What Ramadan means to me
Hinda works in our Community Services team here at Rethink Mental Illness. In this blog, she tells us about the holy month of Ramadan, what it means to her, and outlines some tips for you to take onboard if you are supporting colleagues who are fasting this month.
What is Ramadan?
This month bears a precious gift, marking the start of Ramadan from 22 March 2023. Ramadan is of the holiest months for Muslims where they observe fasting, abstaining from food and drinks between the hours of sunrise (Fajr) and sunset for the next 29-30 days. Fasting (or Sawm) is one of the five pillars or core practices of Islam, alongside the five daily Prayers, (Salah) giving Charity (Zakat) and performing Pilgrimage, (Hajj). Ramadan is also a month in which the revelation of the Qur’an (Holy Book) was first revealed to he prophet Muhammad, and during this month, Muslims shift their focus on renewing their spiritual commitment, self-discipline and practice.
What Ramadan means to me
I remember when I first started fasting and my parents would gently teach me the meaning of Ramadan, why we fasted each year and what it meant. As a young child, fasting wasn’t obligatory but seeing my parents and siblings' sheer excitement and preparation for the holy month captured my curiosity. Fast forward to my adult years, my level of understanding and awareness has changed significantly and I now share the same excitement. Writing this blog equally, is heartening to see Ramadan being so widely celebrated and shared, and even encouraging to see a genuine interest in people wanting to learn more regardless of what their faith is.
For many, Ramadan carries different interpretations and significance, so what does it mean for me?
For me, Ramadan is a unique and holistic experience for my spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing. It can equally be challenging, not being able to drink anything (including water) or eat any food. At first, my body almost always reacts with withdrawals when deprived of its normal routine. My morning caffeine routine before starting work is first to be affected. Where I would normally have my coffee next to me whilst I dial into my first meetings, instead I have to wake up earlier before sunrise to eat (Suhoor), have my cup of coffee and then begin my day. My fasting lasts until sunset, which means there’s no lunch or quick runs to the fridge to make a meal. Rather, I use this time to read the holy Qur’an, pray and reflect. This year we break our fast between 7-8pm when the evening call to prayer is made. It is encouraged to break your fast with dates and water, again this is a sunnah (tradition), before you get to feast on your meals.
Ramadan is a unique and holistic experience for my spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Inevitably, this month becomes a humbling experience which serves as a reminder of how fortunate I am. Being able to sit with my family and have a meal at sunset, is a luxury which so often we take for granted, an experience which I know many don’t have. Often, during Ramadan, my sister and I will cook and prepare meals to take to the local mosque, a haven where many families will gather and break their fast together. Acts of charitable donations, referred to as Zakat, are one of the disciplines encouraged during this month, alongside becoming more compassionate and caring. It’s these changes that allow me to build a stronger bond with my faith, bringing me closer to Allah (God), to bear thanks and gratitude.
Ramadan usually lasts between 29-30 days, the end of Ramadan is marked with a big celebration called ‘Eid’, an extravagant day filled with exchanging of gifts and the table is laid with a variety of dishes. Coming from a big family, this day for me is when my tiny flat is really put to the test, (although I wouldn’t have it any other way) having to hold all my nieces, nephews, siblings and grandparents.
The next few months after Ramadan I try to carry all my learning with me into the next few months, I spend more time taking ownership to fuel my mental health as much as my physical and spend time reflecting on my aspirations and faith.
This year, I am grateful to be witnessing yet another Ramadan, this time amongst my friends and colleagues in Rethink.
Ramadan Mubarak, (this is a saying we can say to all those who are celebrating this month).
The next few months after Ramadan I try to carry all my learning with me into the next few months, I spend more time taking ownership to fuel my mental health.
Indulgent date bites
Part of following the sunnah (tradition), we break our fast with dates and water. Dates are easily digestible and are numerous health benefits to dates, for starters they have a high content of fibre and contain magnesium and iron. For a few of us, having dates as they are is perfect before having our meals. But stumbling upon a most recent indulgent recipe, has also made them the perfect dessert bites.
- Get some dates, my favourites are the Medjool which you can get from various supermarkets.
- Make a cut in the middle, and take the pit out.
- Once the pit has been removed, fill the middle with your choice of filling, nut butters, whole almonds or nuts, chocolate ganache, take your pick.
- Then for an extra sweet tooth, cover the dates in chocolate, this can be milk, dark, or drizzle on top. Place this in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened, and enjoy! (Suitable for sharing or not).
If you’d like to support your colleagues who are fasting this month, here’s a few things you can do:
- Be aware. Fasting may sometimes have an impact on energy levels when it is coupled with long nights spent for worship.
- Be flexible. It can be helpful to be flexible when arranging meetings. For example, set these at times before the 5pm finish to give colleagues enough time to pray and prepare their meals as they break their fast for sunset.
- Be inclusive. Contribute in raising awareness of Ramadan and the impacts of fasting for anyone celebrating in your workplace.