I’ve always been interested in religion and the way different people express their faiths, even when I was a fundamentalist Christian and believed many of these people were going to Hell. When I began delving into ancient history and studying more of the Old Testament, I decided Christianity wasn’t for me and started searching for something else. Exploring the faiths of the world was an amazing experience, one I wouldn’t trade for the world; to this day, I think everyone should take a world religions class and explore spirituality in their own way. In the end, I settled on Wicca, but the traditions and spiritual expressions of the other Abrahamic faiths—Islam and Judaism—are still beautiful and fascinating to me, so much so that I love following some of their online communities on Patheos, YouTube, and Instagram.
It was these communities that sparked my interest in Ramadan and made me sorry that Wicca didn’t have its own month-long period of devotion. Sure, Wicca is very flexible—especially as a solitary practitioner—so I could have come up with one of my own, but it just wouldn’t have been the same doing it by myself. During Ramadan, millions, if not billions, of people all over the world take part in the fast at the same time; there is a sense of community and kinship between fasters. It’s the same for many Christians during Lent.
As Ramadan began this year, I toyed with the idea of fasting, if only for one day. When I found out a local mosque was holding an interfaith iftar on July 19th, I thought that would be the perfect day, but as the day approached, I wondered why I was doing it. Again, I looked into the theology of Islam, but it appealed to me very little. I admired the cultures and the traditions, but could not reconcile it with my personal theological beliefs.
Then the conflict in Gaza flared. It was then that I realized I wanted to fast to show my support for religious freedom all over the world. More and more injustices came to mind, from prejudice in the workplace to the fight over hijab in France and elsewhere. It is my sincerely held belief that people should be able to practice whatever peaceful religion they want to practice without being harassed or singled out. I also believe that people should be able to cover or uncover as much of their body as they’re comfortable with. Fasting would be my way of saying, “I support religious freedom.”
With this in mind, I had a surprisingly easy day fasting. To be honest, I think it was because I spent nearly the entire day out of the house, so I wasn’t tempted to snack or sip while I was watching TV or anything. I even did my best to be kind in all I did, and I don’t think I even snapped at anyone. I did wake up at four o’clock in the morning to eat my overnight oats, chug a quart of water, and pray to my God and Goddess—and promptly went back to bed. Then I went to the farmer’s market (where I was tempted many times with, “Are you sure you don’t want a sample???” and forced to trust my partner’s judgment when it came to fruit selection). Then, in the evening, I went to work (I had to skip the interfaith iftar because of it) … Did I mention I work in a restaurant? This was when I may or may not have gone a little crazy. It was unusually slow that night—or was it?—so there was little to do but focus on my growling stomach. I kept praying and looking at the clock and praying some more, and finally, at 8:30, I munched on a couple of dates I brought for the occasion and downed a bunch of water.
I think what surprised me the most was the amount of support I received, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. My coworkers—none of whom are Muslim—were awesome, cheering me on the last few minutes of my fast. Everyone online, including the wonderful people surrounding Interfaith Ramadan, was very supportive. A few days later, I bonded with the man opening my new bank account after my partner, spotting the man’s Middle Eastern name, very casually (*coughnotcasuallyatallcough*) asked me, “Is Ramadan still going on?” to which the man replied, “You know about Ramadan??”
Did fasting bring me closer to the divine? Perhaps. I was acutely aware of my actions throughout the entire day, so I was very careful not to snap at anyone or get upset about the little things. I had also downloaded a prayer app that made my phone vibrate at the prayer times. Originally, I downloaded it so I would know when I could eat and drink, but I found myself pausing when it went off at other times, just to say a little prayer and remind myself why I was going without food or water for sixteen hours. Fasting definitely made me aware of the people who go without food or water because they have to, and if remembering and feeling compassion for them doesn’t bring you closer to God, I don’t know what will.
Rose Virginia Butler is a lifelong writer who has a variety of interests, including religion, books, social justice, ecology, food, and fitness. She is a solitary Wiccan and a member of her local Unitarian Universalist church. Rose is currently an English student at an online university with the goal of supporting herself through her writing. You can find her on her blog (rosevbutler.blogspot.com), which has links to other social networking profiles.
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