CAIRO - As the clock ticks towards the start of Ramadan, new Muslim reverts are aspiring to the start of the holy fasting month to recall the live-changing experience of fasting, raying and giving.
I USED to make fun of Ramadan and the notion of Islamic fasting. I used to ridicule those Muslims who torture their bodies by fasting, Marcos-now-turned-Ahmed Moamen, told Arab News.
Living in the UAE for nine years as a Christian, Moamen used to recall the days of Ramadan as a nightmare.
For me and my colleagues, Ramadan was a nightmare. It was a month in which we were all confined to our homes as all bars remain shut, he recalled.
This was not the only thing I detested about the Ramadan fast, but also this tough treatment of both body and soul. I used to believe the body has desires that should be met. Therefore, I only perceived of fasting as an unjustifiable and illogical torture, Moamen, a Filipino, said, recalling what he termed as the bad old days.
Finding Islam after long discussions with his roommate, a Muslim revert too, his idea about fasting changed completely.
After Allah guided me to Islam and after having fasted several days of Ramadan, I found out that all my previous ideas about the rights of one's body were not true and that straightening our bodies once a year is of great wisdom, said Moamen of his new spiritual experience with Ramadan.
That is why Allah ordered us to fast one month of the year and not the whole year.
It [fasting] brings the Muslim closer to Allah. I do not exaggerate if I say that I feel a serenity I have never before felt in my entire life, Moamen concluded.
Amnah Jordon, once a Caroline Jordon, from South Africa, also awaits Ramadan start.
Fasting is a fine way of spiritual and psychological elevation and these were the things that guided my way into Islam, said Amnah.
Fasting and Ramadan are the most joyful religious rituals and the closest to my heart, she added.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur'an and good deeds.
Other Muslim reverts were also awaiting their first Ramadan.
Ever since Allah guided me to Islam, I've become used to the habit of fasting every Monday and Thursday [following in the footstep of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to make up for my sins which I committed before Islam, said Abdul-Rahman Yousef, a Lebanese who was named Tony before embracing Islam.
But, fasting in Ramadan is a totally different experience because the holy month has its own sense of spirituality and serenity that is absent from other days and months.
Even prayers in Ramadan are different from the usual prayers, Yousef said, adding that Allah magnifies the good deeds of Muslims in Ramadan and spares them from Hell.
Carol Anoi, turned Fatma Al-Zahra Mohammad, was overwhelmed by joy about Ramadan's beginning.
I realized that Islam is the right faith that dignified the human being and catered for the rights of man, woman and child, she stressed. I found it a religion in harmony with human nature, Fatma said.
When I read the holy Qur'an, I found answers to all questions haunting my mind and soul. Eventually, I converted to Islam and we (she and her Arab Muslim friend) got married, she recalled.
As for Ramadan, I cannot describe to you how delighted I am to fast Ramadan this year. Ramadan's atmosphere makes us feel closer to Allah. And since it is a month of worship, we are keen on getting closer to the Almighty through prayers, Fatma added.
I cannot describe my happiness while performing Tarawih prayers with many other Muslim women.