A funny thing happened on the way to the Ramadan fast–I didn’t. I was on a travel junket for approximately 10 days. I had read that I was not supposed to fast while traveling, so when I was out of state for a weekend and traveled Friday and Sunday, with a wedding in between, I did not fast. I reckoned I would restart my fast on Tuesday, when I was at my next out-of-state venue: a conference in New Orleans. I traveled on Monday, and did not fast. On Tuesday, I got up at 4:00 to enjoy my protein bar and some coffee, and then started my fast.
Sometime Tuesday afternoon, it occurred to me to text my friend A. (not his real name) to ask him about the “no fasting while traveling rule.”
Greetings, A. I wrote. I hope you are well. I have a quick fasting question. I know that during travel time one is not supposed to fast. I assume that once you are where traveling to you resume fasting, right? I traveled to my conference today and am fasting today. That’s how it’s supposed to go, yes?
Hello, M. He responded a few minutes later. If you are traveling to a new place and staying less than 1o days, you are not supposed to fast.
I pondered this for a little while before asking “one more question.” Is it that you don’t HAVE to fast but you can, or is it that you’re not SUPPOSED to fast if you’re traveling for less than 10 days?
You are not supposed to fast. No one can prevent you from fasting but it does not count towards your Ramadan days. You will still have to make it up in the future. However, in your case you fasted today, I’d say finish the day and stop fasting tomorrow until you get home.
I couldn’t tell how I felt about the advice. On the one hand I’d be able to eat out with colleagues during the conference. On the other I’d lose what little momentum I’d built up during the first week. In the end I ate (and ate) and managed to gain three pounds during the time away. Sigh.
I’m sure my friend J is smiling at me. It was, after all, she who inspired me to begin fasting three years ago. She and A are always patient with me and my many questions as I stumble my way through this journey that was 30 days and is now more like 40. Hey, 40 days has a particular ring to it…Anyway, during this particular journey through Ramadan I have “done better” than I have in past years at observing some of the traditions. I do not pretend to be Muslim and, while I do not plan to begin practicing this wonderful and ancient faith tradition, I do wish to honor the observance of Ramadan by doing my best to follow the guidance of my friends while sharing some of the experiences associated with fasting and breaking of the fast.
Next week is the Eid al Fitr, the joyous celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. I feel like I barely got started good and now it’s over. Of course, I do have those 10 days to make up with fasting, and I will indeed get to them over time. But for now, it is enough that I make the most of these remaining days of fasting to fulfill my heart commitment to taking part in this commemoration. I do not know–of course–what the future holds. Will I continue to observe Ramadan and equally important, will I blog about it on a semi-daily basis, even as I ponder if I will continue writing a Lenten blog (next year would be the fifth year of writing my Forty Days blog.)
I suppose at the end of the day it is not about how well I fasted, or how I challenged myself not to “wimp out” and eat early. It is about what I have intended to set in motion by choosing to undertake this endeavor. It is about deepening my understanding of and connection to the faith of my friends. For them, their faith is central to who they are. I am glad to be companions with them for these 30 days, as it also allows me to feel into what I believe and what is central to who I am. I am grateful for the opportunity to do this, and will continue to seek ways to honor the traditions of others around me. And so it is, and so it goes, and so I will.