[Updated 7 May 2021]
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world will bring themselves closer to Allah, increase their acts of ibadah, and strengthen their family ties. It's also a time when fasting is observed from dawn until dusk, and while doing so, we will get curious questions from our non-Muslim friends about what it's like to fast during Ramadan.
When Elaine and Cheng Sim from our HHWT team tried fasting two years ago, they received many amazing words of advice and kind support from our community, which truly warmed their hearts. This Ramadan, we're encouraging more non-Muslim friends to experience fasting for a day, in hopes that they'll also learn and discover important lessons from our spiritual journey that goes beyond abstaining from food and water.
We welcome our non-Muslim teammates, Alvin, Elaine, Gracia, and Cheng Sim, to fast for a day, and they have returned with many heartwarming reflections and hilariously genuine stories from their day. Will they make it till iftar? Let's find out!
I was feeling nervous and excited since it was my first time fasting! The reason why I decided to try fasting for a day is that I want to better understand what my Muslim friends go through about their daily life during the fasting month.
To prepare myself for my fast, I drank a lot of water to ensure that I stay hydrated, but the plan backfired when I ended up waking up a few hours to use the toilet ? Nonetheless, it felt refreshing to be awake at 4.30 AM when everyone at home is asleep. Since I didn’t want to disturb the rest of my family members, I opted for a meal that can be prepared quickly without being too noisy - 3 slices of bread and coffee ? I also enjoyed the early morning quietness by listening to music while enjoying my sahur.
When it was time to start my work, I was already feeling slightly thirsty. It might be a psychological thing because I drank a lot of water before my fast. However, I’m not too worried about it since it’ll be a busy day ahead and time will zoom by quickly (hopefully!).
At noon, I was still feeling fine, neither particularly hungry nor tired but definitely thirsty (what happened to all the water I drank yesterday? ?). I focused on my work as much as possible so that I don’t get bothered by the thirst - and it worked! As the hours progressed, I’ve gotten used to it and don’t feel hungry nor thirsty anymore. But I was looking forward to having chicken biryani for iftar!
When it was finally time for iftar, it felt really good to have a virtual iftar with the HHWT team! Even though we can’t be together physically, at least we were able to meet up online. As we were breaking fast, I reflected on my day and though the most challenging part was dealing with thirst in the afternoon. Once I got past that stage, I’ve gotten used to it.
This fasting experience taught me the importance of perseverance. Despite abstaining from drinking the whole day, I told myself to press on until the end and I did it! I’m glad that I tried fasting together with my colleagues this year. It was truly an interesting experience! To my non-Muslim friends who want to try fasting, please stop drinking water at night or you’d end up visiting the toilet every few hours like me ?
I was worried about fasting as I have never tried fasting without water before (most of my other fasts allowed water). And it was difficult for me to imagine what I can eat to store enough food in my belly to last the whole day. I ended up asking a few of my Muslim friends for an idea of what to stock up and how to balance exercise while fasting. The feeling was almost the same as me preparing myself to enter the Singapore army in my earlier days.
I set two alarms in the morning (4.40 AM and 4.50 AM) and even wanted some buffer time to snooze but was afraid that I’ll miss the timing too! It was difficult to wake up and start shoving food into my tummy, but I knew I had to do it. I didn’t know how much food I needed, so I prepared a whole steamed chicken with a packet of satay broad beans. I ate half a whole chicken and went back to bed.
Morning passed by all right. I find myself constantly reaching out for my water bottle and realising it wasn’t there (I deliberately hid it so I don’t get tempted). Work started like normal, but I felt a bit light-headed by afternoon. It was affecting my productivity at work and executing my task was a challenge. I was telling my friends about this and they strongly suggested I should take a short nap. I decided to listen to those who know it best and truly, it felt much better after my 15-minute nap.
A few hours later, I get to finally break my fast! I thought I could eat a lot, but only ate a normal portion and was very full after that. After four days of fasting (HHWT’s note: yes, he was the only one who exceeded the challenge!), I realised the challenge was a more spiritual and mental one. The days passed with a slightly sombre note to it and reminded us that we need to be more disciplined and mindful of what’s happening.
Having less energy to be so excitable and distracted, I also managed to look inwards to understand the state of mind I am in. It was a slightly serious process, but there is a certain element of reflections that I gained in the last couple of days - being present and aware of how I am feeling. This would be something I wouldn’t feel so strongly if I had taken a one-day fast.
I tried fasting for a day last year during Ramadan along with Cheng Sim, so I was pretty excited to see how it would go this year - and if it would be easier now that we’re all home (yay for more sleep!). Thankfully, I came well prepared from the advice from my colleagues last year (doesn’t change!) and constant reminders from Suzana to drink more water the day before and sleep early, the latter was probably my biggest challenge. But doing this early on during Ramadan makes me excited to lend my support to our Muslim colleagues and friends, especially when we’d also be breaking fast together!
