Fasting During Covid-19 by Jamilah Ali

My beautiful mask was made by my sister-in-law, Gloria

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” Quran 2:183“

This month of Ramadan 2020 is auspicious for me as it is my 30th year of fasting after I converted to Islam in late 1989. For those who do not know, Ramadan is a month of fasting which Muslims are instructed by God to observe unless sick, pregnant or traveling. We are allowed breakfast before dawn and then no food, drink or sexual intercourse during the daylight hours.  Fasting includes your speech; not to lie, argue or backbite.

The fasting hours in my locale this year are from 5 am to 8 pm.  The evening meal after the fast is called iftar and is usually a time to gather at the mosque or friends’ houses to eat together. During Ramadan there are extra evening prayers and the whole Quran is recited. Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so the date moves up by 11 days each year. At the end of the month we have community prayer, a sermon and a three-day celebration called Eid.

2020 is like no other Ramadan in memory. The irony is not lost on many of us fasting this year that God timed it this way. During the pandemic, quite surprisingly I am more connected than ever. Normally, as a Progressive Muslim the month is a little lonely for me. Usually my girlfriend is supportive, but not to the point of fasting with me. We had a group who met together to read Quran, but we never completed the effort in full measure due to logistics. We would meet for an iftar every year at a member’s home.  I may go at least once to break my fast at the traditional mosque. Usually Eid was the celebration we would look forward to, meeting with the whole community for prayer and then out to breakfast wearing our best outfits.

Continue reading “Fasting During Covid-19 by Jamilah Ali”

On Fasting and Feminism by Ivy Helman

headshotOn July 16th, I fasted for Tisha b’Av, when Jews commemorate the destructions of the temples in Jerusalem among other events.  On July 23rd I attended, as a member of GLILA, iftar, hosted by the Tolerance and Dialogue Student Association of UMass Lowell.  Iftar is the traditional nightly break-fast dinner during the month of Ramadan.  On Saturday, July 27th, I read in the Boston Globe an obituary of a sixteen-year-old girl who lost her battle with anorexia nervosa.  That small paragraph obituary gave me pause.  I have literally spent this last month steeped in mine or my friends’ religious practices of fasting.  That young woman spent much of her last years of her life fasting to the point of death.   How does a religious feminist respond?

Religious fasts regularly praise the virtues of self-denial and self-sacrifice.  Abstention from food is thought to be spiritually purifying.  The theology of fasting frequently seeks to humble the adherent in which the practitioner seeks to garner favor or be seen as worthy in the eyes of the divine.  Fasting, especially in Christianity, also separates body and mind. Continue reading “On Fasting and Feminism by Ivy Helman”

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