Ramadan: Fasting, Eating, and Driving Like Crazy..

 

Everyone who lives in a Muslim country must know by now what is Ramadan. What it consists of, what it represents, and what it means to all the Muslims around the world.

The first concept foreigners -Non Muslim- struggle with, is the fact that we go all day with no food and no drinks, from sunrise to sunset. It is hard for them to fathom why would anyone starve themselves, and be thirsty when we live in a country with a million degrees outside. Once they understand -or try to understand- they struggle with point number two: If Ramadan is the month of fasting, then how come it is ALL about food? Here they seem to be stuck, because everyone around them seems to prove their point and no one is free to explain, because hey … Before Maghrib everyone is beat, after Maghrib people are eating like there is no tomorrow.

So after hearing these comments way so many times, I decided to try and give my two cents of the day, here:

First of all, Ramadan is not ONLY about fasting from food, it is fasting from ALL what your body might desire on normal days. Things that can bring you a little farther from where God wants you to be. Things that one’s self might desire more than it should or more than what it needs. So actually Ramadan is NOT about fasting, it is about controlling one’s self. It takes a lot of control to refuse a delicious, rich, and super moist chocolate cake, or a cold refreshing drink in the summer heat. Yet when you do it, you don’t do because you don’t feel like any of these delicious treats, No! You do it because God asked you to.

He also asked us to fast from talking about people behind their backs -He always asked us to do so, but in Ramadan if you don’t do it, your fasting goes down the drain- He asked us as well not to make love, when we are fasting, and to refrain from being lazy, argumentative, or stingy. He asked us to do 100% of all the things we need to do to be on the right path, to be closer to Him.

Some people seem to think that God has created Ramadan, because he wants us to feel what the poor people feel. It seems somehow logical, and a great way to instill compassion and empathy, until you think of those same poor people and how they ALSO fast in Ramadan, just like every other day too. Shouldn’t they be exempt from the whole fasting jazz? Not the case ha! No, fasting was set for everyone equally. Yes, in the process we do feel hungry and thirsty, during the day, and that might make us feel more for the people whose daily lives resembles our fasting days, but not by choice or conviction, just because that is their reality. Ramadan is not about fasting from food and drinks only, it is fasting from all the bad habits, that we might do throughout the year, because we are weak and we can’t resist. So in that one month of Ramadan, we do our best, we work hard, and we practice for the rest of the year, till Ramadan blesses us again with yet another holly appearance.

Now to it being ALL about food, before I start on this one, I would like you to imagine going to bed fairly late at night, knowing that when you wake up, you won’t be able to eat or drink. I want you to think that when you get dressed and get to ready to go to work, there will be no coffee, no eggs benedict, no orange juice and no cigarettes (if you smoke). Then during the day, you are exposed to all the sweet temptations, from an add on TV, to a post about a mouth-watering dish, or just a sweet craving that gets into you.  Then you check your watch and it’s barely 10am, and you still have about 8 more hours of fasting to go. Fasting duration differs from one country to another, in Bahrain for example, we fast about 15hours. 15 long hours, with no food or drinks, while your daily responsibilities don’t change a bit, instead, the lot grows bigger.

It is just natural to CRAVE food when you are fasting, and even more normal to cook what you crave, and enjoy it with family and friends at Iftar time. What is not OK, is to WASTE food. In Ramadan, sharing food is a very big tradition in Arabic countries. So most families cook big amounts of food, BUT they share them with friends, family, people in need and so on. So from now on, let’s normalize the talk about food before and after Iftar, let’s normalize the fact that supermarkets are full and shelves get empty so quickly, you never know if these people donate, share or eat their food themselves. Before judging, put yourself in the fasting people’s shoes, and you will see how normal craving, cooking, and eating food after 15 hours of fasting is.

