SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - As Ramadan comes to an end, it's important to reflect on what we've gained from this spiritual journey.
Within these 29 days, I've learned so much about myself, my strength, my capabilities, and my endurance.
In the physical sense, I've learned that I can be without food for more than 16 hours (which is pretty impressive if you ask me).
I've also learned that I can actually refrain from more things than I thought (listening to music, watching excessive television, etc.).
Instead, I practiced using that time to do things that were more productive and would benefit me.
I would spend time reading Quran (our Holy book) on my QuranLite App, Googling how to optimize my time during Ramadan and used Pinterest to look up motivational quotes and words of encouragement to keep me going throughout the day.
So we shouldn't only focus on what we were deprived from, but it's important to look back and recognize what we've gained as well.
Hopefully, we would see that we used our time to the best of our ability during the month and plan to continue doing so throughout the year.
I can't speak for everyone, but I would definitely say that there's always some things I could keep working on throughout the year and things I could do better come next Ramadan.
So for many, the next step after Ramadan is to focus on how we could keep certain positive habits going. For some people that might mean going to the mosque more often, learning more about the religion or donating more to charity.
Regardless, the important thing to remember is that the spiritual aspect shouldn't end when Ramadan does.
As excited as we get to eat breakfast and lunch again, we shouldn't forget why we fasted in the first place. Ramadan teaches us to appreciate each bite so much more.
To realize that so many people around the world suffer from that hunger we felt for a month but unfortunately, feel it every day.
And to remember that although we have a meal on the table every night, they may not.
So we should increase in giving charity. Even if it’s a small amount every so often. Some help is better than no help at all.
Ramadan also teaches us about our inner strength and how much we could actually refrain from, aside from food.
It teaches us discipline.
I mentioned in my earlier article that I stopped listening to music on my way to and from work for the holy month, although it’s something I normally do.
I can't lie, my commute to work is at least 40 minutes each way and I definitely found it difficult not to push the power button to save myself from the silence.
But, I managed to do it.
This is just a small example but it shows you that we could technically refrain from any desires big or small if we put our mind to it.
Especially because if we have mastered controlling our appetite (which is the hardest thing to control), then refraining from anything else is just as possible.
What made this Ramadan more interesting than the rest was for me, was that two of my non-Muslim coworkers also fasted the entire month with me.
It was so interesting to listen to their experience while fasting, that I asked them to share some of it for this article.
Below, are two different perspectives of two non-Muslims on their experience fasting during the entire month of Ramadan.
"Fasting. A word that was not ingrained in my annual activities a couple of years ago,” said Melica Niccole, 33, of Irvington. “This all changed in 2014 when I attempted to fast and actually was successful. After the fast, I felt enlightened and was definitely 20 lbs. less than my previous weight. It was an amazing experience.”
She said the reason she began fasting was to grow spiritually and to support her boyfriend who fasted each year.
“In reflecting on my past and current religious beliefs, I would say I am an omnist. I believe that all religions work together or have some type of commonality amongst each other,” she said. “In the past, I was raised with Christian traditions. This year, I learned a lot from fasting; one thing being that the last 10 days of Ramadan are the most sacred days of fasting. Individuals generally pray more during this time for themselves and others. I am a true supporter of fasting and believe everyone should try it with their own purpose in mind."
Deven Williams, 26, of Fords, said she may convert to Islam.
"I was going to start this article with, ‘I chose to fast...’. I believe that this fast was meant to rearrange my life and my priorities. Although, I am not a convert yet to Islam I feel that I am on the brink,” she said. “I went to Ghana, Africa two years ago through a women's rights organization, where I volunteered at a refugee camp, taught children at their school, and worked at a women's shelter. Some of my peers were Muslim. Having conversations with them and watching how they maneuvered always intrigued me because it seemed as if they were free.”
She said she has been in “spiritual warfare” with herself for a long time but recently realized that not only was this warfare happening, but that she needed to do something about it.
“A Muslim co-worker of mine invited me to her mosque shortly before Ramadan. With the love and passion shown from the community, it confirmed that I needed to try (fasting for) Ramadan,” she said. “My experience with Ramadan has been eventful. I have benefited tremendously. Looking back at the beginning of Ramadan, I notice the change in my spirit and emotions. I see how more focused I was, whether it is on my job or not.”
She said this fast was one of the hardest things that she had ever done.
“I think it is a challenge that I needed in order to put my priorities in perspective. It made me realize that not eating and drinking is only the surface of what's going on, but beyond that, it helps shapes us in becoming humble, sincere, and diligent individuals,” she said. “I think I have grown so much within this month and I am grateful that I am was able to experience this amazing spiritual process of growth."
And on that note, thank you so much for reading my Ramadan Diaries.
If you didn't know anything about the month before, I hope I helped answer any questions you had.
And if you did know, or if you celebrated it as well, then I hope you gained something from it and enjoyed it.
Editor's Note: Mona Mostafa is a South Brunswick resident writing a four-part series of her personal journey through the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. TAPinto South Brunswick and Cranbury would like to thank Mona for her insights on the holiday and sharing her culture with our readers.