Spirituality, Generosity, AND the Food.
As Humans, food is a source of nourishment. As the Ramadan clock ticks on, remember the true purpose of food is to sustain our bodies and prevent illness so that our soul and our mind can be spiritually pure.
I’m not gonna lie: as a nutrionist and fitness coach, seeing pictures of people breaking their fast and what people are going to put in/putting in their bodies freaks me out. Every post on facebook or tumblr that someone makes with pictures of Iftaar at McDonalds makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Hopefully you, my trusty followers, are making better decisions. Just as a reminder, let’s go over some basics:
- The scenario: You’re salivating, standing in Iftaar line at your mosque behind a woman with twenty screaming babies and you just want to eat. You can’t shift your feet back because you know those two teenagers behind you will try to cut around you in line so you stay silent like a hawk ready to pounce on its prey. When it’s your turn to reach for a plate, Mee-Maw who looks to be about 82 dishes out a few pieces of greasy meat and a whooping fat portion of white rice.
- Solution: Decline the rice. White rice is a simple carb. Our bodies fill up on it easily without getting any nutrients from it. In Ramadan, we want to eat the least amount possible and get as much nutrients from our food as we can. Instead of white rice, try for brown rice. If this is not available, simply ask for more salad/greenery to mix with the sauce and meat. Meat should only be a few pieces and should contain as little fat as possible. If the option of choosing your own meat is unavailable, simply pick off the fat (you can tell what it is by its stringy white composition) and toss it or give it away. If vegetables and/or fruit are provided at your Masjid’s Iftaar, take this as a true nutritional blessing and EAT THEM. General rule of thumb is that the darker and/or more colorful the veggies and fruit, the more nutritional benefits it has. Compare iceberg lettuce (dull color) to Romaine or Spinach (rich pretty color) as an example.
- The secenario: You’re sitting at the Iftaar tables talking to your friends and family members as they begin to pass out dates, lentil soup, milk, water, and soda pop. What do you use to break your fast? What do you drink/eat first?
- Solution: It is said that the Prophet (pbuh) broke his fast with milk and dates and that it is Sunnah to emulate him. With that being said, do you know where the milk and dates came from? Unlike 1400-some years ago, cows are now being injected with hormones. With most milk sold in the grocery store or market, more than 95% of the bottles contain hormones and chemicals. I guarantee you that it is not Sunnah to drink milk from a cow that has been made to fatten up on soybeans and corn, injected with hormones, and then whose milk has been treated with chemicals. Are the dates that you are eating organic and fair-trade or have they too been chemicalized? If you are unable to look at the packaging in which the milk and dates have came from and to clearly see a label marked “organic” or “hormone-free” then I recommend you AVOID the milk and dates. Break your fast instead with water (which gives you hydration) and lentil soup (which gives you protein and energy, a lot better than the excess sugar found in dates anyways). Soda Pop should not even touch your lips during Ramadan due to the dehydration effect that it causes not to mention the excess sugar it contains and chemical syrups (high fructose corn syrup for example) that it is processed with. Even “diet” colas or “zero” products contain large amounts of sugar. P.S. Splenda (the sugar substitute that companies use in diet and zero products) is 100% CHEMICAL.
- The scenario: You just put the kids to bed or finished your work for the day and the gym is closed. You want to maintain your body without losing muscle mass during Ramadan and need a way to do it.
- Solution: If walking and/or running outside is not an option for you due to the danger of your neighborhood or lack of company to join you, I recommend trying a free app called Gain Fitness found on itunes or at http://gainfitness.com/ I really like this program because it caters to what equipment you have available to you, what area you want to focus on, your specific weight and requirements, and the time you have to do it. For example, because I am getting ready to move across the world (no joke, 12 more days!!!), I don’t have much to work with. Yet, if I put in my specifics (i.e. I only have a “sturdy table”), the program shows me how to use my own body weight to work out. It provides videos and details for beginners as well as how many reps and sets are necessary. You can even adjust your fitness level and intensity. See what you can do in 30 minutes!
most certainly your body
is for us to mark our territory
and to conduct our wars
and it is nation that marks your back
like a map
roads twisting down the bones
and in your womb
waits the government
wishing to decide
on its fate
the control of decisions
the abuse of space
prison shackles in labor
and secret bruising.
body always public
for the slashing of face if it is uncovered
and kicking of belly when it is covered
the not getting the job
the getting kicked out of school
the threat of violence daily
covered or uncovered
it is the same here
As Ramadan continues and I continue my forever on-going quest to become a better Muslimah, I have to make a confession: I am bitter.
