Remona Aly
Tuesday 30 May 2017 BBC Radio 2

Ramadan, My Beloved

Ramadan, My Beloved.

I am now a few days into Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Yes I am hungry, and yes I am thirsty. It’s 6 hours down, T-minus 12 hours to go. And it’s tough. Amazing, but tough.

I woke up before 3am today, and like a zombie from Night of the Living Dead, dragged myself to the kitchen, downed some porridge, and glugged 3 rounds of coconut water. Then, I performed the dawn prayer. This is when I feel truly alive.  

Every year I make a choice, it’s a choice I’ve made for the past 25 years.

I’ve been fasting since I was a teen. Though I must admit, I’ve slipped up in the day – I’ve eaten chips, popped a pakora, swigged a drink. But God’s mercy says the fast still counts even if I forget momentarily. It would be handy to stretch that memory loss – just saying.

Ramadan means so much, in so many different ways. For many, it’s the month of compassion, when British Muslims donate £100 million pounds to charity. For others, it’s the month of renewal, when they reconnect with God through heartfelt prayers. And for some, it’s a time to post pictures of sunset meals on social media. Oh, that first taste after an 18 hour fast – it’s like magic, mercy and love wrapped up in a heavenly bite.

For me, Ramadan is the lover who always returns, the anchor of my faith, the challenge I constantly rise to.

My body, my heart and soul were created for a purpose, and that purpose comes home to me every year. It’s a realisation, and a yearning for something more, beyond myself and beyond this world.

The Muslim Sufi poet and scholar Rumi, mused: “There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music. If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire. The fog clears, and new energy makes you run up the steps in front of you.”

Ramadan is my wake-up call, my inspiration, my beloved. While the way to my heart is through my stomach, there’s no time I love God more than in that first bite at sunset.