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Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice
Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice
Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice
Audiobook3 hours

Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice

Written by Kazim Ali

Narrated by Elias Khalil

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

Fasting for Ramadan is structured as a chronicle of daily meditations, during two cycles of the 30-day rite of daytime abstinence required by Ramadan for purgation and prayer. Estranged in certain ways from his family’s cultural traditions when he was younger, Ali has in recent years re-embraced the Ramadan ritual, and brings to this rediscovery an extraordinary delicacy of reflection, a powerfully inquiring mind, and the linguistic precision and ardor of a superb poet.

PublisherScribd Audio
Release dateJul 20, 2021
Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice

Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali is author of two volumes of poetry, The Far Mosque (Alice James, 2005) and The Fortieth Day (BOA, 2008), three books of prose; the novels Quinn’s Passage (BlazeVox,2004) and The Disappearance of Seth (Etruscan, 2009) and a collection of critical writing, Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art and the Architecture of Silence (University of Michigan, 2010) — as well as a mixed-genre book, Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Wesleyan University Press, 2009), which was a finalist for both the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry and the Lantern Award for Memoir. Born to Indian parents living in England and raised in Canada and the United States, Ali has worked as a political organizer, lobbyist, yoga instructor, and professor. Founding editor of Nightboat Books, he now teaches at Creative Writing and Literature at Oberlin College and in the University of Southern Maine’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts program.

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Reviews for Fasting for Ramadan

