How many of us actually know what Ramadan and Eid are other than fasting for a month? Or how important it is to millions of Muslims across the globe celebrating?
I know I certainly didn’t, having not really grown up around many Muslims, I knew what Ramadan and Eid were but didn’t really understand, so I decided to ask.
What is Ramadan/Eid and why is it so important to Muslims?
Ramadan is the 9th lunar month of the Islamic Calendar. For the whole month Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, drinking, smoking amongst other things, like sexual intercourse, or coitus if you prefer. At the end of the month, and the 1st day of the next lunar month is the celebration of Eid. It is important to Muslims as fasting is a command from Allah (God if you want to say) and is an opportunity to reconnect with God, self-reflect and cleanse one’s soul with good actions and intentions. Ramadan was also the month when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received the first revelation from the Holy Quran.
At what age did you start fasting? What was that like?
I did the occasional fast when I was in Junior school but I remember the days being very short (winter months) so not that difficult. I started regularly fasting in secondary school and ever since then. In Junior school, I was the only Muslim so in one way it was weird being the only one and asked why from the other kids. In another way I felt special being the only one fasting and getting some attention from others. At secondary school there were so many more Muslims so it felt like the norm. At this stage, I only understood that I was fasting because as Muslims we had to and not to eat or drink. It was only when I got older and learnt more about my religion I really understand its significance.
I heard that becoming more spiritual and closer to Allah or God during fasting is one of the many reasons for doing so – can you elaborate?
The month of fasting is just an amazing time. Simply because each act of worship and good actions are multiplied. In essence, Muslims are not only fasting from food and drink, but actually fasting the whole body, known as fasting of the limbs. For example, fasting of the tongue is also that we shouldn’t swear, backbite, gossip, fasting of the hands that we should oppress others, fasting of the eyes that we should abstain from looking at evil/temptation of things etc. Doing all of this during this month acts as a catalyst for one to cleanse themselves as a person and for them to be like this all year round, not just during the month of Ramadan. Along with praying, giving to charity, recitation of the Quran brings one closer to God.
Talk me through a standard day of fasting from waking to breaking fast (Iftaar)?
After returning from the mosque after the night prayer (roughly midnight) I would either stay awake or sleep for a couple of hours. We have until 3am ish to eat breakfast, or known as the Suhoor. Then after prayer would go to sleep. After dropping kids to school would go about your normal workday. I would at all possible avoid breakfast networking or lunchtime events. I would usually nap in the evening around 5/6ish for a bit. You would try to keep yourself occupied with things but the reality is it does get tiring and you feel very lethargic. When you do open the fast around 9ish known as the Iftaar, you don’t have the appetite to eat that much and then you prepare to go to the mosque for 10.30pm for the night prayer. This is basically on repeat for the month.
What myths or preconceptions do non-Muslims have about Ramadan and how do you address it?
The biggest one is that we can drink, they are always surprised that we can’t even drink. The other myth is we have a massive feast when we open our fast, that’s generally not the case as after a long day of fasting you don’t have the appetite to eat big. The other one is do children or the sick have to fast, but in both cases, it is generally not the case. Nowadays with Muslims/Islam so much in the spotlight for various reasons my experience has been people generally ask and I for one are happy they ask and I can educate them.
What do your Eid celebrations consist of?
We go to the mosque early in the morning for prayer, generally around 8.30am. After that then its visiting family and spending time with them. Food is always high on the list and there is always chicken roast and yellow rice. Kids get money known as ‘Eidi’ and you’re never old enough to get Eidi from your parents and relatives. I used to drag my dad to relatives when I was younger to get my £10 Eidi.
What advice would you give to those fasting or those with high pressured jobs, for instance, a surgeon – would they be exempt?
Not really no, you are only exempt from fasting if you are pregnant or if you have an illness and fasting would make that illness worse. My advice would be to speak to your employer to see if you can work flexibly, you have 1 year to plan and notify them so in some cases you can save your annual leave and book time off. I found in most cases employers being very understanding and supportive to Muslims during Ramadan.
How do you juggle fasting with work?
It sounds crazy but you just do. People always say ‘don’t know how you do it’ or ‘I couldn’t fast that long’ but we do. Mainly because we have been brought up doing it and knowing it is part of our religion but also God makes it easy for us. I can’t explain but in other months if I don’t eat or drink for a long period of time during a day I will have a headache but in Ramadan I rarely experience a headache or any form of illness. For those who really benefit from the month its just an amazing time and we pray that we have the opportunity next year to observe Ramadan again.
Hope you feel more informed! Eid Mubarak to everyone celebrating.
Have a good day xo