Ramadan Mubarak, everyone! For people who don’t know what Ramadan is, it’s the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar (April). Muslims believe that the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad around this time, and therefore they spend it deepening faith through certain practices. The most common one is abstaining from eating, drinking, and other habits such as smoking from dusk to dawn.
Fasting is a reminder for individuals to appreciate what is normally taken for granted, and to empathize with people experiencing hunger daily. There are spiritual and health benefits to it, but it can also be challenging for people like me battling Crohn’s disease.
In fact, other than 2 days in 2021, I haven’t fasted in almost 10 years. I’ve experienced multiple health risks related to malnutrition, including anemia, osteoporosis, and rapid weight loss due to Crohn’s disease, and fasting worsens my symptoms.
Thankfully, according to Islam, serious illness is cause for exemption. Nevertheless, the first few years of being unable to fast were emotionally devastating.
The month of Ramadan brings communities together as Muslims host gatherings several evenings a week. They sometimes stay up until dawn eating, praying, and catching up with one another. There is a real fear of missing out, but I felt as if I had no choice. There were a lot of food triggers for my Crohn’s, to the point where I had to be extra careful. I would stay in bed for days after a late-night outing.
It made sense to just not interact with others, but it was lonely. I was already struggling with my faith for several reasons, and I pretty much gave up after I stopped fasting. For a couple of years, Ramadan came and went like any other month.
Something changed one year. I wanted to work on my spiritual health as much as my physical health. There is a verse in the Quran that states, “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:286) The more I reacquainted myself with Islam, the more I remembered that there’s so much more to Ramadan than fasting.
Prayers, community service, giving charity, and reading the Quran daily are just as important, and they’re things that I strive to improve on outside of Ramadan. With access to the wonderful world of streaming, I also listen to Islamic podcasts. And I watch Arab shows on Netflix. That’s not a requirement; only for pure entertainment!
I’ve since made my peace with how I observe the holy month. I’m not perfect in my faith, but I’m much happier and healthier than I was when I stopped practicing.
For Muslims with Crohn’s or other health issues struggling as Ramadan approaches, my advice is to be the healthiest version you can be at this moment. Eat well, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, connect with loved ones, give to the community, and do something you enjoy.
Allah is gracious and kind, and you should be gracious and kind to yourself.
Photo Credit: zeynep boğoçlu / E+ via Getty Images
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