Z's Personal Blog
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I don't like fasting (Part 2)
Why I Now Fast Voluntarily
We always talk about the spiritual benefits of Ramadan but fasting is such an amazing way to regulate your eating and correct your bad habits. My food affects my physical energy, and my mood, which in turn impacts my ibadah.
I reached a point after Ramadan where my eating habits were unhealthy. I needed to do something about it and I could either rely on my non-existent self-discipline or I could decide to fast. I would never normally choose to fast because like I said, I don’t like it. But enough years of experience have taught me that having that ability to restrain your nafs voluntarily has amazing knock-on affects on all other aspects of your life.
In this case, I knew I needed it would help me with my eating habits. So here are the things that I remind myself of to help me.
The 1/3 Rule
“I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: ‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]
During Ramadan, I strictly apply this rule, and it is hard. I love my mum’s cooking and I wanna eat just for the sake of eating but I know that it doesn’t take much to fill me up, especially when you’ve broken your fast on dates and water. People(including me) say that fasting shrinks your stomach. Apparently, the correct terminology is it regulates your appetite cues meaning it can change how your stomach adjusts to hunger and feeling full. But you have to actually put the effort into that by not overeating and follow the thirds rule. Put less on your plate, drink a glass of water before eating and if you’re still hungry, then go for more.
I read a book on mindfulness that said it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to register that it’s full from when you eat. Now I eat disturbingly fast. I can finish a meal and dessert in 5 minutes and still feel ready for seconds. I can finish my meal before the Maghrib athan finishes and that’s a problem.
In order to actually eat mindfully, especially outside of Ramadan, I have to drink a glass of water slowly, and then put a spoon in my mouth and put my spoon down and not pick it up until I have swallowed my food. It’s a conscious effort but I’m able to realize when I need to stop eating, and not gonna lie I will still feel sad that I wasn’t able to eat more and savour the taste for longer.
(Please note, I’m not eating and staying hungry, I am completely full, and I know that if I eat more, I will feel heavy and sluggish.)
Initially, it was a struggle because shopping on an empty stomach meant I had a huge supply of junk food that I only had a 5-hour window to eat. It was very painful to watch the food expire and be thrown out because I couldn’t eat it in time. But that made me reevaluate what I ate.
Eat for Energy
Fasting makes you choose your food wisely, especially when you’re doing long hours, and you’ve decided that you’ve learnt to stop overeating. You will have no choice but to make healthier choices for foods that will keep you full and give you energy. I avoid fried foods, I pick the useful fruit and vegetables. I avoid things that are sugary or very salty and it works. For healthy recipes, check out my cousin Monty and his wife Ayesha’s youtube channel here.
Exercise your Self Discipline to Consume in Moderation.
As a former lover of takeaway and someone with a massive sweet tooth, this one is hard. I have to exercise my willpower to say no to unhealthy foods when they’re in front of me. I’ve never cut anything out from my diet, and I don’t classify food as good or bad but it requires regular willpower to make sure I don’t overdo it. If there comes a time when I really want to eat something, I will have it and enjoy it, but in healthy moderation. Takeaway is so easily available that it makes it even harder. If you’re not bothered to cook, just order a pizza instead.
I have to tell myself “Z don’t worry if you say no to this now, it doesn’t mean that you won’t eat it again in future This isn’t the only opportunity to eat this food.” Plus the cravings will go away. In my case, I had severe sugar cravings which I think were also withdrawal symptoms too since I have way too much sugar in my diet.
Last week I reached a point where I was gonna order 6kg of brown/dark brown sugar to make an endless pile of cookies, all because I was craving subway cookies. It’s so easy to lose control when it comes to food, and exercising self-discipline isn’t easy but it gets easier. Also if you up your cooking game, takeaway will no longer be able to compete.
I have also come to realise that with the exception of pizza hut, anytime I have ordered takeaway, it has never been worth the money. I eat it, and I’m like…why did I succumb to my cravings?
Call a Friend Who Can Help
I have a friend who studied biomedical sciences and I have ordained her as my doctor and ask her about all things related to health despite the fact that she’s not a doctor and she gets all her answers from google and is as clueless as me.