Waking up is always one of the toughest parts for me when it comes to fasting. So even during my second round this year, this still stays the same, and I snoozed for an additional 5 minutes. Thankfully, the food that I got doesn’t require any preparation, just hot water and 40 seconds of the microwave, and voila, we’re good to start eating! Similar to last year, I opted for ready-made chicken from Fairprice (I’m lazy that way), and instant oatmeal. I prepared two of the oatmeal, for safety purposes, as I really wanted to stay full. Also went in with a pizza bar, Milo and water! I’m definitely ready for the day.
Time to work! Had the luxury of sleeping (albeit not extremely fulfilling on a really full tummy) for a couple of hours before work started, but still feeling really sleepy, especially without my usual cup of tea to start the day. Just slightly worried, as there’s plenty to do, that I would be too sleepy to operate with a clear mind. Having back to back calls also made my throat really dry. Not quite feeling the thirst, but I definitely coughed more than I usually did, due to the dryness.
As the hours went by, I was still going strong! Another tough part about fasting for me, similar to what I had experienced last year, is really more on controlling my emotions, to not get frustrated or angry when I’m faced with obstacles during work. After all, having a clear and positive mindset is one of the requirements, and it’s more of a mental fast that’s a challenge for me than the abstaining from food and drinks!
Then, I was feeling really sleepy midday and had to take a nap break. Never underestimate the strength of a power nap (no pun intended)! It definitely really helps with keeping my mind clear and focused. Other than that, having a lot of tasks to clear throughout the day pretty much leaves me no time to think about food and drinks.
Finally, it came time for our digital iftar! The best part of it all is not about the food, but having people to enjoy it with! Even though we were bound by physical limitations this year, I found myself really looking forward and enjoying our digital iftar, where we got to share what everyone was eating, get a glimpse of each other’s place and even some surprise visits from other family members. It really feels nice to have a virtual gathering after staying home and disconnected from everyone (apart from our calls every day) for close to three weeks now.
Similar to the past year, I struggled more with the tiredness of having to wake up earlier and also keeping positive thoughts throughout the day. It definitely feels more of a mental challenge.
But of course, it’s also because I have the luxury of staying seated and indoors the whole time during my fast, that I didn’t really feel the hunger nor thirst. I can only imagine what a challenge it would be for those who have jobs that require them to be active throughout the day. Even though I’ve only fasted for one day, it came as a good reminder on what our Muslim friends go through during this month, both spiritually and physically. The shared experience and the iftar together really helps everyone closer together, and more importantly, helps me appreciate what I have and not to take things for granted!
4. Cheng Sim
The month of Ramadan is finally here! This is my second time fasting with the HHWT team and I hope to learn more by challenging myself to fast for a day. Last year, I struggled with controlling my stress at work and dealing with thirst, so I hope to do better this year. It also feels special this time because my mother was supportive of my fasting challenge. She even bought many healthy ingredients for my sahur, including my favourite Medjool dates!
My day started on a sleepy note because I only had 2 hours of sleep. Waking up at 4.30 AM was hard, but thankfully, I didn’t spend too much time preparing sahur. I had a bowl of oats with fruit toppings, soft boiled eggs and Medjool dates. I also knew it’s going to be a good day when I was tickled by the name on my blueberry packaging: Katy Berry ?
Since I was in a good mood, I eased easily into work. While I was still full and jolly from sahur, my body was already begging for water (oh no, that’s a bad sign!). I have a few articles to write that day, so I reminded myself to pull it together because it was only 9 AM!
After writing all morning, I started to feel tired, no thanks to my lack of sleep! As my colleagues are going offline one-by-one to rest and take a nap, I followed suit. I don’t usually take afternoon naps but resting for an hour does help to boost my alertness and I immediately jumped into writing as soon as I wake up.
Around 3 PM, I craved for all sorts of food: Korean fried chicken, banana leaf rice, and nasi Arab. I resisted the urge to order a buffet spread and finally settled for biryani. While waiting for my food delivery, I was excitedly thinking about HHWT’s first virtual iftar! It’s been a while since I have last seen my colleagues from Singapore and Malaysia, so I can’t wait to ask what everyone is having.
When the iftar finally came, it was very nice to see everyone online! Ramadan is different from the way it used to be, but I’m grateful that everyone is safe with their families in the comfort of their own home. Iftar is also a family affair, so I was touched to see my Muslim colleagues spending a bit of time to enjoy iftar with us. We were also being nosy about each other’s iftar meals and as it turned out, Gracia is having biryani - just like me!
Although I only fasted for a day, I learned many things from this experience. My initial goal was to abstain from eating and drinking, but I walked away with a heartwarming feeling from knowing that the spirit of Ramadan lives on in every home wherever they are and whatever the situation may be. Despite the current pandemic, everyone made the best of it (and in good spirits) by spending iftar with their family, doing tarawih at home, and welcoming their non-Muslim friends to try fasting - even virtually.
We have definitely learned a lot from this fasting challenge. It may only be for a day, but we discovered important lessons that will stay with us for a long time. From appreciating Ramadan in a new light to understanding the true intentions behind fasting, there's so much that non-Muslims can learn from this holy month too. From all of us at HHWT, we want to wish you a happy and blessed Ramadan!