Not even water?


It’s that time of year again when Muslims all over the world come together to answer the ridiculous, inane and downright stupid questions of non-Muslims everywhere.

Wait, that’s unfair! There’s a huge amount of non-Muslims that are in the know regarding the practices of Islam, but considering I recently got asked if I knew any members of the Taliban, I’m going to go right ahead and suggest the majority remain clueless.

It’s not entirely their fault either. The media paints a picture of terrorists and torturers so if we’re clearly willing to chop someone’s head off, it stands to reason that we’re willing to starve ourselves for thirty days and thirty nights.  

But that’s just the problem, the picture is all wrong. Its colours are blurred and they smudge indefinitely into grey patches of dirt on a canvas that was once so white. Because whenever we talk about Islam and Muslims, the only colours that seep out onto the page are the negative black, or the red blood, or it’s even the grey rubble. Our brush doesn’t seem to have any other colours, and nor is it allowed.

The same goes for Ramadan. Whenever it’s the topic of conversation, it’s always the hunger and thirst that receives the most attention. As ever, pain and suffering takes centre stage.

But my Ramadan is full of colour and it’s time we started painting with everything we’ve got.

Ramadan is a month when you’re suddenly not so alone. Millions of people around the world are doing the same thing as you, and that brings a unity that is beautiful in its symmetry. It’s a month where your community and family come together every night as the sun sets and you feel the power of a shared experience envelop you. It’s a month when you get to work on being a better person and the encouragement of those around you allows you to reach higher than you normally could, or would. It’s a month that, if you just stop staring at the hunger that sits on its surface, sways and flows to a beautiful rhythm of giving and heart.

Yes I’m hungry, and yes I would love a glass of water. Fasting for eighteen hours a day is hard, and getting on a sweaty tube and spending your journey dry mouthed in someone’s armpit is less than desirable. But the way I see it, at the end of the day when the sun sets, I get to break my fast on whatever food I want, and I get to drink whatever I please, and I do it all surrounded by a hub of people who love and care for me. I’m not sure how many people around the world get to say that. I’m also not sure how many times a year I think that, or even take a moment to appreciate that.

So no, it’s not all about the bleak hunger and pain and all the glasses of water I can’t have.

Instead, it’s about the myriad of colours and beauty I find within a month that is so tirelessly about everyone coming together, in all their glorious differences, to just become better versions of ourselves. That’s all it really is, at its very core, just becoming better, and for me, that deserves all the colours and joy in the world.

Salma El-Wardany