Ramadan 101

Somehow I keep seeing articles/content on “non-moslem trying Ramadan fasting for a day” recently. I can understand that since it’s, well, Ramadan month and I feel it’s pretty neat too as folks learn more about Ramadan and have open and public discussion about it.

So! This is for you all who are curious about Ramadan and perhaps would like to know more about Ramadan — or maybe you want to try doing Ramadan fast for a day.

What is Ramadan? Ramadan is a month that considered as holy by moslems all around the world and usually celebrated by a month-long dry fasting. “Dry fasting”, which means no food and no drink (including water) from dawn (subuh) until dusk (maghrib,) which means, approximately, no food and no water for 12-14 hours depending on where you are in the world. There are some areas in the world where the day is longer than the night, and what folks usually do is to follow Mecca’s fasting period to make sure they are not overburdening themselves.

In Islam, it is said that all the demons and shaytan (satan) are being jailed and trapped so they would not entice and lure humans to do bad deeds — sooooo, if you are still doing bad deeds during Ramadan, you know your own qualities.

Moslems see Ramadan as a boot camp. Not only abstaining from eating and drinking, it’s expected for moslems to not curse or getting quick to anger unnecessarily (which, uh, I’m still super failed on it.) The person is expected to be able to hold their anger and learn to chill.

Now! If you want to try Ramadan fasting, or perhaps this is your first Ramadan (or maybe you are planning to do Ramadan fasting next year,) there are some stuffs you can prepare.

First, be prepared to wake up really really early. In Islam, we pray five times per day. Early morning prayer, noon-time prayer, afternoon-time prayer, dusk-time prayer, and evening-time prayer. Those five are the basics. There are additional prayers if you wish (midnight prayer/praying at 3 AM in the morning/tahajud) but those are not compulsory. Now, before we are doing prayer, there is a call for prayer — athan/adzan. Remember this. This is important.

The early morning prayer — subuh — is the sign of folks to STOP eating and drinking. When you hear subuh adzan, then you gotta stop eating and drinking. This means, you gotta eat BEFORE subuh prayer. In Indonesia, folks usually wake up to 3 AM to have suhoor (early morning meal) and the subuh adzan usually happens at 5 AM-ish (or even earlier than that.)

Second, the suhoor meal. I’m not sure who started the concept of having full feast during suhoor, but I found it doesn’t work for me and Ari. Back where I grew up, I always had this super huge meal for suhoor. Rice, veggies, meat… Everything. This is one of the reasons too why I found myself grumbling during Ramadan because I thought I had to wake up super early to prepare these elaborate meal. That, and the acid reflux afterwards. The acid reflux.

Then, I found that it’s actually not needed at all. I think it was… 2018? 2019? During that time, Ari and I tried having a simple suhoor meal — but we made sure it’s high in protein and fiber and low simple carbs and sugar. We settled with two half-boiled eggs, salad (chopped cucumber and tomato, mixed with yogurt and olive oil with a dash of lemon), and fruits (we always opt for watermelon, dragon fruit, and/or dates.) For drinks, we made sure we have the following patterns:

  • 2 glass of water before suhoor meal
  • 2 glass of water after suhoor meal
  • 2 glass of water during iftar (breaking the fast during dusk)
  • 2 glass of water in the evening

That type of meal — simple, light, with high protein and fiber — proven helps us to get through the day feeling less awful and even more energetic than we used to. We do still feel hungry and thirsty, but it’s definitely waaaay less compared when we had our suhoor meal with full-feast mode. Add it up with the fact that both of us are doing minimum physical activities during the day/we are desk-bound.

Now, if you are trying Ramadan fasting for the first time, it’s really easy to get tempted of having a full-blown meals during suhoor. It’s about piling all the food so you can get through the day, right? Not exactly, no.

Again, acid reflux is no joke. Also, steer clear from food with high level of salt — this means, instant noodles is out of the list. If you want to have noodles for your suhoor meal, make sure you use half of the seasonings and pile up on the veggies and the eggs. Don’t forget the fruits afterwards.

Aside from the two half-boiled eggs menu, Ari and I usually had oatmeal porridge as alternative. This is a great way to use leftovers too — especially fried chicken. Just cook the oatmeal porridge with leftover fried chicken (shredded), set some chicken meat for the toppings, then top it off with green onions and boiled egg. Hint: KFC chicken is THE BEST fried chicken for this dish.

You can use anything you can think of. Fish, beef, lamb, even rendang. This menu is filling, warm, and help you feel energized and less cranky during the day.

I mentioned about fiber and water intake several paragraphs up and I can’t stress this more: You have to make sure you are taking enough fiber and water intake. There is one thing folks rarely talk about when it’s about Ramadan: The constipation.

It’s hard enough to get through the day without eating and drinking, and you can expect constipation is lurking on the list. For this, make sure you have fruits or veggies with high water content: Cucumbers, squash, dragon fruit, watermelons. Steer clear from diuretic drinks such as coffee or tea if you can (and if you have to have your daily dose of coffee and you can only have it during suhoor just like me, make sure you drink water afterwards.) Make sure you get yourself your daily dose of probiotics too (probiotic drinks such as Yakult or yogurt.)

Third, energy management. You got the suhoor meal set properly — high fiber/high protein — yet you still feel tired and sleepy during the day. What happened?

Nothing. It’s… normal. Your body didn’t receive any energy intake (a.k.a. sugar) during the day, so of course you are feeling lethargic. This is where you need to be gentle with yourself. Some folks found it’s hard to concentrate better than usual when they are fasting, and that’s okay! As your body adjusting to the new pattern, you will find yourself re-learning about your daily habit, and that’s awesome.

For the first-timers, never think you are lame compared to your moslem colleagues on doing fasting. Your moslem colleagues from moslem families have been trained to do Ramadan fasting for years (I started my Ramadan fasting when I was 9 years old) and they are veterans on doing Ramadan fasting. For first-timers, see how you fare and — I feel I will get yelled at if I said this but oh what the heck — if you feel like you need to break your fast before maghrib, by all means, do it. This is not a race. No one should be shamed — except those people who demand other people not to eat in front of them “bECauSE I am FasTIng and YOU haVE To ReSPECt Me!” THEY should be shamed. If you have your faith “shaken” just because someone else is eating in front of you while you are fasting, you better take a good look of yourself in the mirror and recalibrate your faith and why you are doing the whole things asked by Islam.

Now, related with the point above, for folks who are not fasting during Ramadan month, never think you should hide or not eating in front of us, moslems who fast. Feel free to have your lunch or afternoon tea/coffee. At most, you will hear us yelling, “OH DAAAANG, THAT COFFEE SMELLS GEEEEWWWDDD!” but it is on a good joke/friendly banter. Also, for some reasons, I found myself and my moslem friends watching mukbang shows on Tiktok or Youtube during Ramadan fasting. Watching other people eat makes us happy lol. You are also welcomed to join us during iftar (breaking the fast)!

Speaking about iftar a.k.a. breaking the fast, iftar happens when the sound of maghrib adzan heard. That’s when you can hear a murmur of excitement from people around you grabbing a glass of water. Similar as suhoor, it’s better to go slow when having iftar meal. It’s REALLY easy to go overboard with the food after not eating for a whole day, but you usually find yourself feeling full just from a glass of water and 2-3 bites of cookies or dates. Be really careful with how your hunger tries to cloud your judgment and be mindful of food waste.

I hope it helps! If you have any questions about Ramadan fasting, feel free to ask here — I’m not an expert (and I wouldn’t call myself a devout moslem either) but I will do my best on answering any questions.




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