on Ramadan fasting: an excerpt from “A Taste of Injustice”

An excerpt from a reflection by Dr. Melinda Krokus, PA IPL’s Board Secretary, and a member of the Ansari Qadiri Rifai Sufi Order.

O ye who believe! Fasting (l-siyāmu) is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may be mindful/conscious of God (tattaqūna)

Qur’an 2:183

One can go to the dictionary to find out what sugar is and how it is used. That is the first (Sharia) Gateway to knowledge. One feels the inadequacy of that when one sees and handles sugar, which represents the second (tarikat) Gateway to knowledge. To actually taste sugar and to have it enter into oneself is to go one step deeper into an appreciation of its nature, and that is what is meant by (marifet) experiential knowledge. If one could go still further and become one with sugar so that they could say, “I am sugar,” that and that alone would be to know what sugar is, and that is what is involved in the final (hakikat) Gateway to knowledge.


Hajji Bektash Veli (d. 1271)

The following is a typical encounter with a non-Muslim who discovers that you are fasting for the month of Ramadan. At first there is a general reaction of incredulity – a mix of amazement and skepticism.

“You don’t eat anything?” No.

“All day from sunrise to sunset?” Well, actually we stop eating just before dawn prayer (sometimes you have to explain that dawn is before sunrise, i.e. it is the morning twilight when it begins to get light but the sun has not risen yet which adds more than an hour to the fasting day) to sunset.

“For a month?” Yup – from crescent moon to crescent moon.[1]

“You must drink water then?” Uh, no.

It is about here when the restriction of drinking water is understood, especially in the summer months with their long, hot days that a variety of responses emerge somewhere along the following spectrum:
“Bit extreme isn’t it?” or “That can’t be healthy?” or to the more sarcastic ones “Oh, that must make you very holy?” (wink wink) or ….
At first, I would explain to the person astonished by Muslim fasting practices, that Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and reading of the Qur’an, and self-restraint both physically and emotionally (it is easier to lose your temper and get annoyed with people when hungry). By the looks I get sometimes you would think I’m speaking a foreign language. I’ve had eyes roll, smirks given, and an occasional “that is very interesting” and frequent and matter-of-fact statements like “I could never do that.” However, when I mention empathy with the poor, their interest is sparked and yet I find little in the tradition that expresses the depth of that connection.

Over the years of fasting and reflecting on poverty and hunger during Ramadan, I have begun to respond to remarks like “that can’t be healthy” or “that’s a bit extreme,” with “Absolutely; It is extreme and it is not healthy.” A month of fasting can in fact have its health benefits, but prolonged and especially unwilling hunger and thirst do not. It is with the intent of making the connection between fasting and justice for the poor and hungry more clear that I write this piece called “A Taste of Injustice.” Poverty and hunger in any community is more often than not evidence of broader systemic, communal, and personal injustices that we only can address in the way of God, The Just (Al-Adl), with any lasting consequence.

Breaking the fast with dates after sunset. Image source

[1] Even if the person is Christian and may have performed a forty day Lenten fast, thirty days is little consolation especially when they learn about the part about not drinking water. 

With recognition for all the ways that climate change increases injustice and decreases food security, we give our thanks to Dr. Melinda Krokus, PA IPL Board Secretary, for sharing this reflection as we approach the eve of Ramadan 2020.

Ta’anit Esther

Facebook event page to spread the word by sharing and inviting friends.  Originated by Philadelphia PA IPL co-chair, Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein.Ta'anit Esther

Join me in fasting on the Fast of Esther, or Ta’anit Esther, to pray for Divine mercy and to gain courage in speaking out and taking action on behalf of sustainable life on Earth.

Ta’anit Esther is a traditional Jewish dawn-to-dusk fast (no food or water) the day before Purim, based on Esther 4:16. Queen Esther risks her life to save her people, and in preparing for this courageous act, she calls for a communal fast. I call upon people of all faiths to join me in this fast, as a transformation of our unsustainable global economy will require all of us working and sacrificing together.

Fast for the Climate

Members of PA IPL will join Fast for the Climate December 1, while international climate talks are going on in Paris, and on the first of each month following.  We’re joining national and international organizations, religious and secular.   Register at the link  to be counted, making your fast an act of corporate solidarity, as well as individual spiritual discipline.  Use the “Fasters” link to see some of the leaders who will be fasting with you.

This fast is not bound by specific rules: you may choose how you will fast.   You may choose a food fast, or make yours a carbon fast, giving up a particular use of fossil fuels that day —car, hot water, or stove, for example.   If you are not normally a vegan, eating vegan on the first of each month is both in the spirit of the fast, and good practice for moving toward a lower-carbon diet.   Go to the Fast for the Climate page for more about fasting — food fasting and alternative fasting.

Share your experiences with us via email, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter (PAIPL_US) all with the hashtag: #fastfortheclimate.

Quotes from fasters: 

“It’s a rich personal experience, it gives a sense of revival, and cleansing, and joyfulness.”

“To bring climate change under control we need to exercise self-control, we need to act together, fasting enhances our focus and determination.”

“I feel physically in solidarity with people who are affected by climate change when I fast, it gives us a glimpse of the reality for millions, a feeling of connection and urgency.”