Another kind of comments that kept creeping into my ears was the following: “Aah these people they fast and drive like crazy… they better not fast” or “if you get angry because you are fasting, then better not to fast” or even “if fasting means being lazy so what’s the point” and while I absolutely understand and I am STRONGLY against driving like crazy (an absolute No No), getting angry randomly, or even being lazy in Ramadan -or any other time as a matter of fact- but first of all we need to keep in mind that fasting is not for the fainthearted! Food is what gives you energy to focus, to work, to be in a good mood and to be “normal”, once you take food out of the equation, you become somewhat like a zombie. Of course still not an excuse, but it’s a situation that requires empathy from the people around, and specially the Non-Muslim ones, who can’t understand what a big of a deal fasting is UNLESS they try it. Instead however, leading by example is a fantastic way to show how it is done.  So instead of complaining about these “bloody crazy fasting Muslims” -doing their own thing, in their own country- I suggest to try fasting, and driving properly, try being in a good mood all day long, while also working hard. This not only will put them at shame, but also will inspire them to do better, and it will be done without the slightest form of complaints, judgment, or resentment, so a win-win situation ;).

So whether you are a Muslim, or not, join me in wishing the Muslim people to get all the strength they need to complete their fast, the way God has asked us to, while being kind, compassionate, and with a smile InshaAllah.

 

 

Ouiam

Healthy Habits, for your Ramadan this Year.

 

As the summer heat slowly creeps into the island, with it comes the holiest, and the most celebrated month in the Muslim world: Ramadan! It is a month when all Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Yes, no food no water until we hear the Adhan of Al Maghrib prayer (The call for the evening prayer, which is right at sunset).

Ramadan is also more about self control and abstaining from what the body desires, and turning into feeding the soul with what brings us closer to God. Mainly Ramadan if done properly, will help to purify Muslims souls and serve as a reminder on how one should be all year round.

For 29 or 30 days, Muslims around the world, skip breakfast, lunch, while they enjoy a huge meal at sunset called Iftar (Breakfast), then they only have about 8 to 9 hours, when they can eat as they please just to get back into the fasting mode with the next sunrise. The question most people have is: How to make the most of the few hours of eating you are allowed to have each night? Some people make sure to fill in every inch of their stomachs, and believe it or not, some may even end up in the hospital, because they have eaten way more than what they need, or what they can handle! As most Muslims practice self-control during the day, at night time (which is when the body usually goes into a slower mode), they go crazy! Understandable yes, healthy? Absolutely not!

To have a healthy, and happy Ramadan, most nutritionists recommend the following:

  • Take it easy at Iftar.

Braking fast is one of the most important meals in Ramadan, not only because that’s when you can finally eat, but also because the body has been in a slow mode, and has been resting for hours, so it is important to take it very easy and not shock the body with a huge meal. The Prophet Mohammed (SAW), actually advised to fill a third of our stomachs with food, a third with water, and leave the third empty.

  • Dates First.

Most Muslims already do this and it is great because dates are a potassium dense food, which aids in hydration and restores electrolyte balance. Water is a great addition too, because it is balanced in macronutrients, and the combination of dates and water is perfect for restoring energy. It is highly recommended to take a little break after the dates, before indulging in other foods.

  • Snacking:

It is recommended to eat at least two small snacks between breaking fast and the last meal before going to sleep. Since the window of eating is very tiny, it is better to focus on faster digesting food, such as:

– Proteins with high absorption factors, like egg whites, fish, skinless chicken, and whey protein.

-Nutritious carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains.

-Good fats such as avocadoes, nuts, and seeds.

  • The last meal.

Also called “Suhour”, should be properly balanced, and should help maximize energy for the next day.

It should include items high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, slower digesting protein (such as the casein in Greek Yogurt), and good fats. This is ideal to slow gastric emptying too.

  • Refrain from trans-fats and refined sugars.

It is very common for Muslims to have lots of fried or sweet food for Iftar, which is not a great idea, as these types of food will be driving your hunger. In addition to spiking your insulin (Which is a horrible way to wake up the body from its sleep), they activate the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, and make us feel good, so obviously we end up eating more and more, just to wake up the next day STARVING!

Ramadan is a great way to cleanse your lifestyle, from feeding the body the right nutritious food, to feeding the soul with what matters the most to you!

 

Ramadan Kareem!

Ramadan Kareem!

