So you can’t even drink water?” I get this question every Ramadan.
Ramadan in a multicultural society like London is both a challenge and a blessing in many ways. This is the time of the year where we get more questions than any other time, mostly concerning fasting and how Muslims can go without eating and drinking for nearly 18 hours. Some of my non-Muslim friends take on the challenge and see for themselves, which truly amazes me. It conveys to non-Muslims how humble and patient we can be and are encouraged to be through our faith. I am honored that me and my fellow West dwelling Muslims can communicate a positive image to the non-Muslim community rather than what they get to see on the news.
The hustle and the bustle begin early when it comes to Ramadan in east London. The superstores start providing Ramadan offers to the Muslim population and we flock to buy our month of stock. Dates, fruit, samosas and kebabs and much more fill the fridge and/or freezer ready for sharing out to neighbors, friends and the mosque for Iftars (breaking of fast). We wear new clothes and start to take out all our Ramadan dua (supplication) books, like preparing for a friend we haven’t seen for 11 months.
Sehri and Iftar
Sehri (early morning meal before the fast) is a quiet time for reflection. I try to keep my Sehri as nutritious as possible and stick to my smoothie, bread or cornflakes. It is much harder to eat now that we have a five-hour window to fill our belly in. Others choose to eat chappaties and rice for their Sehri.
Ramadan teaches restraint but the most funny thing about the Holy month is how Iftars are generally so unhealthy. I dread going to my relatives’ house for Iftar because when you’ve fasted for 18 hours and somosas, pokoras and pizza are displayed in front of you, it quickly becomes a war of willpower vs. your stomach and in this situation my growling tummy always wins.
At home, I try to keep my Iftar as healthy as possible. Leaflets and websites are there to advise on what’s the best food source for your body during the month of Ramadan.
There are Islamic talks in many areas and women tend to take part in Quran translation sessions every day during the Ramadan. In that way, they can better understand the word of Allah which they complete successfully. Also, there are always a few Muslims standing outside shopping malls, mosques and parks to serve food to the poor and the needy.
The good thing about London is that it is such a busy city; I sometimes forget that I am fasting. People are either looking after the children, working, volunteering, commuting, studying, and it never really gets too hot which makes it a tad easier. When hunger begins to strike during the day, people just focus on their many tasks or perhaps if you are like me, spend half of the day planning what you will cook for Iftar. I never am as experimental with food during the year as I am during Ramadan!
There are twenty four Ramadan radio stations and television channels in the United Kingdom dedicated to supporting Muslims and also keen on raising money for those in need around the world.
I am lucky that I get a lot of support from my family and my employers. Despite our ups and downs in this current climate- generally many non-Muslims are very understanding about fasting, Alhumdulilah and long may it continue.
I wish everyone a healthy and spiritual Ramadan. May Allah make it easy for all of us!