News / USA

Ramadan Blog Becomes Book on Benefits of Fasting

Poet and essayist Kazim Ali examines the beauty of the religious ritual

Multimedia

Audio

The Quran calls on Muslims to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse during the daylight hours for the entire month.

Kazim Ali explores the benefits of the Islamic holy month in his book, 'Fasting for Ramadan.'
Kazim Ali explores the benefits of the Islamic holy month in his book, 'Fasting for Ramadan.'

Muslims are also expected to abstain from eavesdropping, gossip and backbiting while spending time reflecting on God and their faith.

In his book "Fasting for Ramadan," poet and essayist Kazim Ali examines the beauty this ancient practice brings to his life and the relevance it may have for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Born in London, Kazim Ali was raised in Canada by his Shi'ite Muslim parents and now teaches writing at Oberlin College in Ohio.

His relatives consider themselves to be traditional and many of them married women who cover their heads. But Ali and his mother were usually the only ones fasting during Ramadan.

He recalls his mother's tap on the door in the dark before dawn when they would share a meal before the sun rose and the fast began.

"It was our special time," he says. "There weren’t other people there. And then throughout the day we would be walking around through our lives, and everyone else was there but that other person was in that same condition as you, so they know what it’s like. And when it comes time for the end of the day, I would sit there and watch her eat. Normally you break your fast with dates and warm water. And she would take a bit of the date and I wanted to see that moment, you know. And it was special.”

Once he left for college, Ali began to find the traditional interpretations of the Quran to be confining and he stopped fasting.

However, as he grew older, he read the Quran with fresh eyes and noticed contradictions that delighted him.

He was also intrigued by a sentence that frequently follows stories in the holy book, such as the accounts of God’s creation of the universe, and His desire for harmony among His creatures. The sentence reads, “there are signs in this for those who reflect upon it.”

Kazim Ali turned a daily journal about his Ramadan experiences into a blog and, now, a book published by Tupelo Press.
Kazim Ali turned a daily journal about his Ramadan experiences into a blog and, now, a book published by Tupelo Press.

“This means, in a way, to be in a constant state of doubt because you are always going to think about ‘What does this mean?’ and ‘What does that mean?’ ‘How does this affect my life?’" he says. "That’s a beautiful, pluralistic form of Islam that I think is very exciting and dynamic.”

Ali took up fasting again. In 2007, he kept a daily journal about his Ramadan experiences and, in 2009, he published a daily blog about it.

He combined the two accounts for his book “Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from A Spiritual Practice.” In it, he says the first hours of each fast are the toughest. Then hunger diminishes.

“It kind of flattens itself out and you pull in a little bit and you just become a little more pensive," says Ali. "In fact, you almost forget about food. I get quieter. I start to realize that it takes energy to be angry or to be excitable, even positively about something. And it takes caloric energy to speak. It actually is taking me caloric energy to think, shockingly."

Ali has integrated yoga into his Ramadan experience. He feels it is useful when the spiritual calm he experiences during the daytime gives way to the emotions and moods he often feels after breaking the fast.

Here is an excerpt from Day Four of his Ramadan journal:

“My yoga study reminds me that the ‘moods’ of the self are not the self that abides. I think there is a self that abides. Like in classical Indian music: there is a plucked melody, but also a drone in the background, a constant note."

Ali stresses that fasting is physical and spiritual, not intellectual.

“Even if you are not thinking that much about it, something is still happening in the cells of your body," he says. "And if it’s happening in the cells of your body, it is also happening to your brain and your mind which are, after all, a part of your physical makeup. So 30 days of fasting will transform you whether or not you intellectualize it in any way.”

The holy month is considered a social equalizer. The wealthy fast alongside the less fortunate and are also expected to donate food to the poor for the break fasts, or Iftars, at sunset. Community is key, and people are expected to break the fast with others while giving thanks to Allah.

“Maybe He is the background to all of this. We often get in trouble when we talk about who He is, what He is like and what He wants," Ali says. "Maybe we shouldn’t pay attention to those things as much as we do. We should just try to be good and kind to people. I hope people will see the benefits of fasting and think a little bit more about how much they have and how much they’ve been given."

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid