Thursday, August 12, 2010


(Arabic writing from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain)

Day one of Ramadan and I can already tell that the hardest part isn't going to be the fasting. It's going to be sleep deprivation. Of course, I say this before I've actually felt a single hunger pang, but I'm already tired and it's only 10 am.

I got up at 4:30 am for Suhoor, the meal before the first prayer of the day (which begins at 4:43 in my time zone and marks the beginning of the fast). I underestimated the time it would take to make oatmeal and so I was wolfing it down while it was still too hot and I didn't get to finish it off before my time ran out. I'm already having these manic conversations with myself about the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. It seems extreme to run a spiritual exercise by the seconds on a clock, but at the same time, if I start making excuses and fudging the numbers, where do I draw the line? If I don't follow the rules, soon I'll be arguing that the fast doesn't start until the sun actually rises and then it will be when I can actually SEE the sun and before long, I'll be saying I can just close my eyes and eat whatever I want.

It's only day one, mind you. I sense some internal battles in my future.

One thing I can say is that it's peaceful at 4:30 in the morning. The house seems perfectly quiet when I sit down to pray and then I begin hearing, one by one, the layers of sound that float across the dark air around me: the hum of the refrigerator, the vibrations of a thin stream of cars passing on the highway a mile away, a train honking at the crossing more than two miles away, my intestines gurgling around the oatmeal. My eyes have adjusted and there's a gray glow coming in from the streetlight outside. I enjoy being the only one awake in this hazy envelope of space and time. I would enjoy it more if I weren't aware that I will pay the price later in the day when I have to function on substantially less than my required 7 hours of sleep. But in the meantime, I can enjoy the moment and think about the millions of real Muslims out there who had to get up even earlier to make it to a mosque for their first prayer. I'm just in my pajamas in my living room.

I realize now that one of the layers of sound I hear is the ticking of the clock in the kitchen. It seems incredibly loud, in fact, and I can't believe I have tuned it out. It's not something I ever notice during the day. There's something about this early morning strangeness that makes time thicker and more precious than usual. Maybe that's part of the point to this exercise. The seconds do matter. They've always mattered but now that they mark the borders between dark and light and between food passing my lips or staying in the bowl, they have power over me instead of the other way around.


Allysha said...

I love that you're doing this. I would be tempted to join were I not nursing a new babe. I wish for you a wonderful, enlightening experience.

I've been trying to get up early before the masses at my house, but depending on how the night went, I don't always get to it, but it can be such a lovely time.

Carry on this afternoon! I hope you get a second wind!

Allysha said...


this link is to a beautiful photo of muslim women praying at the start of Ramadan. I found it so gorgeous and inspiring. I hope the link works. Let me know if It doesn't.