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Today is the seventh day of Ramadan, the Holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed. It is a month when all Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Yes, no food no water until we hear the Adhan of Al Maghrib prayer (The call for the evening prayer, which is right at sunset). Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, so you can imagine how big of a deal it is. For me, Ramadan would mean fasting a little more than 15hours, in this weakening  heat, with a toddler running around the house, demanding to have his daily routine undisturbed, and needs to be kept entertained at all times and of course safe and whole. This is not my first time fasting with Adam, last year he was 5months old, he wasn’t walking or even crawling yet, he wasn’t eating solids or talking! This year the fasting experience took a completely new meaning -since Adam is now 15 months- and it is not a joke people! This is torture! Imagine you wake up in the morning, still very sleepy but can’t have that cup of coffee, then you feel your energy level dropping down while your little rascal is just getting started! These were some of my thoughts this morning, they kept on floating in my mind until I STOPPED myself, disgusted by my own thoughts, and I redirected my thinking to the million other people who do this every day -not just a month every year- Who don’t do it by choice! I sure know that at 6:32pm, I will have a table full of treats and good stuff waiting for me to dig in, but they don’t, of course they wish they could, but here is the thing: THEY CAN’T! Here I am, complaining about how tired, hungry, thirsty I am (because I am fasting), while millions of other people, have to go through this every day of their lives! Ramadan is sure the holiest arabic month, and the month when the Quoran was revealed, but most importantly, it is the month where everyone is supposed to feel for others, to know what it is to be starving or thirsty yet can’t do a thing about it! Since I became a mother, my perspective of life completely changed, I became not only Adam’s mom, but somehow, the mother of all children in this world! No one chooses their parents or their children, so yes God gave me Adam, but any of those unfortunate kids could have been mine, and the thought of having one of my kids feel what i have been feeling every day since Ramadan started, kills me, it breaks my heart, it tears me up! No kid should ever starve! So at exactly 6:32pm, when i would take a date and say a prayer -because God said that anybody who fasts and says a prayer while breaking his fast, his prayer shall be answered- So yeah I say a prayer, I pray that every kid in this world have something in their plate. Something to fill their tiny stomachs! Something to keep them from feeling what I felt today and every day of Ramadan!

So Ramadan is more about challenging yourself in being good, being better, because you have no excuse, Satan has been locked up, and it is just you, the good you, versus the bad you! From the minute you wake up, you have to work on yourself: be kind, be generous, be humble, be honest, be nice, be right… etc! No gossip, no cheating, no laziness and a whole list of NOs! Because remember, you will not be able to blame it on Satan, if you cannot do it, then you are the only sinner!

Ramadan is also about family, my memories of Ramadan as a kid, consist of family gatherings and friends visits; a thing that I miss so much, miles away from home! I remember going with my parents to visit relatives that we haven’t seen in a long time, because it is Ramadan! I remember my dad taking out the phone book, and call all his brothers, sisters, cousins and even distant relatives, because it is Ramadan. I remember my mom making sweets and taking them to her sister, because it is Ramadan!

It is amazing what this month can bring to us, how can it make us a better us, even if it is just once a year! Because it is far better being good at least once a year than never be! So Thank You Ramadan.

Ramadan Kareem.

Ouiam

Thank God It’s Friday! What’s For Sohour?! 

  

Ramadan is here! A holy month for all Muslims around the world! It is also a busy month (you probably have noticed that I haven’t posted a thing since last Friday lol). We fast from sunrise to sunset, and we break our fast with our family, friends and loved ones, in a beautiful, warm and very peaceful atmosphere. 

Just before sunrise, we eat a meal called “Sohour” and that would be the last meal until the following sunset, when we will break our fast, so we need it to be filling without being “too much” and my “Sticky Chocolate Coconut Squares” are just what we need! With a cup of milk and you’re set to go! Here, I will share the recipe with you all! 
1/2 Cup raw chocolate powder 

3/4 Cup dried coconut shredded and unsweetened 

1/2 Cup cashews or almonds (or both) 

A pinch of sea-salt

1/2 Cup honey 
Put the chocolate, coconut, cashews, and sea-salt in a food processor and blend until crumbly. Add the honey and process until it clumps together, almost like a dough. Press the mixture into a baking dish then cut into squares and you are done! 

Bon Appetit 

Ouiam