I don’t know what it’s like for someone born into Islam (maybe worse?) but I can say for a convert it’s difficult to navigate around the extremists who believe that their beliefs are the one and only pure way to live. According to a post circulating tumblr, one of these hard-coreists created a spiritual guide to Ramadan. Some of which I disctinctly remember was not listening to any music (regardless of message or words), spending too much time cooking, saying the intention to fast out loud or creating a du’a, not fasting due to work (no matter how strenuous the work or what time of the year it is), and lastly, my personal favorite: fasting and not wearing hijab because “Not wearing the Hijaab is a major sin as it is obligatory for Muslim women” and invalidates women’s fast.
This Ramadan I have learned more than anything else that this holy month is just as important to creating community as it is to growing closer to Allah (swt). Putting in place a bunch of rules such as these does many things, none of which are positive. It pushes people outside of their communities and shuns them for being different, forcing them to find other communities or worse, turning away from Allah (swt) to join ranks with un-believers. I also believe that restricting so many things pushes us as humans to the extreme. There are many reasons why people turn to sin and corruption and one of these I feel is that people can break after being said to do this, do that, don’t do this, etc. over and over so many times. These “rules” of the extreme also add to the image that Islam is a very strict religion and Allah (swt) is a very serious God, leading un-believers to say things such as Islam bashes women’s rights and is too strict and backwards.
Allah (swt) puts stipulations on us through the holy book of the Koran and through the Hadiths. As humans, we look to scholars and Imams to interpret these and show us the right and wrong way of living. At the same time, while these scholars and Imams have spent years studying, they are still only human like the rest of us. As we frequently see across the world, some have motives of their own that are not pure but are twisted and tainted.
Regardless of who tells us what to do and what they tell us, we need to look for the answers ourselves. Knowledge is what supports Islam. We do not have to follow and believe everything that is presented to us. Instead, let us learn the context, learn the purpose, and learn for ourselves.
I think I’ve stepped it up a notch this time: Muslim Hijabi goes to Orthodox Jewish Rap Concert.
I grabbed my best friend A. and we travelled to a random part of town to attend the concert in an old library: a great big auditorium equipped with wooden chairs, a balcony, and red dusty curtains.
I don’t know who was more surprised to see me: the non-religious crowd or the orthodox crowd. The crowd was intermingled but it was obvious to tell who was who from appearances. Everyone was really into it though, bobbing their head from side to side or dancing in the aisles.
What an amazing thing to see how Allah (swt) works, bringing people together through music. This music didn’t contain bad words or a bad message. These lyrics speak for peace, respect, and a higher being.
I was raised to always hold my head high and take control of my decisions and actions. I was raised as a fighter, someone who could take control of any situation and turn it into a positive outcome. I was raised to be a leader and have people depend on me, no matter what the obstacle to overcome.
This is what I struggle the most about Ramadan. It is not the lack of food or water nor is it the long days that keep me confined to sedentary activities. I feel completely powerless.
I do not have control over when I eat or drink, one of the most basic things that we as humans take for granted. Instead, I have to learn to rely on the sun and the moon.
I have little control over what I eat. I only have a small amount of time to get in enough nutrients that I will be hoarding over the next 16 hours and need to be extremely selective as to what goes into my body.
I have to learn to be dependent on others. I used to walk every where but now because of my lack of energy, I need to take public transit to get me to work, the masjid, etc.
I have to listen to my body and what it tells me, whether it is time to pray, sleep, or stop—stop, something which is slowly creeping into my vocabulary. Often I pride myself with being compared to an energizer bunny, constantly going everywhere and meeting with everyone, reading, writing, travelling, volunteering, working, learning, you know, general life living. Ramadan tells me to stop. Stop. Such a hard command from Allah (swt).
Stopping to focus. Stopping to appreciate.
All my life Allah (swt) has given me messages to remind me to stop and listen. He has given me bouts in my life of powerlessness and has tested my patience in numerous different ways. In this way, Ramadan is as much as a holy month as it is a test.
I am struggling with it, really, really struggling. I don’t like to be told what to do. I am a leader whose legs hurt so bad sometimes she can’t walk, let alone lead others. I’m a traveler who doesn’t want to get out of bed. I’m a student who can’t concentrate on learning. I look towards Allah (swt) for guidance and I know He does not lead me astray. These are the lessons I need to learn, however difficult, throughout this holy month.
Even strong people should feel weak sometimes.
You know how there’s moments when you really know you should be praying and reflecting and reading the Koran but you’re watching Contagion, True Blood, Nurse Jackie, and Weird Weddings on your parent’s telly while eating a chocolate donut instead?
