In Islam, fasting is one of the five basic pillars that every Muslim is bound to follow to help push his cause on the Day of Judgment. Or end up burning in hell for a few thousand years. But in my experience, fellow Muslims can make life a living hell, scorning you for not fasting as you try to clear your WhatsApp history of the zillion “Ramadan Mubarak” messages clogging up your already thin phone storage. I envy werewolves, who aren’t required to fast.
Bursting phone storage is probably Allah’s way of punishing me for gulping down my daily dose of biryani as my friends wait for sunset to resume their regular sinful activities. As qayaamat draws near, VICE spoke to Muslims who stopped fasting during Ramzan to find out why.
Hashim Rasheed, 33, Dublin, Ireland
“I come from a family of practising Muslims, originally from Kerala, and work as a business development manager in Dublin. I have stopped fasting because the day just won’t end—it’s 17 hours long in Dublin in the summer. Plus, it’s hard to fast if you are working, as it’s difficult to change your shift according to the Ramadan timings.”
Syed Suhaib, 25, New Delhi
“I stopped way back in my 7th Standard because of my inability to bear hunger and thirst. I broke my fast on ‘rosha khushai‘ [the first fast ceremony] secretly when I went to my terrace and drank water to quench my first. I have never fasted since then. I don’t think it’s scientific as people claim it to be. In fact, I think fasting for a month ends up harming your body.”
Afshan Majid, 32, Pune
“My ideas towards religion were shaped by the ideological tug of war that took place between my paternal and maternal grandfathers. My nana was a Deobandi, while dada was a hardcore Communist. I tilted towards my dada and the proverbial seeds of proletarian rebellion were born there—though I was a timid child, a bookworm, a nerd and never toeing out of line.
“Now I don't observe the regular tradition and customs of religion, including fasting. I guess I haven't overthrown the upbringing quite successfully because I fast at times; but because I like it and not as a religious exercise. I have never 'come out' in front of my parents just because I know it will hurt them. I married a fellow agnostic a couple of years back.”
Sameer*, 27, Noida
“I am journalist and fasted on the first day of this Ramadan, but couldn’t carry on. I think it’s practically impossible for me to fast for 30 days. I spend at least 12-15 hours of of my day on my shift in office. Moreover, I have to speak on camera on most days, and if I don’t drink water my throat gets dry. Moreover, it’s difficult to pray five times a day in an office.”
Alina Hasan, 29, New Delhi
“I work as a brand strategist in New Delhi. My parents have always been liberal in their approach, but you still are afraid of anything which looks ‘sinful’. I stopped fasting when I was a teenager. As a child, I was against this attitude of making people guilty about the normal things. Some said playing Holi will result in devils cutting body parts in Jehannum. Other girls my age were having high school crushes and I was just scared. I was petrified of alcohol because of what I had heard from people.
“My first boyfriend in college was a Muslim rationalist who further strengthened the doubts and helped me move out of that thought. Also, I think I don’t want to wash my hands 10 times a day for the wuzu as I am a lazy fucker.”
Mohammad Anas, 24, Aligarh
“The question that came to mind before I stopped fasting was the very basic one—Why do we fast? I was told that this auspicious month purifies your soul. The food that we reject during the time fills the hungry stomachs of the poor. All hatred and evil thoughts are 'washed off' from the heart and one devotes oneself meditating higher thoughts. But when I tried to relate all this to our present condition I was left startled.
“When I see the rich filling their ever-hungry sacks with food and grains for them to store, I make up my mind to work for the change that the society really needs, and not just for a month. And yes, now I have decided not to get along with this flow of traditional pull that has long left to serve the purpose it was meant for.”
Furqan Faridi, 27, New Delhi
“Ramzan is something that is ingrained in us since our childhood. It is kind of fun, I guess, with all the activities in my mohalla that took place when it came. Though after living on my own for some years, I think I have just outgrown it. I was never the religious kind, but fasted more out of a sense of community and kinship. I and my flatmates still fast, although rarely, but only when there's some ‘scene’, like we are having an iftar party or cooking.”
* Some names have been changed at the request of the subjects.
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.