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Yes, my monthlong fast changed me — now pass the water

The experience is about so much more than skipping meals.

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On Wednesday, more than 30 Muslims from around the valley joined me and my editors in a kind of Eid, the celebration that typically follows Ramadan. They brought the food and shared with us stories of how they came to be in Utah from so many countries. They told me that they practice elements of their holy fast throughout the year.

"Ramadan is like the spiritual Olympics," Nichole Mossalam told me at the event. "You can’t go into it on a dead run. You have to train for it."

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Read previous stories from Peggy Fletcher Stack’s Ramadan quest at › www.sltrib.com.

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Because their Eid is a lot like Christmas, several Muslims gave me small and precious gifts, and they painted my arm with henna. It moved and humbled me. I understand now how their system programs such kindness and hospitality into them.

This month, I have come to measure my life by the sun in new and dramatic ways, watching from my study window as the sun comes up over Mount Olympus, seeing its pinks turn red and then back again. I have been thrilled by the sunset, feeling joy and gratitude as it signals the end of my fast. I have thought more consciously about the impact of my actions on others and calculated my daily credits and demerits, hoping to keep myself on the plus side.

I intend to continue daily prayers — they have given me a rhythm to my days the way the sabbath gives a rhythm to my week. I will finish the Quran before the real Ramadan, which begins this year in July. I hope to maintain my emotional equilibrium, now realizing how many of the arguments with my husband were my fault. I plan to fast once a week (the Prophet Muhammad did it twice a week) and try the full program every January (next year my husband said he would do it with me). Never again will I write about Ramadan as if it were merely an exercise in starving.

Years ago, my mantra was "always a little hungry." By that I meant, I hoped I would never get so self-satisfied and comfortable that I didn’t hunger for more learning, giving and loving. It took this experience to remind me of that.

When I told my friend Maysa Kergaye, who has been my Muslim spiritual guide, that I was sorry to be ending my month, I could almost see her slow smile through the phone.

Now, she said, you know how we feel. And now I know what to feel.


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