Its no coincidence that I have the flattering nicknames of Fat Kid and Fatty. Food is my hobby – I literally love to eat. I was the only kid on the playground that didn’t want to be a doctor or engineer rather I wanted my own cooking show. What better occupation than to get paid to cook and eat?

Despite my bon vivant lifestyle, Ramadan is my favorite month of the year. My friends still ask me, “How can you not eat or drink for the entire day?” They ask as if it is some torturous punishment that God has besieged upon the Muslim community. Let me tell you something – if I can fast, anyone can. In the midst of shortening days, Ramadan has been relatively easy. Sunrise is at about 6 a.m. with the sun setting at about 5 p.m. Those of you who are like me and emerge from the house at about noon, this means a mere 5 hours of fasting.

Ramadan isn’t just about abstaining from eating and drinking all day. It is a month-long spiritual journey that involves deep introspection and reflection. Over the past year, one looks back on where they have gone with their lives, where they seek to go, as they spend their nights in prayer. Throughout the month, one constantly seeks to purify their hearts and rejuvenate their spiritual minds. The Muslim has been likened to a battery being re-charged during Ramadan, after a year worth of wear and tear.

You learn an incredible amount of self-discipline during Ramadan – especially when you are cooking while fasting. The other day I was making dessert for my family when I instinctively stuck my finger into the cake batter and stuck my finger in my mouth. I found myself battling with my inner Devil on my rush to the sink to spit out the batter. I didn’t realize how strong I let that little Devil get over the past year – it’s a good thing I still have three more weeks of Ramadan to charge my worn out battery. Fasting is an extremely personal venture. No one really knows that you are besides yourself and God. I could secretly hide in the basement and nibble away on Slim Jims and everyone would still think I was fasting, muhahaha. This is where all the other aspects of Ramadan come into play: Discipline, piety, self-improvement and humility.

Aside from the personal aspects, the deep sense of community and family is exemplified during Ramadan. In our seemingly hectic college life, sitting down for dinner every night with friends and family is a rare occurrence. I look forward to Ramadan for the brotherhood and sisterhood that is exemplified on this campus. Every night, the Muslim students on campus get together and break their fast with one another. Everyone breaks his or her fast together and then heads to the local mosque for evening prayers.

Amidst my enjoyment of Ramadan, has been disappointment at the recent attacks against Islam. Evangelist Jerry Falwell stated a few weeks ago, amongst many disgusting comments, that Islam is an “evil and wicked religion.” Just yesterday, author Dinesh D’Souza, stated to the Peoria Area World Affairs Council that, “Islam today produces two things: Oil and dead bodies.” One cannot claim that Islam is a monolithic entity. These enormous generalizations are not only inaccurate but do a severe injustice to the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide that do not follow a violent path.

These sorts of comments are aimed at a perversion of Islam, not the Islam that I and the majority of Muslims know. Striving to spend the month in reflection and prayer, breaking my fast with my fellow brothers and sisters, abstaining from foul language and uncouth talk of others, feeling the plight of the hungry, donating money to the poor, spending time with my family and most of all revitalizing my soul is what Ramadan means to me and most of all, what being Muslim means to me.

Try fasting for a day, I promise it won’t hurt you. It will help you feel compassion for the less fortunate, have a sense of greater appreciation for the things you have in life, build up your sense of will-power and self-control as well as experience the sense of spirituality and community that Muslims look forward to every year.

Let me know if you want to try fasting and we can break our fast together at one of the campus dinners and I promise Fat Kid will share her food with you.

Brenda Abdelall can be reached at abdelal@umich.edu.

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