Bites of Spiritual Protein
The disease, Anorexia Nervosa, is serious and can cause death. It is characterized by a fear of weight gain that leads to faulty eating patterns, malnutrition and extreme weight loss. Patients on the road to recovery find great difficulty attempting to eat right. A few bites seem like a banquet, and cause fear and anxiety. It often takes many months of therapy and hard work to begin to understand what a healthy body weight actually is, and more time to reach that weight and hold on to it.
Anorexia of the spirit is a common, though usually undiagnosed, modern disease. It is characterized by a fear of being ‘too religious’ and leads to faulty worship patterns, difficulty in fulfilling religious obligations, and extreme spiritual starvation.
Patients find great difficulty with large amounts of worship and find difficulty understanding the concepts of ‘hours of prayer’ or ‘pages and pages of Quran’.
Ramadan comes as a therapist for this spiritual disease. Every hour we fast is like a bite of spiritual protein. Bite after bite, our souls strengthen, and the excessive weight loss of the past eleven months begins to disappear.
As we find ourselves healthier, we begin to open our hearts to the worship of Ramadan: the nightly prayers, the Quran reading, and the generous giving.
Aisha (r) said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) used to strive more in worship during Ramadan than he strove in any other time of the year, and he would devote himself more (in the worship of Allah) in the last ten nights of Ramadan than he did in earlier part of the month. ” (Muslim)
“كان رسول اللّه صلى اللّه عليه وسلم يجتهد في رمضان ما لا يجتهد في غيره، وفي العشر الأواخر منه ما لا يجتهد في غيره.”
Our starving spirits are strengthened by the good carbs found in nightly prayers. The tarāwīḥ prayers at the mosque – or at home – are part of a healthy Ramadan diet. In these short nights it is difficult to find time for a long qiyām after the tarāwīḥ prayers, but be sure to fit in at least two rakʿas of tahajjud. This small bite of goodness will stay with you throughout the year, and protect your soul from spiritual deprivation.
The Quran, like fresh fruit and crunchy vegetables, fills our spiritual selves with vitamins and minerals for the soul. Ramadan is the month to read the Quran in Arabic. If you cannot read in Arabic, than at least listen to the whole Quran in Arabic once in this blessed month, and make a plan to register for Arabic classes in the fall (with Ribaat). If you have not read Quran all year, it will be difficult to pick up each page and push forward, but take it one spoonful at a time until it becomes beloved to you once again.
Anorexia is a scary disease and we pray for the health of all those afflicted with it. Anorexia of the spirit is also scary – but more common. The past eleven months have been months of deprivation. Now we are here in Ramadan and everything is coming together to cure us of this spiritual starvation. Let us not resist, but rather embrace, the fasting, praying, and Quran reading that will fill us up, bring balance to our hearts, and strengthen our scrawny spirits.