Ramadan diary: A time of reflection and a heightened connection to faith
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Ramadan is a very important and spiritual time in the Islamic calendar, and during the month Muslims don't eat or drink between dawn and sunset.
Fasting is important to all Muslims, as it allows them to devote themselves to their faith and come closer to God. Ramadan is also a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, doing good deeds, contributing money to charity to support those that have less or are in difficult times due to war, famine etc (It is compulsory for all Muslims who can afford to, to contribute money to charity) and spending time with family and friends, although this year this will be through Zoom or WhatsApp.
I have been participating in Ramadan since the age of nine, and have always look forward to it as it is a very special month to me. The month of Ramadan means much more to me than not eating during daylight hours. Since getting older and wiser I’ve found it is a time of reflection, self-improvement and a heightened connection to one's faith. Islam is sadly something often misunderstood or simply ignored by much of the non-Muslim population.
To catch a glimpse of my time during Ramadan I have written a daily diary of events during this blessed month…
Day 1, Tuesday April 13
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Before going to bed on Monday evening after my first Tarawth prayers, I set my alarm for 3am so I can get up for Suhoor to eat. My alarm goes off at 3am and the last thing I want to do was get out of bed, as not only do I have to prepare food for me, but also for my two teenage daughters, who this year are also hoping to do all 30 day fasts.
However I don’t have to worry about my husband as he sorts himself out for food independently, which is such a help, as it’s one less person to worry about feeding before Suhoor ends and the fast starts!
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For breakfast we had croissants, a bowl of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with a drizzle of honey and natural Greek yoghurt and toast, followed by a cup of tea for me and glass of milk for my daughters. We also made sure we drank a good amount of water to help keep us hydrated for the day.
Then we brushed our teeth and were back to bed by 4am to try and sleep again before waking up at 7am for work and getting my daughters to school.
This first day of fasting was more tiring than feeling hungry due to the number of times I had to break my sleep to wake up to eat. I think I only got about six hours sleep!
The day went quickly at work and it was soon time to collect my daughters from school (I hardly felt any pangs of hunger or thirst, although I did feel colder than my work colleagues due to not eating and fuelling the body to keep warm).
When we got home we showered and prepared for prayer. I started to prepare food around 5pm for Iftaar (breaking of fast), which was at 7:58pm. In between preparing food I also try and take time to read some of the Quran. As fast time comes to an end we all gather as a family at the table and share the food by firstly eating a date to break the fast. The taste and smell is more noticeable when fasting as you’ve deprived yourself of food all day and when you do get to eat it, you appreciate it more and are thankful for it.
Materialistic things don’t come to mind when fasting as you only think about practical/survival things like the basic human needs of food and water. Once I've eaten I feel really full and sleepy but can’t rest as I need to clean up and get ready for evening prayers which start around 9:50pm. Once prayers are complete at 10:30pm I then get ready for bed and once again set my alarm for 3am.
Day 2, Wednesday April 14
The alarm goes off at 3am and we had exactly the same breakfast as it kept me, my daughters and husband full and hydrated for the day the best it could, plus it was too early and I was too tired to be creative in the kitchen at that time in the morning!
The important thing is to make sure we’ve eaten a well-balanced breakfast and had plenty of fluids, especially water. We don’t take too long to eat as all of us want to go back to sleep before waking up for work and school. I do my morning prayers, brush my teeth and return to bed and try and get some sleep.
The alarm for work goes off at 7am, and I feel really tired as do my family but push myself out of bed and get ready for work. My mind is a lot more alert as I try to not think about food and so I put my full concentration into my work and find I’m more productive!
When it hits 3pm I collect my daughters from school and get home and repeat the process from Tuesday: prayers, prepare food and break fast at dusk with dates and water before the main meal.
The types of food prepared are very varied, such as opening the fast with a small bowl of fresh fruit, dates and water, and then a main meal consisting of either butter chicken, rice and naans or spaghetti bolognese, or finger food.
Whatever the family feel like I will prepare so when we are in the car driving home my daughters usually let me know what they would like to eat as does my husband. I’m feeling tired and really just want to crash but I can’t as need to get food ready as well as catch up on prayers and get ready for evening prayers too. Fast breaks, we eat, pray and get to bed.
Day 3, Thursday April 15
The alarm goes off at 3am and we eat, pray and go back to bed for a few hours before having to wake up for work. I am feeling very tired today, experiencing the pain of lack of sleep due to irregular sleeping patterns but still find the spiritual strength to keep going.
I know there are people out in the world who are less fortunate then myself and my family. I feel fasting keeps me grounded and real. The work day goes quickly but during the last hour I am feeling tired, trying to keep motivated and looking forward to getting home. This time due feeling tired we all decide to have finger food as I really want to get a short nap before fast breaks and evening prayers start.
Day 4, Friday April 16
I can’t believe it’s Friday and the fourth day into my fasting! The week has gone very quickly. Today I am feeling a little lethargic due to lack of sleep as still only getting six hours. For me the hardest part of fasting is the sleep deprivation. I’ve got into the habit of fasting due to years of practice, so don’t really feel the hunger as I’ve built up my resilience for this.
But the lack of sleep during fasting does get to me at times so I do take a nap once I get home at 4pm and set my alarm for 5:30pm to wake up and prepare food for Iftaar (which is now at 8pm).
The fast break times change daily so we have a daily calendar which our local mosque supplies to guide us as to when we can break our fast and when we start the fast each morning. As it's Friday I feel a little more relaxed as I know I don’t have to wake up for work the next day as it’s the weekend!
Days 5 and 6, Saturday April 17 and Sunday April 18
The weekend is a lot more chilled we don’t tend to do much socialising or going out and due to Covid restrictions I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything special.
During fasting we cut out the majority of socialising and instead focus more on prayers, family time and connecting with members of the community and friends we have not seen in ages.
Generally family and friends come over to break fast with us but due to Covid, this has changed and now we get in touch via Zoom and other social media platforms.
The weekend has also given me time to sort out where I would like to give my Zakat (charity). This is a must for all Muslims who can afford to, as they give money to the less fortunate. My Zakat has gone to the most needy in the countries were people have been affected by the aftermath of war and countries where there is high rate of famine.
It is also our duty to give charity money to Muslim families who are poor and can’t afford a good meal, whether they are in the UK or overseas in another country. So food parcels are arranged for the full 30 days for poor families so they can have a joyful and spiritual Ramadan too!
I will continue to note down my experiences over the rest of the month.