By Ali K. Hamou
Sometimes fasting can be difficult because it often takes a toll on the body. In his book, Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam, Jeffrey Lang, professor of mathematics, University of Kansas, cites an example of when he first started fasting.
Lang narrated how he missed the pre-dawn meal one day, thus, in effect, had to go for 24-hours without food or drink. He grew increasingly tired and fatigued as the hours of the day crawled along and at about 5 p.m. he began to have some soreness in his stomach and a headache. By 8 p.m., a little under an hour before the time to break the fast, he was nauseated and his head was pounding. "My eyes burned as if someone had knotted them in their sockets. I laid down and tried to nap the remaining hour but I was too uncomfortable, it was too painful to open my eyes, yet I could not sleep. Through the last half hour of the fast, I was counting every minute. Finally, it was 9:15 p.m. but even then I could not eat; I was too sick," Lang says.
Further, he described how his wife brought him a cup of broth. As he began to sip it, his headache began to dissipate, his stomach returned to normal and his eyes slowly unwound. Within a few minutes he felt perfectly normal. As he was eating his meal, he was watching a documentary on the famine in Ethiopia and Somalia. "The pictures of the gaunt, near-dead victims reminded me of the films we see of the Holocaust. I thought of how simple it had been for me to end my anguish, while men and women my age had to live in infinitely greater, permanent agony with no relief in sight and to stand by helplessly while their naked infants who bloated, ulcerated stomachs lay kicking weakly in the dust. Maybe at that moment I should have felt blessed, but I thought in their terrible suffering that I had failed a test."
Thus, when one performs the fast, it helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged.