As Ramadan was approaching last year, I had a gut feeling of dread. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the month of Ramadan, the spiritual high, the great community feeling; it’s all fantastic! However, for someone like me who has major digestive problems, unfortunately Ramadan also means dehydration, stomach pain and disappointment.
I say disappointment because there is no worse feeling than having to break your fast during Ramadan simply because your body cannot handle it. Last year I did everything I possibly could to avoid this situation.
The first two weeks were really stressful. I had exams and I spent the majority of my time at university studying. I was part of organising daily iftars for fasting students in the university prayer rooms and was always running around during iftar time.
Every day at iftar time I dreaded putting food in my mouth, I would eat a date, go pray, come back and eat a small portion of food; very often it wouldn’t be more than a handful of rice and some salad. Then came the wait, it’s hard to tell how my body will react to the food so I just had to wait and see. Often, my stomach would start grumbling, then I would feel nauseous and dizzy; I would curl up into a fetal position, buried under whatever warm garment I could find in the prayer room and pray that I don’t vomit. But alas, there was nothing I could do to hold that food down so I would run to the bathroom and proceed to empty the contents of my stomach into the toilet bowl. It was disgusting.
Some days I would manage to retain some food and some days I wouldn’t.
By the time the last ten days rolled around I was a mess, my exams were over – but I was still stressed out trying to catch up on all the Qur’an reading I had missed and keep up with all the family and community iftars.
In the last week of the month I couldn’t handle it anymore, I had a very sharp pain in my abdomen and was rushed off to hospital. It was disappointing.
My body couldn’t even get me through Ramadan! I was so angry at myself, and at the world. I felt it was so unfair that I couldn’t even get through one month of fasting, and I felt like it was just so much harder on me than everyone else.
All I wanted to do was get out of that hospital and proceed to being a normal Muslim, but it was impossible, they had me on drips and they were investigating the source of the pain. I was on strong pain killers and the slightest amount of food would have me vomiting.
I managed to get out of the hospital in time for Eid but my spirits had been crushed; I’d missed all the qiyam nights in the masjid, the amazing recitation of the Imam and the collective crying of the masses. Even thinking about it as I write this, my eyes burn with tears.
I felt like I had lost the one opportunity that Allah SWT gives us to connect with Him, to talk to Him and to cleanse ourselves from the hardships and struggles of this life. I felt like I had betrayed my faith by not fasting, by not having the strength to fast and worst of all, I felt like a weak Muslim.
I was reminded by a friend that Allah SWT tests those that He loves. This was just another test. Allah’s tests come in many shapes and sizes. Although I might think that my incapability to fast or pray qiyam during Ramadan was a betrayal to my religion, I had to remember that this is all in Allah’s SWT hands. All I have to do is accept his decree with patience and faith.
This year I have prepared myself physically for Ramadan, I feel stronger and ready to take it on. But I also know, if anything should happen to my health, then it’s all a test from Allah SWT, I will take it, hold my chin up and do what I can with whatever strength and time I do have to spend in this holy month.