I called her on day 5 of fasting and spoke to her for an hour and told her what my struggles were in terms of sugar cravings, and feeling hungry and we talked through everything with her giving me advice on what worked for her. I needed that. We compared our eating habits, talked about the way we snack and broke down how our foods affect our energy levels and productivity during the day, and it was a good reminder for me of things that I already knew, but needed to hear again. If you’re feeling stuck, call a friend who can help.
Fasting voluntary days is hard. Fasting when the days are long is harder, but it is the best way to discipline your nafs and Allah says ‘Every good deed of Adam’s son is for him except fasting; it is for Me. and I shall reward (the fasting person) for it.’ [Bukhari] One of the best ways to evaluate how much control you have over your nafs is by looking at your eating habits, and if there’s work to be done, take up fasting.
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Z's Personal Blog
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I don't like fasting (Part 1)
I have always struggled with fasting. I’ve never enjoyed it. When people would talk about how excited they were for Ramadan I couldn’t relate. All I felt was dread and anxiety. Alhamdulillah, by the mercy of Allah, my attitude towards fasting has changed. I’m not at a point where I enthusiastically enjoy it, but I know I need it and thankfully Allah has given me the strength to do voluntary fasts. If there’s one thing adulthood has taught me it’s that 30 days of fasting a year is not enough to discipline your nafs. Ramadan is a spiritual reset, but it won’t last you for the rest of the year. You have to top it up regularly.
Let me give you some context.
For most of my life I have been that person who always delayed making up missed fasts either until winter, or until I’d be left with no choice because Ramadan was 2 weeks away. I have never enjoyed voluntary fasts and kinda had like an “aw man” response when I would be reminded to fast. This year is the first year of my life where I have made up my Ramadan days less than 2 months after Ramadan and I did them when the days were LONGER. In Ramadan the latest Maghrib got to was around 8:50. I made up my days where Maghrib was 9:20. I also fasted 6 days of Shawwal but here’s the thing, I do not like fasting.
When I was younger my entire mantra behind fasting was how to pass the hours. How to wake up as late as possible to feel as little hours of fasting, what TV series to binge and how to move as little as possible because everyone knows that when you’re fasting you’re operating at 0.25% energy levels (That’s a joke btw). Then I lost that luxury when I did a summer internship that coincided with Ramadan.
I had to commute on the central line, which if you live in London, you know it’s the worst line. You can literally feel yourself inhaling the dust. I would commute during rush hour in 33 degree heat, and I’m pretty certain it was hotter on the train carriage since there was no ventilation. I was surrounded by sweaty people and I was absolutely starving. At the internship they hired a fancy catering company for our induction week and every day they had the most magnificent desserts. But could I eat them? No. Could I take them home with me? They said no.
Fasting just felt like a physical inconvenience.
Fast forward to 2015 and there were two talks that I watched about Ramadan. One was about the whole spiritual aspect to it by Nouman Ali Khan, and the training of the nafs etc and it absolutely changed my life, so here it is. This one hour and a half changed my life. The other video was about food. How to eat healthy during Ramadan by a non Muslim Malaysian fitness youtuber. That year I had my most successful Ramadan (the bar wasn’t very high to begin with tbh). I was eating healthy and in moderation, I was connecting with the Quran, and that month was so spiritually fulfilling.
But just like your iman, (and your weight), your Ramadan experience also fluctuates, and the quality of mine has waned over time. That’s down to a mixture of things, over-ambitious unrealistic Ramadan goals that burn me out in the first 3 days, the quality of my ibadah in the other 11 months during the year, and also my physical health.
Then lockdown happened and Ramadan in lockdown happened.
What Lockdown Did
One thing about me is I am very scared of death. Not the dying part, but the afterlife and the day of Judgment. I am scared because I don’t measure my spiritual contentment according to the things that I do. That’s an easy way to give me a fuzzy feeling of false satisfaction. Also I feel like today it doesn’t really take much to be worthy of praise “Omg you pray 5 times a day! mashallah!” You could be talking about your sins, and people will praise you. “Don’t worry about your sins, as long as you’re a nice person that’s what’s important.” And if that works for you, then that’s fine, but I know that Allah created me to do better.
