Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ramadan Struggles

Muslims are currently in the midst of their fasting month of Ramadan. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is significant for many reasons. One of those reasons being that the Holy Quran was revealed during this month. Muslims spend 29 to 30 days fasting from dawn till dusk. The Islamic calendar doesn't coincide with the Gregorian calendar. The months are based off the sighting of the moon. Therefore, Ramadan doesn't always occur at the same time every year. In recent years, Ramadan has been taking place during the summer months, which calls for much longer fasts.

I've previously wrote about my struggle adjusting to my IBS. I did an entire year of a full "detox" diet. I was eating strictly vegan/vegetarian/grain free meals only. If I had eaten any of my trigger foods, I would be in a lot of pain and discomfort. Despite how painful it was for me to consume meat, dairy or grains, people still liked to pester me and make comments like "just eat a little", "stop making yourself so weak", "you can train your body to be okay with that food."

The truth of the matter was that my diet bothered others more than it bothered me. Sure, it was an adjustment to my lifestyle. I had to pack special homemade meals when I went out to social gatherings (even weddings), and eating out at restaurants was limited. However, I had accepted it for what it was. Lots of people liked looking at me with pity and sadness. Quite frankly, it was others' reactions to my diet that frustrated me more than my actual diet did.

I learned to be creative with my meals and did lots of research on what kinds of delicious recipes to try. I never sacrificed flavour in any of my meals. Actually, now that I have added lots of things back into my diet, I still eat many of the vegan foods I used to during that entire year.

I visited with a dietician shortly before Ramadan 2016 to get some advice on how to make sure I got enough nutrients in my body, despite giving up so much. She gave me some really helpful tips. The biggest things she told me I needed to do was: slowly re-introduce foods back into my body, increase my water intake and take probiotic supplements. Which is exactly what I did, and those three things made a huge difference.

Unfortunately, my body did not settle in time for last Ramadan. My doctor advised me to give my body some time to heal before forcing it to go through 19 hour long fasts. I consulted with a mufti (Islamic scholar) to make sure it was okay for me to skip my fasts last year. He said I was exempt, as long as I made my fasts up in the future when my body allowed me to do so.

Despite getting both medical and Islamic advice on the matter, the critics were back. I had many people chastise me for not fasting. They put me on guilt trips making me feel as though I was committing a huge sin. However, I also had those who supported me. I remember my brother telling me that there are lots of people who wish to fast during Ramadan, but for various reasons are unable to. He also reminded me that fasting is not the only form of ibabah (remembrance of Allah SWT) during this blessed month.

One thing I learned in the last couple of years was that no matter how many people wanted to criticize me or pity me, there was only one person I had to listen to: myself. The only person who knew how painful it was after I ate a trigger food was me. People could easily say "have a little cake" but in the end, it would be me who would suffer. It would be me running in and out of the bathroom all day long with endless cramps. Furthermore, my inability to fast during last Ramadan was something between me and Allah SWT.

By the grace of Allah SWT, my body has settled now. I am able to fast this Ramadan without consequences. Although the fasts are long, as long as I drink enough water and/or lemon water with my meals, everything runs smoothly. I am now aware of what foods my body reacts to the most. I just have to keep my trigger foods limited. My dad always taught me to be grateful for everything, no matter what the circumstances. So Allahumdulillah for the grueling year I did my strict diet. If I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn't have found all these wonderful new recipes to try, taste (and share!) And Allahumdulillah for being able to add some of my favourite foods back into my diet. No matter how difficult it was for me to adjust to my IBS, it was not the worse thing that could have happened to me.