St Albans Muslims tell us about the impact of fasting
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At a time when people are struggling just to get through the day, can you imagine what it is like to have to go without food or drink - even water - from the early hours of the morning until late in the evening?
Yet, this sacred act of worship is often described as a wonderful time for those who take part.
As St Albans Muslims are now fasting for Ramadan, which runs from April 23 to May 23, the Herts Ad spoke to them about the discipline.
Muslims do not just abstain from food and drink during the Holy Month, but also from sex and smoking, and are encouraged to devote the extra time to prayer and reflection.
Some say it is a chance to spend being grateful for what they have and to consider the poor even more than they would usually.
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The Big Iftar is taking place on May 20 and is an opportunity for non-Muslims to fast for one day. Usually hundreds of people would attend daily congregational acts to break their fast at sunset - ‘iftar’. Obviously government, medical and religious guidance for COVID-19 means this year will be different.
Restaurant owner Mohammed Al-Haque, 39, grew up in St Albans and is surrounded by food all day while he fasts. The father-of-two said: “Working with food all day is always hard for obvious reasons.
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As the time of Ramadan changes each year due to the teachings in the Qur’an, Mohammed explained that this year the time when he is permitted to eat again coincides with his busiest time at work. He said: “I consistently miss breaking my fast with my children. We often break our fast with a date and some water and then get straight back to working at the restaurant.”
As well as having to not see his friends and wider family due to the social distancing measures, he cannot even see his immediate family when they eat after their daily fast.
Fasting is a sacrifice to Muslims but they said that so much is gained spiritually by using the time to pray and connect with Allah.
Photographer Monir Ali of Green Lane said: “This year, for me, it has made me closer to my family and gives us the opportunity to get closer to Allah and to be able to understand a bit more about Him. I have trained myself now by fasting at other times of the year to get mentally and physically prepared. It is difficult when you have to focus on work but I find that the spiritual nourishment fasting gives as I draw nearer to Allah helps me to get through. ”
Rushna Miah, mum-of-four said: “We fast from sunrise to sunset.This year we are fasting for 17 hours a day. Enduring the hunger and thirst makes us realise and empathise with those who are in need or poor. We also give to charity during Ramadan - both fasting and giving are two of the ‘pillars of Islam’.”
Rushna said that her children all fast - except her youngest who is seven - and it is an invaluable practice.
She added: “They are very good and tolerant but they do get a little tired. “They understand the importance and so willingly do so.”
Muslims are not the only faith to say that fasting draws them nearer to their god and even non-religious people say they gain something from meditation - another form of focusing the mind and accessing a higher plane.
There are five pillars of Islam which are five foundations which support the faith and community as a whole. A similar idea in Christianity would be the Ten Commandments.
To sign up for The Big Iftar and fast for one day go to www.theaddaclub.co.uk
You will get an Iftar pack to break your fast with and can share your experience of what it is like to go without food and drink for one day on social media.