It could be tricky for a new Muslim when they start planning to fast for the first time this Ramadan as it is quite natural to feel anxious and wonder if you can pull off the month-long fast. It can also be a source of anxiety especially when Ramadan falls on a summer month. Imagine having to go through long and hot days, without eating and drinking for hours!
To ease these anxieties, we’ve prepared five tips for those who are new to fasting in Ramadan. Bear in mind that the preparation for the newcomer should include understanding the physical logistics of fasting and once this foundation is laid the ‘newbie’ can begin to rely on spiritual strength to succeed in Ramadan.
Related : 9 Tips to Prepare for Ramadan
1) Listen to your body and understand its limits
As you fast you will feel hungry. This is the nature of the fast and it has its purpose. But you have to understand that hunger pains are cyclical. Fasting is part of the test and beauty of Ramadan. Don’t feel bad and inadequate for finding it difficult to complete a full day of fasting. There is nothing wrong with your faith if you find the fast difficult. But, remember to ask Allah to make it easy for you.
If you need to break your fast for a valid reason—like illness, travelling, pregnancy or breastfeeding—do it. Don’t guilt trip yourself. Focus on trying your best and know your limits.
Being able to master a full day of fasting takes time and practice and many other Muslims have been doing it for most of their lives.
Remember, everyone finds the first few fasts hard. It takes time for our body to adjust and for us to generally get into a new routine. May Allah make it easy for everyone and accept all of our fasts for His sake.
2) Distract yourself
Introduce yourself to a serious distraction. Netflix or movies won’t be enough to distract you from your hunger or thirst—especially with the amount of food and drink ads that come on. Plus watching Netflix may not be a beneficial use of your Ramadan. If you are at work, go all out and focused at work. If you are in school, throw yourself into your studies.
When day to day obligations have been met, become obsessed with learning about Islam. Learn the history of Ramadan. Learn what the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and his companions would do while fasting. Learn the Quran. Do something and do it with your entire mind. This will take you away from feeling hungry.
Related : The Psychology of Self-Control in Ramadan
3) Adjust sleeping patterns and take a power nap
Prior to Ramadan, it is good to start adjusting your sleeping patterns so that you’re sleeping and waking up at around the same time every day. This will make it easier for you to wake up on time to have your Sahoor (the pre-dawn meal) before the fajr prayer time when Ramadan arrives.
You could even try getting up and doing a few units of night prayer before fajr to get your body used to getting up early. Don’t worry, you can always go back to sleep after you’ve prayed.
Take a power nap! A 20-minute power nap in the afternoon can revive flagging energy and focus level. It was the habit of the Prophet and his companions to nap during midday. But if you are at work or school, use your lunch time to close your eyes and rest. It only takes a 15-30 minute nap to feel revived.
4) Focus on Hydration
Being hydrated is the most important element when you fast. As it can be hard and uncomfortable to drink a lot of water (especially if in countries where the night is very short).
Get in as much water, fresh veggies, and fruit (watermelon is best recommended) as you can for suhoor or iftar. Fruit can help you get in that extra water intake. Watery fruits, plus lots of regular water, will replenish you. Coconut water is also really hydrating and perfect for suhoor.
5) Reflect on the spiritual and keep your intention to please Allah (SWT)
Once you have disciplined your body to fast, notice how you feel spiritually when you are in the middle of a fast compared to how you feel when you are stuffed after a meal. You will start to recognise a stark difference between the two states. When our stomachs are full we often feel spiritually numb. And when our spirits are full it becomes easier to ignore the impulses of the body.
Keeping your intention for pleasing Allah is essential to a successful Ramadan. Make the intention that your fast is for Allah alone. Make dua that Allah makes it easy for you and also that He accepts your fast for His sake.
Imagine being one of those to be called to enter the Rayyan gate (gate of Fasting) in Jannah, insha’Allah.
Sahl bin Sa’d reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ ) as saying: “In Paradise there is a gate which is called Rayyan through which only the people who fast would enter on the Day on Resurrection. None else would enter along with them. It would be proclaimed: Where are the people who fast that they should be admitted into it? And when the last of them would enter, it would be closed and no one would enter it.” [Muslim]
There you have it, five tips on your first Ramadan! We hope these tips are useful to those who are fasting for the first time this Ramadan. Let’s also keep in mind that observing Ramadan is one of the most rewarding acts of worship (ibadah). There is nothing in this world that is sweeter than the taste of faith, a sweetness we get the opportunity to taste during Ramadan. Keep continuing to practice istiqamah in your daily life!
Related : 5 Tips to Achieve Istiqamah