Somewhere on the playgrounds of a junior high school, two kids, one Muslim and the other Christian just had a heated childish argument over which fasting is the toughest. The Muslim kid, most likely an Abu or Mohammed talked at lengths about how the fast of Ramadan is the “real fast” because Muslim abstain from not only food but water as well.
He probably quipped “how is what you guys do considered a fast if you get to drink water”. Michael, the Christian, responds “but you guys eat your fill in the morning. How does that make it harder than what we do?”
I had this back and forth, albeit friendly, with a couple of friends growing up. True to the age we were when we bantered on such matters, we displayed puerile naivety. The purpose of the fast in both Christianity and Islam is never to see people dying of hunger and thirst. It of course is for the growth of the soul. The goal was always to achieve piety.
Achieving this piety is no easy task. The fourteen hours Muslims in Ghana (It is 18 hours in the USA) endure is however made a little easier by the early breakfast they take in this month. Suhoor is the meal taken up to the point when “….you can distinguish between a white thread from a black thread”. It is the only physical nourishment which sustains us in our diurnal activities in Ramadan.
Waking up for Suhoor is probably harder than going about your daily life during Ramadan. This is month of constant prayers and supplications so the average Muslim spends extra time of his nights standing in front of God in submission. This takes a toll on the amount of sleep time available. Added to that is the need to wake up at 4 am or earlier to cook up something to eat. Hope you see the picture I am trying to paint!
Regardless of how hard it is, waking up for Suhoor is a must. You either get off your bed and fill the tummy or sulk for the rest of the day in weakness and thirst. This is the time when you see real life zombies. Sleeping souls walk to the kitchen and heat up left over tuo zaafi in a state of slumber. It will amaze you the limits people push in this month.
There is always the list of what to eat and what not to eat that early in the morning but the thought of being weak during the day deafens most people to the warnings of the doctor. Why else would anyone disturb the entire neighborhood with the pounding of fufu at that hour of the morning?
One entrée is typically not enough for Suhoor. Whatever you take, you must top it up with a tea or cocoa beverage. Eating a big plate of jollof rice and topping it up with tea, bread and egg is like making up for the daytime breakfast and lunch you will soon be missing.
But Suhoor is not all about getting over stuffed. Waking up in that early hours of the morning offers us a chance to engage in more acts of worship. Even the eating of Suhoor is a blessing as undertaking any commandment of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is an act of worship. Eating over your fill is not an act of worship though.
In the early morning of the days of Ramadan, Suhoor brings us closer to Allah and a bit further away from hunger and thirst during the day.