For some dietitians and food bloggers, fasting and wellness go hand in hand. Shahzadi Devje, Toronto-based dietician, food blogger and chair of the Ismaili Nutrition Centre, emphasizes that Ramadan is about discipline and balance. “Ramadan is a time when people easily get carried away with overindulgence after a long day of fasting and tip the balance,” she says. Devje works with her clients and readers to suggest small changes in their habits to help keep them energized and hydrated for longer during the fast. For instance, she recommends using chickpea or multi-grain flour to make chapatis instead of white flour, and reducing the consumption of red meat to make way for richly flavored fish and daal (lentil soup). Her biggest message: To focus on spirituality, you need to be feeling your best physically.
Azka Mahmood wakes up at 4 in the morning for Suhoor, the meal Muslims eat before starting their fast. From the fridge, she grabs the barley porridge that she prepared the night before, and wolfs it down with her husband, Tariq. They offer their prayers, then go back to sleep before waking again to get their children ready for school.
Mahmood’s routine is typical of the 4.5 million Muslims in the United States and Canada. Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, is an important time around the world for Muslims, who adapt their pace of life to the needs of the month. Businesses and schools shorten their hours, opening up time for people to gather and reflect.
Life in the U.S. continues unabated, but the Ramadan experience for its diverse communities of Muslims varies incredibly upon their work, communities and priorities.