Yeah that was last night.
I don’t know why I watch True Blood because it is so soap-opera-ish more than anything I’ve ever watched (except maybe Lost). I know I’m definitely not learning anything from it except how to be entertained by a calamity of sins and as much general mayhem as possible the writers can fit into a 53 minute episode. I know my dad watches it and it’s a way to relate to him. He also smokes cigars and I never will so I guess it’s a bit of a moot point.
Do you ever wonder if the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) killed mosquitos? Think about it. There is a mosquito sucking on his arm and drawing blood, do you think he swatted at it or let it stay infesting its malaria until it was finished?
Contagion freaked me out because of how real it could be. The Spanish Flu, Bubonic Plague, etc. was a very real thing that killed off many, many people though it was confined to certain areas. In our day and age thanks to technology and travel, a contagious air-born disease has the ability to wipe out most of the world.
These are important things to think about.
As a nutritionist and fitness coach in training, not knowing if I have enough nutrients coming into my body is freaking me out. I need to be extra mindful of what I am eating, when I am eating it, my calorie intake, and how many ounces of water I am downing. Every body needs to drink at list 40 ounces a day to keep themselves hydrated and from feeling sick and weak. Ideally, it should be about 64 ounces for the average healthy person. This here: http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm is a handy little calculator that can help you navigate exactly how much water you should be drinking to get your daily intake. Note: if you do any sort of walking or physical activity be sure to note it in the exercise column. It will advise you to drink even more.
Now, let’s talk dirty. If you have not had a bowel movement a least once every 24 hours there is something wrong with you. No ifs, ands, or butts. Your body may be accumulating itself to fasting these few early days but seriously, elimination of toxins is extremely important. Fasting is one way to eliminate toxins in the body. During fasting through Ramadan, Allah (swt) allows toxins from fat stores to be released into our blood stream. This is a true health blessing. HOWEVER, if the body does not have enough fiber and antioxidants to help “flush out” the toxins, then they end up circulating in our blood stream and affect different organs, resulting in headaches and skin problems. The best way to protect yourself from these ailments (besides drinking lots of water) is to eat food rich in fiber and antioxidants. Basics of these foods include salad (spinach is my favorite, ignore iceberg lettuce), fruits (blueberries), whole grains (brown rice, lentils, beans). In addition to these foods rich in vitamins, you can take an additional antioxidant and fiber supplement.
Smokers, especially those who are trying to quit smoking, will feel these affects more greatly than others. Allah (swt) has granted mercy to those with illnesses, old age, and pregnancy for a reason. The results are powerful stuff and detoxification is not an easy process.
After a two day hiatus I am back, full of spiritual strength and prayer and wisdom and guidance and….
Subhan’Allah it’s been two days of Ramadan and I’m being tested. I know for certain that Allah is putting me to the test. I have been putting off dealing with some personal problems and BAM come Ramadan there is nothing I can do BUT take care of it. Hungry, tired, and thirsty, I put my headphones on and feel like I’m Rocky Balboa running around Philadelphia, headscarf and long-sleeved “muscle shirt” flapping in the breeze as I fist pump (incredibly slowly) my way around my city at 7:30 pm.
My personal problems and entanglements are at every corner and I’m kick boxing and throwing in Hi-YA!ing knee jabs to make them move out of the way.
Also doing a lot of Yoga and Ballet. Also not doing any martial arts what-so-ever. I just thought it’d be a cute description to throw in there.
Besides from my strained physical activity, I went to do Teraveih. Many Muslims know this to be the epicness of epic prayer. In fact, the Masjid where I pray makes it even more epic by adding a halaqa in the middle of 28 Rakats. As my friend Hayat pointed out, in Mecca this lasts 45 minutes. In my mosque, 2.5 hours.
My fiancee pointed out that I may not be ready for Teraveih and that it’s something “only grandmother” does. Whether this is right or wrong, I’m starting to agree with it. Today after Iftar and praying Isa at the Masjid, I went downstairs to babysit the munchkins. We watched ToyStory 3 (which is an extremely depressing movie) and colored Ramadan Mubarak cut-outs. I really miss working as an Art Teacher and was happy to be back around my little ones that I loved so dearly from working at the Islamic Summer Camp. As evidenced by the picture, I received a lot of special drawings from my good eggs that I have promptly hung on the all encompassing refrigerator .
My goal for this Ramadan (besides not being sick) is to read the Holy Qur’an in its entirely. Insha’Allah I am trying to follow the guidelines of reading 1 Jez of a long Surah per night or when it comes to it, a few short surahs. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of reading to do…