Ramadan and me

Featured article - 18 April 2022
By Tasnim Rahman, SCIE Research Analyst

Tasnim Rahman, SCIE Research Analyst

My earliest memory of Ramadan is coming home from school, having a dish named Kisuri (boiled rice porridge) and Sana (chickpea and potato) just in time for my parents to break their fast and having a few weeks building up to Eid! I’d look forward to sitting at the table together, eating.

I knew I had to start fasting once I hit puberty, so I was mentally preparing for the nightly prayers and abstaining from food and water from an hour before sunrise to sunset. As Muslims follow the lunar calendar to calculate Ramadan and other Islamic months, and the lunar calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan begins approximately 10/11 days earlier to the previous year, that’s why watching moonsighting live on YouTube is a fun thing to do! This year, fasting begins at around 4am, and we break our fasts with dates and water around 8pm. Then, we eat (not too much, we don’t want to be bloated) and engage in night prayers, sleep, wake up for the pre-dawn meal, pray, go back to sleep to be refreshed for work, school, or other activities during the day.

Everyone deals with fasting differently. Some like to fast, some don’t. Some are religiously obliged, some aren’t. The latter group includes but isn’t limited to a) travellers b) those with physical and/or mental health ailments whose conditions would be affected by fasting c) pregnant women d) menstruating women. People in categories A, C and D make up the fasts at later points in the year whereas those in category B make up for it by providing meals to the needy.

Often my non-Muslim friends and colleagues ask questions about fasting, what I do, and I’m always joyful to explain why we observe the month. It is the month when the Quran was first revealed, which is why we engage in more acts of worship whilst reading and understanding our holy book. We are also encouraged to give to charity as much as we can during this time. The most common form of charity is providing iftar (the meal when breaking the fast) to families in the UK and abroad who can’t afford it. Mosques are also full of people praying, catching up during the evening prayers and this has been a missed activity during the pandemic. During this month we focus on the importance of being patient, more compassionate and kinder towards each other.

I’m used to working and being proactive whilst fasting, so it’s not so tricky for me. However there are days when my attention span is lower than normal, when my head feels like it will split and I’m struggling to articulate my thoughts in a coherent manner. My throat also gets a bit dry from talking, so do excuse me if you’re in a meeting with me and my voice starts to get a bit hoarse.

Many don’t realise that Muslim converts whose family are not Muslim, or live single, observe Ramadan alone in a lot of cases when they don’t have a support network of the Muslim community around them. This is a difficult and sensitive time for converts who are new to a faith, its practices and a community that is new to them.

More workplaces are offering the option to work more flexibly during Ramadan, and I’m happy to be at SCIE where I have been reassured I can approach my manager if I need to amend my working hours whilst fasting or if I need any support

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