As I write this story, it is the month of Ramadan, and I am fasting. I remember the day I first started fasting when I was a child in Iran.

We were a very religious family. I was nine years old and in third grade. When a girl turns nine, she is considered a grown up and has to pray and fast and follow all of the rules of the Qur’an.

Fasting was very difficult for me that year and I didn’t like it. I had a friend named Mozhgan who didn’t fast because she was too weak and would become sick, and her family wasn’t religious like us.

One day in class, I hadn’t eaten enough during Sahare. At this 4 a.m. meal, you can eat as much as you want, but you can’t eat or drink anything after it until the sky becomes dark again. In class the lessons were hard. At the end of class Mozhgan came over and ate a cake in front of me.

I told her I was hungry and thirsty. Mozhgan encouraged me to eat or drink something, so I ate a piece of cake.

Then she laughed and said, “You broke your fast. You are a criminal and God will kill you and afterward you will go to the other world and God will give you a very difficult punishment.”

I cried a lot! I went home feeling ashamed and scared. I was crying in my room when suddenly my older sister came in. When she saw me, she asked, “Why you are crying?” I was afraid, so I told her that I broke my fast.

My sister kindly told me that God doesn’t like to see a beautiful girl crying. “God doesn’t want to force his rules on anybody. Your friend is wrong. God is kind, don’t worry,” she said.

After that I felt better.

Now I think that fasting can be healthy for the body. Ramadan is also about cleaning our souls from crimes, and refraining from lying, backbiting, or cursing. It also helps us understand poor people who don’t have anything. I think that during this month God tests us to see if we can be honest with ourselves or not. It helps me know myself better and practice being patient.

And if you break your fast, now I know you can atone. For example, if you break your fast for one day, you can fast for 60 days more or give food to 60 poor people.

By Mona