Ramadan is a special month for the Muslim community as it is a time for reflection, spirituality, abstaining from food and drink and also a time for practicing self-restraint, discipline and remembering the less fortunate.
For those observing, this involved abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset (before you ask: yes, not even water.)
I have been fasting from a young age and get equally excited every year when Ramadan arrives – there is a peaceful feeling which is felt throughout the whole month, and this is reflected in our behaviour to our family, friends and communities.
How do you prepare for Ramadan?
People tend to mentally prepare by focusing on the spiritual aspects and setting goals to become better practicing Muslims and focusing on the importance of the religion. This month also highlights what Islam is all about, which is about peace, love and respect for one another, and this is practiced in various ways.
I got into the spirit by focusing on the above and also preparing Ramadan hampers for family, which include a variety of dates, fruit and treats to mark the occasion.
What is the purpose of fasting?
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and therefore Muslims fast as an act of worship, but also to bring them closer to Allah (God) and a way to become considerate to those in need.
Personally for me, I found it helped me re-charge my mind and body, not just in the form of a detox but also makes me take time out to focus on improving habits that I strive to continue once the month is over. For example, looking out for one another, controlling anger and the duty of kindness. It also made me re-evaluate what is important in life - making me appreciate things we usually take for granted i.e. having the means to make a meal and a roof over our head.
During this time, I particularly remember those who are in a less fortunate position (who will not know where their next meal will come from), and it makes me more conscious to not overindulge when breaking our fast and to also want to give more to those who are in need. Although charity is given all year round, the month of Ramadan brings further generosity within the community as charitable donations increase from all Muslims around the world to help the poor and needy.
What is a suhoor and Iftar?
Suhoor is the meal eaten in the early hours of the morning, before the Morning Prayer - ranging between 3.45am - 4.45am in the UK (timings for this will differ around the world). Iftar is the meal eaten after breaking the fast at sunset (timings will vary for this again, but in the UK it will range between 7.30pm - 8.30pm). On average, fasting hours will range up to 17 hours.
A few myths and misconceptions answered…
'Brushing your teeth breaks your fast'
Brushing your teeth does not break your fast, as long as you do not swallow any water/toothpaste when rinsing your mouth.
'It is just about food and drink'
Eating or drinking are not the only activities that would void a fast. Smoking and sexual activity can also invalidate the fast.
'Everyone must fast'
If you are ill, have long term sickness such as diabetes, are pregnant, a nursing mother or travelling then you are exempt from fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Thankfully, this year the restrictions had lifted and we were able to go back to some 'normality' and share the experience in person with our friends and families by breaking our fasts together, as well as praying in the mosque.
How did you mark the end of Ramadan?
Ramadan ends as it began, with the sighting of the new moon. Eid-ul-Fitr is the religious celebration to mark the end of Ramadan. The day began with morning prayers at the Mosque and family, friends and communities gathered together to exchange gifts and eat a celebratory dinner. We got to experience the physical presence of all family and friends this year round, with no cap or restrictions – making the celebration more special.