When the sun set on June 17, 2015, the Muslim world embarked on the Holy Month of Ramadan, an annual month of fasting and spiritual cleansing that an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims practice all over the world.
Between dawn and sunset, fasting Muslims will not consume any food or drink, and throughout the month, an effort is made to abstain from sinful behavior and to increase prayers.
Through experiencing a minimalist life, Muslims are hoping to grow in their religion.
In fact, many believe the fasting month of Ramadan has a positive impact on their lives.
Although, let’s face it: Abstaining from morning coffee, lunch breaks and sex doesn’t sound too thrilling.
Muslim or not, a month of fasting, reconnecting with one's spirituality and distancing oneself from materialistic things can have a positive effect on people of all regions and religions.
Here is a breakdown of what we can all learn from The Holy Month of Ramadan and why embarking on a soul-searching fast can be good for all of us. (If not this moon cycle, maybe we can next month.)
Learning discipline and self-restraint
Between the sun-filled hours of the day, Muslims don’t eat or drink anything to remind themselves there are people who do not have access to a glass of water or a donut at all times.
Before sunrise, a light breakfast will have to provide energy until sunset, followed by the first of five prayers throughout the day.
In Iceland, this can mean a fast for 22 hours, since the sun only sets for two during Ramadan.
In all parts of the world, cutting out daily habits such as eating and drinking, swearing and even sex is a challenge that requires immense self-discipline.
In the Middle East, where the current month of Ramadan is accompanied by temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, not drinking water is the real challenge.
Only a tough mind will not succumb to thirst and hunger.
We could all do with a lesson or two in self-discipline. It takes determination and restraint to obey by these religious rules. These are valuable assets in personalities of even the least religious of people.
Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists all benefit from controlling their urges and proving to themselves that with a strong mind, all things can be achieved.
If you can do this, what else is your body capable of?
In a world full of procrastination, a little discipline never hurt. We don’t have to be Muslim to benefit in our daily lives from an extra bit of self-restraint.
Humbling ourselves and reflecting on life
While being hungry and thirsty, Muslims remind themselves they shall not take anything for granted.
A body in need will focus on the important things in life that we all tend to forget.
And it’s true. Who really treasures a glass of water until there is no more water?
The month of Ramadan grounds Muslims and helps them reflect on what blessings occur daily that many people lose sight of.
On top of that, the five daily prayers of Islam have an increased importance during the month of Ramadan.
With a mind not blurred by desire for food, drink or pleasure, such reflection is easier to achieve.
Even non-religious people will find peace and relief in meditation and appreciating the things that really matter.
Experiencing a simple life was even good for Paris and Nicole before they returned to their million-dollar Hollywood lifestyles.
Whatever money, whatever riches or whatever privilege a person may have, stripping ourselves of the little things we take for granted will help us appreciate them more.
And, with this negligence of focusing on materialistic and emotional desires, the true purposes of life will surface.
Cleansing our bodies
The entire Muslim world is looking forward to shedding some pounds, which is undoubtedly the result of a diet that forbids food or drink during the day. But, there are other health benefits to Ramadan fasting, too.
We’ve all heard of the juice fast, the soup cleanse or just a basic fast to flush out all of the toxins in our bodies.
Although not drinking water for many hours of a day might be a problem for some people with kidney diseases or circulation problems, abstaining from food and drinks that poison our systems for a limited period of time has proven to be very healthy.
For the Muslim community, the Ramadan fast is supposed to set the mind, body and soul on a path of righteousness that extends past the month.
However, a cleansed mind, body and soul will improve anyone’s health, focus and strength, regardless of what God one follows.
Muslims are not the only ones fasting. Jesus did it; Buddha did it; Russell Brand does it. Why?
Because it resets your body and mind to a good place where energy can flow.
Whether it’s the shedding of some excess weight, flushing out all the alcohol and cigarette toxins or just a step toward a healthier lifestyle, fasts can help us make all that happen.
Reconnecting with friends and family
Once the sun sets, Muslims hit the buffet! Every night of Ramadan, another house or family in the community hosts a huge feast called “Iftar” to make up for the day-long abstinence.
It’s a time for families and friends to come back together.
Reconnecting with friends and family over food is a principle not at all foreign to Thanksgiving lovers.
Imagine doing Thanksgiving Thursday for 30 days straight (minus the boozy end), and you have a good idea of what Ramadan really is.
Therefore, most Muslims are looking forward to Ramadan. Yes, they are actually excited about fasting!
And these superlative Iftar meals with all their friends and family at the end of every day are a big reason why Muslims simply don’t think of fasting as a bad thing.
Cherishing company while indulging in tasty foods is a principle often forgotten in our corner of the world.
Breakfast to go, lunch at the counter and dinner in front of the TV has been our answer to meals for too long.
Maybe it’s time to learn from Ramadan and actually share our tables again.
Maybe it’s time to pick up our phones and call Grandma, even if Thanksgiving is five months away. Or, maybe, it’s time for a dinner party with all of your friends, even without the fast.
Reaching out to the less fortunate
There are more benefits to charity than actually feeding the hungry or helping the poor.
Reaching out to those in need is good for you, too. Our hearts love to share!
In Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to step up their charity game in order to please the Prophet and their own souls. Many families share their meals when breaking their daily fasts with the poor.
Charity has a proven track record of satisfying everyone involved.
There’s a reason all religions call for “loving thy neighbor”; it simply makes us happy. Sharing is caring!
Consequently, Ramadan is an opportunity for all of us to ask ourselves what we can do to make other people happy
. Once we do that, our own happiness is already a lot closer.
The world shouldn’t need a religious month of charity to remind people it’s time to reach out.
Ramadan may teach everyone, Muslim or not, that we make ourselves and many other people happy when we share the love (or plates)!