A couple nights ago, we broke one of our family Ramadan rules of “no fried food” and my mom went all out and cooked a bunch of deep-fried traditional Pakistani food. It tasted amazing and hit the spot, but we paid for it and all felt lousy when we woke up for suhoor the next morning.
By no means am I a health-nut, but during this month I find a new level of painstaking awareness of what I am eating and other habits that contribute to my general well-being. The gray areas of my eating habits before become a lot more black and white during Ramadan, like avoiding fried food, for instance.
I suddenly find the motivation and discipline to cut out junk food and caffeine nearly altogether, stay properly hydrated, and balance what I am eating and when I am eating it. I listen to my body and do what I know will help me perform at my best, even if it means dropping some habits which might not be that bad, and picking up some extra good ones. I would often get questions from classmates in high school, amazed and appalled by the physical demands of this month on fasting Muslims, “How do you do it?” Honestly, we all do it and we find a way to make it work, we have to.
Just like the samosa overload made us sick to our stomachs, our souls have a similar propensity when we do certain actions. Scholars say that a person is made up of a body and a soul, and these two entities are constantly seeking a balance with one another. Once the bodily needs are suppressed through fasting, there is a lot more room for the soul to express its needs and be fed. This may be one of the reasons why we find ourselves capable of performing acts of worship and feeling a level of spirituality that would be hard for us to attain outside of Ramadan.
It is this newfound urgency of my spiritual needs that I believe pushes me to make important decisions about certain habits I have and develop a whole other kind of “consumption-consciousness.” Whether it’s simply not being able to justify sitting down to watch a TV show for an hour, feeling uncomfortable about engaging with certain content in a movie or book, or doubting the suitability of being in certain types of gatherings, I start to look at how I spend my days and nights in a new way.
I don’t want to be wasting my time or purging my fasts and prayers of their blessings by doing something stupid that will displease Allah. The kinds of actions that will earn the displeasure of Allah are the ones that we should hope our bodies will have an averse reaction to, helping us reject what is not good for us. To be able to make those small decisions that impact our daily spirituality, and eventually long-run spirituality, are a part of the broader idea of “taqwa,” and ultimately a goal of Ramadan.
In the Qur’an, Allah tells us that our main goal in fasting is to attain taqwa, commonly translated as “God-consciousness.” While this is something we should all be striving for in this blessed month, maybe “consumption-consciousness,” particularly in the way we spend our free time, might not be a bad thing to hope to walk away from Ramadan with—in a balanced way, of course. And even better would be if some of those habits might stick with us once this blessed month is over.