And so, fear about judgment day is that when I am called to account, Allah is going to show me how many hours, days, months of time I wasted, that He gave me, and I will be questioned about them. Time is a blessing that I can’t get back. Despite whatever visible actions I have done, or whatever praise I get from others, I can’t lie to myself and act like I’ve done enough. There’s a lot of free time that I’m scared of being called to account for. And lockdown really brought those fears into the forefront of my life, because it created a lot of free time for me that was otherwise filled with commuting, housework, working etc.
Free time really is a fitna especially for those of us out here who don’t really have self discipline.
When you’ve seen your own peak performance, and you’ve seen what you’re capable of, it really becomes so much more obvious when you’re operating at a mediocre level, no matter how much you try to delude yourself. Adding to this, when I’ve been at my healthiest peak performance, my spiritual and mental health have been nothing but pure joy. The emotional resilience and the love and devotion to Allah have been so grounding and validating. I’ve experienced that, I know how epic it is, and I know that I am not currently operating at that level.
There’s a whole array of reasons for that, but I decided to focus on my physical well being because that directly impacts my mental and spiritual health. My self discipline was and still is lacking and a big part of that is because restraining the nafs is hard. And so to discipline my nafs, I decided to do the one form of worship that I struggle with the most. Fasting. Outside of Ramadan. Voluntarily.
Dhul Hijjah is due to start next week Wednesday or Thursday Inshallah so if you wanna get in on fasting the first 9 days but you’re feeling anxious because like me you don’t like fasting, click here to read part 2 where I share the practical tips that helped me.
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Friendships and Money Part 1
It can make or break relationships. Or it can just make them socially awkward for years to come because someone in your friendship group still owes you money from that group holiday, but they still post about their extravagant outings on social media.
Becoming financially independent has made me really look at money differently. Not just because it’s money that I’m earning, but because of how badly I spend it. As a result of knowing my own bad spending habits, and seeing the ways others spend their money, I don’t have a lot of sympathy when it comes to friendships and money.
In this blog I will talk about personal money management and situations that can come up where people will try to finesse you out of your money and how to avoid it.
If in the situations described, you are the bagra/haywaan friend, then you really need to fix up.
Remember the mantra of bagra beats… am I a mug?
Personal Money Management
Personal Money Management
Never spend all the money you have. That money doesn’t exist for you to spend it all. It exists to be saved. If someone had told me this when I was 19 and had a paid internship, I could have so much more money in my life. I spent almost 2k on clothes (bear in mind I wear abaya and hijab so no one was ever going to see these outfits). I bought clothes I was never going to actually wear.
You shouldn’t look at your money in your account and think right well I can afford to eat take away every day now. That is a bagra mentality.
Curb your desires and your need for gratification.
If your desires exceed your budget, you need to think like a donkey. Imagine you’re a donkey going on a journey. As great as it would be to carry loads of things to make the trip more comfortable, you need to remember that you’re going to be the one carrying them. Limit yourself to what you need. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to money. The more money they get, the more stuff they think they need to buy.
People’s needs increase according to their income but sometimes you need to stop and think…do you really need that expensive hot chocolate machine? No. Do you really need that fancy notepad when you already have 12 unused ones? No.
Restrain yourself. You need to have savings, but also a level of control over your desires. Sometimes people think freedom is being able to buy whatever you want whenever you want. That’s how you end up broke and asking friends for money. Live well within your means.
You’re not in a dire situation only when you hit zero. You’re in a dire situation when think that not hitting zero means you’re fine.
If necessary, read a book on money management. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. Certainly not for me. Here’s what I recommend.
Now lets talk about friendships. The following rules are my opinions.
The Rules of Friendship Dates
The one on one date
When you have a one on one date with a friend, good etiquette is that the one who invited the person on the date should pay, IF it’s a coffee date. If it’s a food date, then split the bill. If I’m out with a close friend we won’t split the bill unless it’s more than £15. We prefer to do a “you pay for this, I’ll pay for the next date.”
