This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.
According to Islam, the Holy Text was revealed to the prophet Muhammad over a period of 30 days. Muslims now commemorate these 30 days during Ramadan, during which the faithful refrain from all sins from sunrise to sunset. This means no lying, no backbiting, eating, drinking, or fornicating. Mouths must be shut and your gaze, lowered.
Back when I was a teenager, there was always those corrupted larrikins—who happened to be my Muslim friends—who would waste their Ramadan hours beside train stations, plotting cash schemes and obsessing over things they couldn’t have, even if such things were at the mercy of spiritual purification. I was no different to my friends, except I wasn’t tempted by the forbidden fruit. What I was tempted by was Big Macs and Whoppers.
I remember the first time I betrayed the fasting period like it was yesterday. I was 15, jogging through the subway to catch my train when the posters for fast food chains felt like they were standing over me, mummifying me in grease as I tried to resist corruption. Moments later, I was lining up for McDonalds. I devoured my burger and it was great. But I also became overshadowed by the kind of guilt that possesses unfaithful husbands in brothel lounges before they commit sinister and desperate sin.
Ever since I broke with tradition, the problem I now face is that I love the idea of Ramadan. I like waking up before sunrise and partaking in the ritual meal with my parents. I love breaking my fast with dates and when it’s all over, celebrating Eid with a family reunion over breakfast. But I still can’t commit to abstinence.
I know I’m not alone in my spiritual conundrum, so I spoke to young muslims about the first time they cheated on their faith during Ramadan. Here's what they said.
Yasmina, retail assistant (24)
It happened on the day before my exam. I was really stressed out and my mum was doing my head in. So when me and my best friend pulled into the servo, I walked up to the counter and didn’t think. I just bought a bueno chocolate bar. I didn’t care. I ate it. And everything was okay. And I felt better. And the guy at the service station was like, “You have to pay for that before you bite it!”
I never really felt guilty about breaking my fast. But it did open the floodgates to eating in the future. I guess I took it less seriously. I go out a lot less, but still probably spend a night out having a few wines with my friends after work. I only lied about it to make my parents happy. The funniest moment was when my parents were away for the weekend and all my siblings came together at literally the same time and said that they were eating. I think it was my brother who suddenly said, “Right, I’m eating.” And we all just laughed and admitted we had been eating too.
I stopped telling people I work with about fasting because as much as people hate to admit it, they do get really judgey. They think that because you fast you’re a really strict Muslim. One of my managers said, “But you don’t even wear a scarf.” which was kind of fucked but apparently he was only joking. I am still a Muslim though and that is important to me. I don’t feel like my religion is jeopardized by whether or not I commit to every single day of fasting this month. As long as my intentions are aligned and I know I’m not a piece of shit, that’s what makes me a Muslim. I still believe and pray as often as I can. It’s just complicated when you have to merge it with your Aussie upbringing.
Ismael, accountant (25)
I broke my fast the first time when I was looking for a job. I had applied at a hundred places and only been called back twice. It was a very hard time. I moved to Australia from Syria when I was really young. My marks at uni were great but I just couldn’t land a job anywhere. One day, I got one of those “thanks for applying, we will keep your details” email and I just thought stuff it. I went and bought a burger, Coke, and a side of onion rings, because I thought it would make me feel better. It didn’t. It made me feel really sick actually.
I was really ashamed of myself. I felt weak, like a person who turns to drugs when their life becomes a little hard. I couldn’t even stomach the onion rings. It’s weird when you feel guilty and your body doesn’t feel like eating, even though it has been starved all day. It’s just one month, when your religion asks you to be humble. To eat less and be kind. And I couldn’t do that. What a selfish fuckwit hey? There are kids starving overseas every day, refugees in my homeland. And here I am. I get stressed out and eat my sorrows away. What a coward I must be.
I’m not going to lie, religion definitely played a big part in my guilt. It’s like when your dad gets so mad with you that he just doesn’t say anything. That’s how I felt. I had betrayed my religion. But it was for the best, I strongly believe that you can’t really understand religion, unless you haven’t been religious. I had a friend of mine come over one day, a friend who’s an atheist. And he was pressing my old man on belief, and my dad turned to him and said, “The reason you‘re not religious is because you never really struggled.”
Hamid, plumber (28)
The first time I broke my fast, I was at Chadstone Shopping Centre, doing a bit of shopping to fill in the time. I ran into an old girlfriend who I was still into. We got chatting and she asked me if I wanted to get lunch. When I was seeing her I played down my religion a lot because her parents were both from Adelaide. To put it bluntly they didn’t “get” Islam or Muslims. Her old man was a member of Ban Halal Products Facebook page and everything. But she wasn’t racist. I just felt weird about it and thought: I’m talking to a girl, checking her out and thinking about her sexually, so I’ve pretty much fucked the whole fasting thing anyway.
I took her to one of the nicer restaurants outside. The whole time I sat with my back to the wall, looking outside, thinking, this must be how gangsters eat all the time. I was so paranoid, I couldn’t even enjoy my meal or listen to half the conversation. I was worried family or friends were going to bust me. That tripped me out more than any religious sins or anything. I just didn’t want to get caught out for being a fraud, even though I probably was one. We ended up dipping back to her place to watch movies. The devil really looked after me that day. She never called me back though.
Nowadays, to be honest. I probably fast the majority of the time. I take a few days off, if I’m playing football or have a big day at work. Basically if I need to be switched on, because the reality is you need food for energy and to maintain a certain level of awareness. But I really love Ramadan man, it’s been a big part of my life growing up in Australia, because it really highlights the importance of your background and culture. You end up spending more time with your family. It’s a time where we can be a part of something that’s fulfilling. It takes down the barriers set up by money and class bullshit. Although Muslims hate to admit it we are very jealous and always put each other down. That never happens in my community during Ramadan, everyone is nice, they don’t gossip, they just embrace each other and share food.
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