Let’s talk about the basics first. Obviously abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours affects us physically. We will need to cope with hunger and thirst. We likely get less sleep during Ramadan, as well. For someone new to Islam, the physical demands of Ramadan might seem too taxing, but it helps to remember that Muslims worldwide have been observing the monthlong fast in a variety of climates and conditions for over 1,000 years. Far from being unhealthy, fasting has proven health benefits. If we structure our days wisely, we can ensure that our bodies have the nutrients they need to get through each day.
- Eat a healthy, balanced suhoor. It is recommended to rise before dawn and eat a meal called Suhoor. Suhoor has the potential to make fasting easier, so consider your menu carefully and shop in advance so that the early-morning repast is as easy and beneficial as possible. Eating a balance of proteins (like eggs, nuts, meat, cheese, yogurt), healthy grains (like oats, whole wheat bread), good fats (olive oil, avocados, high quality butter) and hydrating fruits or vegetables (watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, cucumbers) will help you start your day with the best possible foundation. Make sure to drink plenty of water. Avoid salty foods that will make you thirstier, as well as fatty, processed foods that provide empty calories and little nutrition.
- Rearrange your schedule, if possible. If you can orchestrate any flexibility in your day, try to do so. Especially as your body adjusts to the first week of fasting, you might feel weaker than usual. See if you can avoid strenuous tasks, or delay them until after sunset. If possible, make time for a short midday nap, as this will help you adjust to the later nights and early mornings. What if you work or go to school? Many employers and educators will try to accommodate requests based on religious obligations, so plan ahead and ask for what you need. Brainstorm solutions ahead of time so that you can offer your employer or teacher alternatives, like swapping shifts with a coworker, rescheduling certain deadlines, or adjusting your work hours.
- Know that God sees your sacrifice and rewards it. In many parts of the world that have a large Muslim population, the daily schedule is altered during Ramadan. There is an atmosphere of solidarity, celebration, and support. Not so in the West. Most of us here do not have the luxury of resting during the day and staying up all night. We do not enjoy automatic accommodations for our school or work schedules, and generally we must get on with our day-to-day responsibilities as usual. It is challenging, but we should remember that our deeds are rewarded according to their difficulty. Allah knows each person’s sacrifice and will reward us correspondingly. The more difficult the test, the greater the blessings.