Thursday, 23 August 2012

Looking back: Ramadan 2012.

It is nice to be able to freely eat food such as cevapi
whenever I feel like, and not feel so guilty!
As most of you should be aware by now, Ramadan for 2012 came to a conclusion across the world last Saturday evening.

If you are a reader of this blog, most likely you will have followed the progress of my personal Ramadan experience to at least some degree.

So, now that it is all over; how was it?

Well, where to begin ...

After my most-recent Ramadan blog entry, a few of you were probably expecting that I would 'pack it in' and completely give up on fasting any further days. The truth is, I did manage to fast again; albeit only for a day.

This took my total of days fasted during Ramadan to a number of eight - quite short of my intended goal of 14. Furthermore, although I had plans to make up for these lost days post-Ramadan, my motivation to complete this is rather lacking at the moment. (A severe heat-wave across Bosnia is also not helping my cause.)

So, upon reflection, because I fell substantially short of what I had hoped to achieve, does this mean I feel like I failed? Damn no.

I have to be realistic and look at the facts. This was my first ever Ramadan, and first ever experience with the notion of fasting. It could be said that, perhaps, my expectations were too high for a beginner.

Moreover, if somebody told me at the start of the year that I would fast (yes, fast!) for eight days in the space of a couple of weeks, I would have scoffed at them. When I look at this overall picture, I must say, I am proud.
Favourite memory: An Iftar dinner organised in Zenica
by a local Turkish community was a highlight for how
it displayed how religion can bring people together.
(Source: Zenica Foto)

It should be said that those eight days were not the only days I was actively participating in the month of fasting. Although it was tough at times, I managed to completely abstain from alcohol for the entire month. I knew that refraining from alcohol had a large part to do with respect to the local Muslim population; particularly my partner and her family. This made it a lot easier to stay away from the stuff, and, even though Ramadan concluded more than five days ago, I still haven't taken a sip of anything remotely alcoholic.

Beyond all of that, my pride is further strengthened because, quite simply, I gave the whole thing a try. Many people around the world will never attempt it in their life; and, probably, many of those people are also ones who express contempt and confusion about the whole process. "What sort of nonsensical weirdos would want to fast?", is what they probably think. I should have some idea - I used to be one of those people.

My favourite memory from the month was one that I took to be symbolic. The night of the collective Iftar dinner - organised by residents of a local community in Istanbul - which took place in the main street of Zenica one evening, really stood out to me. As an attendee that evening, and as I wrote in a blog entry of mine, I was extremely surprised to see that people would volunteer their time and money to others in such a way - people they do not know. As I failed to make a point of in my blog entry at the time, this supply of food and drink that evening would have been a massive help to a large number of local families who themselves struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis.

I'm not completely free of guilt when enjoying
those cevapi, however; fasting opened my eyes
to the suffering of those without food and
water on a daily basis.
Significantly, it helped strengthen ties between two sets of people separated by thousands of kilometres, but united by religion. Truth be told, in a world where news streams are dominated by depressing and negative stories, it was beautiful to witness first-hand such kindness, and revel in the fact that it still exists.

Overall, taking part in this has further opened my eyes to the world in ways I could not previously imagine. It helped me close the book on the world I used to live in; a world where my thoughts were based on nothing but presumptions and falsities. I managed to gain a real-life insight into something in which many people simply refuse to learn about. Even outside the world of religion, it furthered my understanding and compassion for all those around the world who don't even have the fortune to choose when they will and will not eat or drink.

It has been an unforgettable experience for me. An experience that has changed my life, an experience that I will remember forever, and an experience which has led me to make plans to repeat the whole process, once again, next year.

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