If you’re meeting someone who irks you or is quite arrogant, then split the bill regardless of how cheap it is. We’re not here to be begfriends with people and buy them coffee.
If money is tight, or you’re trying to save then let your friend know if you’re not looking to spend money. I will happily tell people who invite me out that I’d like to go somewhere cheap. Or I tell people to do coffee instead of food if I’m not in a position to spend money. I used to invite people to my house so that i could save money but people would overstay and chill at my house for 4 hours+ like I don’t have a life. But that’s for another post.
If your date insists on paying for food, then you should have some intention of reciprocating that gesture and not order the most expensive thing on the menu. That is haywaan behaviour.
On group dates the rules vary slightly. If you ordered something significantly cheaper than the rest of your buddies or something a lot more expensive, then everyone should pay for their share. You can’t order the most expensive thing and then put the burden of your greed on other people. That’s haywaan behaviour. Similarly, don’t feel pressure to split the bill if you ordered the cheapest meal without a drink and everyone else ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. If they make fun of you for being broke, admit that you are and that what you ordered is a direct demonstration of your brokeness.
It can be quite stressful sometimes where everytime you meet up with friends it’s a food motive and you’re spending at least £20 a week eating out, amounting to over £1000 in a year. If it’s not in your budget then don’t feel pressured to go. Sometimes you can do a video call. If you’re at a cafe and your friend has ordered something, you don’t have to order anything. You’re there for the company.
If someone insists on going to a fancy restaurant then politely decline and don’t go. Don’t go broke for fancy food and dead company. You can just say sorry I can’t make it and that’s it. You don’t have to justify or explain yourself.
If the date is at someone's house
The only exception here that comes to mind is when someone invites a group date to their house and orders takeaway. Do not invite me to your house if you’re going to make me pay for my own takeaway. Am I a mug? I never go to someones house empty handed, and then on top of that you charge me to eat at your house? Nah. This is bagra behaviour. Either cook or cover the takeaway yourself.
I know of a guy who invited his friends over, then he ordered pizza and the next day he sent them a text asking them to transfer money for their share. Bearing in mind this person ate at my house maaany times in the past. Delete these stingy people from your life.
I absolutely despise these. I cannot stand them. The amount of times I have been added to a whatsapp group for someones leaving/birthday/baby gift and I see a message of how someone nominated themselves to be a bank collector and said we’re all going to contribute x amount of money to buy a gift for someone. In 90% of these situations I have barely been acquaintances with the person they’re buying a gift for. And it’s so awkward because you can’t say in a group chat hey guys, I don’t chat to her so I’m not going to contribute. If you leave the group, it’s dramatic. So what do you do?
Firstly, you never ever create this group. If you are the person that does this, I don’t like you. Message people privately and say hey there, I’m thinking to get something for someones birthday, would you wanna take part and make it a group gift. AND GIVE THEM THE OPTION TO SAY NO. Just because you love this person does not mean I should pay £30 to contribute to some expensive gift.
I got invited to an afternoon tea for £60. I love the girl in question that it was for but you cannot just come to me on a Thursday afternoon and pressure me to spend £60 because you want to front for social media. The girl that was organising it offered to pay for me, and the thing is I could easily afford it, but the money in my account is not for having afternoon tea at the Ritz. Simple as. And I will not take someone else’s money for that.
One easy way out of these groups is to politely say that whilst you love the idea, you intend to get a separate gift, and then leave the group. Another thing you can do if it’s an outing is say that you’re not available on the day and don’t explain why.
However if there is any rule within group surprises that I need you to fully fully fully understand.If you have been designated as the money collector and payer, NEVER EVER pay for anything until all the money is in your account. Never put yourself in a position where you’re waiting on people to pay you back. There are people in that circle who will not pay you back and you will be left out of pocket. Whether it’s booking an airbnb, paying for a restaurant, paying for a gift, never be the person who will make the payment, and if you are that person, do not pay until everyone has transferred the money to your account.