Rating: 3.44 out of 5 stars

25 ratings7 reviews

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  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    A deeply moving and insightful window into the particularity of religious faith and what is involved in making that faith a serious part of one's life. An excellent reminder that theology lives in the day-to-day actions of millions of faithful individuals struggling and gaining strength from their commitment to God.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    This book was a small glimpse into one person's spiritual practice, but was hugely spiritual itself. I am not a Muslim (or anything for that matter), but the practice of fasting, and reflections on life and God were expressed beautifully. Ali is a fantastic writer, and his insight into humanity and spirituality is great. He has a strong control of language, using metaphor and description with a great effect. Meditative and flowing, it was a beautiful read.I felt uplifted and spiritually fed after reading Fasting for Ramadan, and will definitely go back to it in the future.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I was quite disappointed that I did not get this book in time for Ramadan this year. I didn't really fast this year but the book was an impetus to try to do better next year. I found it fascinating. Many of the thought processes the author goes through while fasting are things similar to how I think - particularly because we are both Muslims living in a non-Muslim society. However many of the other things he thought and said were completely new to me. I really think that the Ramadan fast is an intensely personal process. Ascetic experiences really make each person focus on their own raw self and since each person is different, it is a very individual experience to go without food and see what kind of feelings, thoughts and expressions are dredged up from your hungry and/or thirsty body.I plan to read it next year during Ramadan, every day a chapter - I am looking very much forward to fasting with Mr. Kazim Ali. He is a poetic, thoughtful and interesting writer with a rich spiritual and cultural tradition of his own which is both similar to and different from the Arab culture that I lived in for so long when I fasted Ramadan in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Some of the poem like essays reminded me of my favorite Rumi translator, Nader Khalili may he rest in peace, for their pure ethereal joy and sense of just plain being - totally at one with the Beloved. May we all continue to strive in the Way.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Ramadan is the second pillar of Islam. During this month, most Muslims are expected to fast between sunrise and sunset. Kazim Ali is a young writer who teaches at Oberlin College in Ohio. Ali gives us a ride through how he feels during this month. How and what he eats. Thoughts that come into his mind, some at odd times. Paying attention to his feelings and emotions. Leading us gently into his soul. But, not a full confession. His musings are short, but often pithy.I appreciated the quote from Fanny Howe, "If this life isn't enough/ then an afterlife won't be enough." Not fully declarative, but making you pause. This is what is what Kazim Ali seems to be striving for. He gives us two seasons of Ramadan, the first part of the book is taken from a daily bloc he kept a couple of years ago, and has 29 days. The second part is somewhat more meditative, is dedicated to his mother, and is actually written earlier.Sometimes his writing can be both beautiful and evocative: When I walked in the garden, late September, the lotuses already past, their withered seedpods thrusting up, bare of petals.Green on the surface of the water.Alone in the park and hungry. Hungry and irrelevant.Time was I wokewithout an alarm and slept with ease at night.Now I have to struggle to rise in the dark, to feed myself, to prepare myself for a long day without food, a boat carved hollow so it can float on the surface of the sea.Ali pays quite a bit of attention to the self, his self, during Ramadan. And we are invited to ponder our own selves. He suggests that a full Islam practice is not necessary, and is actually difficult for him. As a Shi'ite, he resonates with its five "faith" pillars: 'oneness of divinity, justice of divinity, a belief in messeners and messages, presence of a teaching lineage, and a belief that there will be an accounting for our lives and deeds.'This was a good meditative read while riding the bus to work.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    I opened Fasting for Ramadan hoping for some insights into the spiritual practice of fasting and into the mind of a devout Muslim. Sometimes Kazim Ali satisfied my curiosity with brilliant observations brilliantly worded. Rarely I found his musings so personal and cryptic as to be unintelligible. Once or twice I found a remark simply silly. I believe now that the divide between us has less to do with that between Christian and Muslim and more with that between age and youth. The thing we most agree on is our love for coffee at any hour of the day or night.Ali has been fasting during Ramadan since he was nine. He speaks many times about how personal a practice this is, but in the later of the two journals included in this book he is able to join others of the faithful in prayer and to look forward to breaking the fast on Fridays with friends. He might speak as something of an expert on the process at least, but he does not. In fact, I was never sure exactly why he was willing to make his writing public, and this confusion in my own mind did spoil the first part of the book for me. On the surface his writing is a matter of random thought, captured as it springs to mind and developed only as the whim takes him. In fact, each sentence or fragment is clearly a work of craft. When it works, it is marvelous. For example, he writes of Hajira crying for help in the desert after Ibrahim has turned her out with her son Ismail. “I think this is the true definition of faith: In his almost-death, Ismail found life. Where his heels hammered the ground a spring issued forth. He drank. Meanwhile Hajira in her panic ran by him several more times before seeing that he had already been saved.” The water “had been there all along underground.” He goes on to note that “The Kaaba is a sacred place because it is the place a person refused to believe the most horrifying possibility: That she had been abandoned. That she was alone in the desert without succour. That there was nothing she could do to save her baby.” With the final comment that the empty tomb of Hajira is at the heart of Islam, he stops. My mind goes on to consider the thousands of mothers whose babies do not find the water and who therefore die.Ali is a poet, and often his musing is self-consciously poetic. “When I walked in the garden, late September, the lotuses already past, their withered seedpods thrusting up, bare of petals.
    Green on the surface of the water.
    Alone in the park and hungry. Hungry and irrelevant.
    Irrelevant because unable to act.
    Time was I woke without an alarm and slept with ease at night.
    Now I have to struggle to rise in the dark, to feed myself, to prepare myself for a long day without food, a boat carved hollow so it can float on the surface of the sea.
    The space in the room of the wind created only by time.”
    I wish more discerning readers joy in this.Do I leave this book with anything concrete that I can say either about fasting or Islam? Maybe not. But his mind has touched mine, and I am grateful.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    Kazim Ali's book is a mixture of Muslim practice, yoga, new-age sensibilities, and quixotic references to things like The Matrix. Not that there is anything wrong with that. People can bring Islam into their lives and remain true to their own cultural identities. Having said that, I found the "inner-work" approach to be ultimately too self-focused, bordering on narcissistic. A dark alleyway encountered on a morning run becomes a metaphor for his own mortality. A spider dangling on his doorway is a token of his interconnectedness with all things. He's lost in the fog of his own misty vision of the universe. There is talk of community-building, peace, consciousness, which comes across as trite hipster buzzwords. There's nothing wrong with inner awareness -- the inner jihad (struggle) is the greatest battle, as the Prophet said -- but why not enlarge the experience beyond the self? When my husband fasts, it always makes him think of people who are hungry, not by choice, but by economic want. I come to this book, not as a Muslim, but as someone who has fasted a few times years ago. I did not find the practice to be particularly spiritually illuminating, but I did find it physically illuminating. I discovered that the body needs quite a bit less food than I thought it did. I found that being tired, hungry, and thirsty are just states of mind and that you can ignore them and press on. These are good lessons to learn. What I did not like about fasting is that the higher functions of my mind shut down entirely. I could not read, do any mental work, and I didn't even care to carry on a conversation. I could do physical things like sweep, cook, etc. by simply forcing myself to do them even though I would rather have laid down and slept. Giving up my mind for weeks was not something I was happy to do. It's the best part of me. Of course it is not all of me, and perhaps that is another lesson I should have learned from fasting.Can fasting fit into the modern world? Ideally, a fast should be a retreat from normal activities so that you are given time to reflect on the purpose of your life, and do whatever spiritual housekeeping you need to do. In the American culture where we pride ourselves on our productivity, it's hard to fast. Many are not going to be productive during those days, and if you are a student, you may not study as well. Everyone is different, however, and everyone's metabolism will react differently to the fast. There are NFL football players who fast, under doctors' supervision, while maintaining the rigorous workout and game schedules. Diet advisors are now telling us to eat 4 small meals a day to keep our metabolisms revved up so we can lose weight. That's what American life is all about - being constantly revved up in every way. Witness the constant viagra, cialis commercials. A fast is the opposite. It is a slowing down. I have no doubt that it can be good medicine for the body as well as the soul.Fasting, like prayer, is an intensely private matter, although both are more communal in traditional religious communities. That's why a book about fasting may be problematic. What one person sees as the major point of fasting may be foolishness to another, and they may both be "correct." I was hoping this would be a book that would give me insight into a more traditional, main-stream experience of Muslim practice. Instead, I found it to be a misty, prosaic collage of impressions lacking in substance.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Kazim Ali is a master wordsmith. His journals of the month long Ramadan fast from two separate years are both insightful and beautifully written. Ali gives enough background for a non-Muslim like myself to understand the practice.He then lyrically journals his experience of the fast—the emptying in order to fill spiritually, the stretching of his mind and soul in order to touch the sacred in himself as well as other believers. He scrutinizes himself, his place in the universe, his spiritual life and lifestyle questions asking the eternal and painful questions Am I enough? Am I enough of a Muslim? How do I fit in—will I fit in?Yoga, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies make an appearance as Ali adds snippets of their wisdom to his musings.This is a short read. The first part of the book is a daily journal of the fast that he wrote for a blog; the second is a private journal he wrote two years earlier. As he says in the book, he both is and isn’t the same man he was two years ago.I was touched by the author’s spiritual journey. I feel I have had a glimmer of the beauty of Islam in a society that doesn’t often recognize that Islam has beauty.I would also like to commend Tupelo Press, the small press that published this book. The cover is beautiful and the paper quality very nice, making this book as pleasant in its physical details as in its content within.All in all, this is a book that I will enjoy having in my library and rereading for years to come.