By Zahra Huber

I am not going to lie, I dread Ramadan in the weeks leading up to it. Giving up food and beverages (this includes water) from sunrise to sunset for 28 days isn’t something too many people look forward to; and let me tell you, I can eat. I have no prejudices when it comes to food. I love all kinds.

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I’m also a coffee drinker. Yes, I need my caffeine on a daily basis. So not only do I have to prepare myself mentally for Ramadan, but physically as well. I have to wean myself off the caffeine slowly so that come Ramadan, I don’t have coffee withdrawals.

I love that when I tell my co-workers and non-Muslim friends that it’s time for Ramadan, many of them give me a sorrowful look, as if they’re saying, “You poor thing. You’ll starve to death and shrink and disappear.” Others tell me, “Just don’t do it. It’s okay. We allow you.” Yeah right, I wish it were that easy!

Honestly, Ramadan isn’t that difficult. Okay, so the first few days are always the toughest. Your body takes a bit to get used to not eating or drinking for over 12 hours. But once you complete those days, you’re ready to take on the next few weeks.

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It’s funny because a lot of my co-workers refuse to eat around me at all during the day. But the thing is, I don’t even notice when people are eating their lunches, and I don’t really find myself thinking, “Man, I wish I could have some food right now.” I really have no explanation as to why that happens. I’m going to just go ahead and say that it’s because my body knows it’s not going to be getting any food or water, so I don’t yearn it. Not to say that there aren’t moments in the day where I could go for a cheeseburger, but that’s beside the point.

There are a lot of positive things about this month. First off, it teaches self-control and patience. Because let’s face it, you need a lot of self-control to NOT eat, or have a sip of water.  It’s also about giving up those bad habits, like, well, swearing (believe it or not, I’ve been known to swear like a sailor). So I find myself using less offensive words in my daily life. I’m trying to be on my best behavior!

Ramadan also helps me be thankful. Let me tell you, when it’s sunset and time to eat, and there’s a plate of food sitting in front of you, you don’t care if it’s rice and chicken, or a steak, or a muskrat (for the record, I’ve never had muskrat). All you care about is that you have food to eat and you can break your fast. And even a few weeks after Ramadan, I still feel thankful that I have food, and even more thankful that I can eat it all day long whenever I want!

I have to mention that a big part of Ramadan is spending time with friends and family. For as long as I can remember, I have never broken fast (iftar) alone. It was always with my family, or a friend’s family, or people came over to our house for a potluck dinner. Everyone brings a part of their culture to the table. It’s definitely a feeling you can’t replace.

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For those who wonder why we go through all this, what seems like complete craziness, one month a year, it’s because we are supposed to cleanse our souls, learn patience and self-control. And also, let’s not forget, empathize with the people who are less fortunate than us in this world; those who cannot eat every day, who do not have what we have. It teaches us to be thankful and humble.