Remona Aly
Monday 06 May 2019 BBC Radio 2

Don’t Eat, Pray, Love

Ramadan in Love

Don’t Eat, Pray, Love

And so it begins again: thirty mornings of having cornflakes at 3am, thirty nights of trying to make it to the mosque, and the only thirty days in a year that I don’t eat like a gannet.

Yes, Ramadan has landed, and every time, I wonder how I’m going to get through it. Those awkward stomach rumbles in the middle of work meetings, the cranky caffeine twitches, and incredulous faces saying, “What, not even water?” – they all tell me Ramadan is without doubt a struggle, but it’s also spectacularly special.

People often ask the question that I ask myself: Why do I do it? Why give up the food, the drink (and the gossip) – for an entire month from dawn to sundown? I’ve come up with quite a few answers ranging from self-discipline to prayer goals, but I realised not so long ago that there was one reason binding all of them together.

Once, on the night before Eid, as I broke my final fast on a sweet ripe date like I did every day, I felt my eyes sting with salty tears. Even though I’d eagerly counted down the days to when I could stuff my face on Eid, now the moment had come, I didn’t want Ramadan to leave me.

The reason why I cling to it like a long-lost lover, is for that taste of being in love. And this is the month I am giddy with it. When you’re truly, madly, deeply, you’re prepared to do anything. And for me, Ramadan is a time when I hand over my heart, soul and stomach to the Divine.

Over twelve centuries ago, Islam’s first female Sufi saint, Rabia al Basri did the same – and even more than that, she fasted outside of Ramadan too. But she didn’t focus on what she gave up, instead she focused on what she was given.  

In her poem, Rabia says, “You have poured out so much grace for me. Done me so many favours, given me so many gifts. I look for your love in all directions, then suddenly I am filled with it.”

This is how Ramadan makes me feel. So here I go again with a month of ‘Don’t Eat, Pray, Love’. Wish me luck – I’ve got thirty dates lined up.