have you traveling with us on this Ramadan journey. I pray that all of us complete the journey with many miles covered towards the Ultimate Destination, the Blessed Face of our Lord, and adorned with many new badges of honor and goodness in our characters.
    May God forgive us.
    Our hope is in His mercy, not our deeds.
    with much respect and prayers for you and yours,
    and with great gratitude to you as a fellow believer,
    your Muslim sister

  18. Rabia

    Peace, Pastor, and happy Eid!
    here is a little gift for you and all the awesome community of witnesses that has been born through your blog – fellow readers!
    thank you all for all the beautiful thoughts and great insights you’ve shared, and thanks sincerely, of course, to Pastor Wes…you’ve done something that is rare, you are a forerunner for goodness and Truth; a pioneer; and may God continue to use you for Good!
    amen!
    so here are two songs that i’d like to use to salute you and the noble effort you have made and are making, to be an instrument of God, and to be a bridge of peace between people of faith and humaneness:

    my heart is joyous, joyous, thank you for contributing to this joy…and reminding me: God is Great, His Mercy so vast! (-:

  19. Noor

    “His Mercy encompasses everything!”
    i am so heartened and proud to be part of the very real community of believers which your writing, Pastor Wes, has reminded us exists and has given new vigor to.
    We share so much in common, believing in God, that it ought to be cause for much learning, collaboration, cooperation, joint accomplishment of shared goals, and joyous worship in synchrony together! It used to be like this -just read about Christians, Jews, and Muslims who lived together in Spain (Ornament of the World: http://www.islamophobiatoday.com/2011/04/27/book-review-ornament-of-the-world-by-maria-rosa-menocal/) or some of the accounts of how great Muslim scholars and saints in diverse multi-faith cities such as Damascus used to be loved by all. One famous story is of a Muslim Scholar who, on his walk home from the Friday prayer would be greeted by all the Christian citizens of the city who lived along his route, who would come to their doors to see him walk by, greet him and ask for his prayers for them. He would say to them: no, *you* pray for *me*! His students once asked him: how can you ask *them* to pray for you? You are a great scholar, and they are actually Christians, not Muslims; the Scholar’s reply to his students was: you are so green. so young in your faith, you have no understanding…one day, one day.
    This is faith – to see with the eye of reality, to understand meanings beyond mere names and labels, and to realize that His Mercy is a beautiful piece of cloth that enfolds all creatures in it.
    Thank you for taking the first important steps in our era to restore the reality that we all serve and worship the same One God, and it’s time we hurry on up with making that real, and not get waylaid by satan in in-fights and picking on each other, wasting time that could be spent in trying to become better servants to God.

  20. wesmagruder

    I had to delete a comment that was left here earlier today, because it did not reflect the kind of constructive dialogue that has been taking place in this space. This is only the first time I have had to take such action since beginning my fast, and I am grateful to all of you for engaging in such positive, bridge-building ways. Thank you!

  21. Umm Abdullah

    Eid mubarak! I see someone has already posted a song, but I was coming here to post this – it’s one of my favorites since my kids were young, and I’m still singing it every Eid! 🙂

    It’s ‘These are the days of Eid’ by Dawud Wharnsby Ali, a Candian singer.

  22. Umm Abdullah

    One more – ‘Allah Knows’ by Zain Bhika, a South African singer, with Dawud Wharnsby Ali. This can be appreciated by anyone who believes in God, because ‘Allah’ is ‘God’ (even in Arabic-language Bibles); there’s nothing specific to Muslims in it.

  23. djdfr

    I enjoyed reading this entry. I remember especially the first time I fasted for Ramadan, when it was over, it seemed as though I were exiting a holy space.
    I find that this practice is similar to doing exercises for physical strength, when needed the muscle is there and we can accomplish the task. Fasting builds another type of of muscle which helps us change ourselves, to recover the image and likeness of our Creator.

  24. dhmilly

    Dear pastor Wess,
    Eid Mubarak to you and congratulations on completing the 30 day fast! We are so proud of you and we love you so dearly. You have made fasting meaningful for many of us, Muslims, as you helped us look into our tradition with a fresh perspective. May God accept your fast and worship; you are a true Christian, one who believes in all of God’s messengers and messages. May Allah reward you highly.

  25. Mohammed Sobhan

    Dear Pastor Wess

    I understand that you got a little chance to enjoy Islam. I will advise you to learn more about Islam to satisfy your heart. Please understand that ” ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF PEACE AND TRANQUILITY “. The more you read the holy QURAN with meaning will allow your heart to know more & more. You can visit many websites to read the Holy Quran . You can try http://WWW.Tanzil.info with proper recitation and meaning of the language of your choice.

    Please feel free to contact any islamic center to increase your knowledge on Islam.
    Thanks.

    Mohammed

  26. Dara Shamsuddin

    I have gone through the comments with interest. I wish people of all faith (and non-faith) would one day come to find a common ground for getting together, and exchange fellowship, sympathy, understanding, and why not, even love for one another.Irresepective of our faiths and non-faiths, we belong to the same species, and share the same precious planet.

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