We asked Hanif Malik, the Director of the Hamara Centre, to explain what the fasting month of Ramadhan is all about.
Ramadhan is actually the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is the time of fasting for people from the Islamic faith. Each day during this month, Muslims all over the world abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, as well as participating in anything that is ill-natured or excessive; from dawn until the sun sets. In England that equates to approximately 3.30am to 9.30pm in the evening (although even in localities such as Beeston, the start time can vary by an hour or so).
The question I get asked most often by non-Muslims is “Why do you do it?” quickly followed by “How do you do it?” and then “I could never do that – I’d miss my coffee, tea, cigarettes (delete as appropriate) too much.”
The answer to the first question is pretty straight forward. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and therefore obligatory unless you have a valid reason such as illness in which case you are exempt. The ‘How’ bit is more difficult to explain but I suppose having grown up with the concept of fasting from the age of 10 or 11 (children are usually encouraged to fast or do half day fasts if they are younger) it’s become an accepted part of my annual routine.
It’s worth adding though that the human body (when aligned to the mind) is a remarkably adaptable vehicle and a week or so into it, you really begin to adjust and food doesn’t even cross your mind.
This year admittedly has been harder than previous years, not least because the British Summer decided to make a comeback and our hottest July for years coincided with the start of Ramadhan and although hunger was not an issue the thirst is more of a challenge.
Fasting, however is not merely about abstaining from food and drink. It’s intended to educate us in spirituality, humility and patience and create some empathy with the millions in the world are on a constant ‘fast’ through having no other option. As such it is also the month in which Muslims are most charitable, donating to a range of causes throughout the world.
This year at Hamara, we’ve decided it would be great to support some local causes, so have partnered up with some Mosques and other agencies to launch – Giveagift.org.uk. It’s a simple concept where throughout the month we have been collecting gifts and toys for the Children’s Heart Unit at the LGI and highlights the importance of us playing a wider role within society.
The day ends with the ‘night prayer’ (Tarweeh) and so if you’ve witnessed droves of Muslims walking to the local Mosque every evening, you now know why. Tarweeh prayer can last for up to an hour and a half and is performed largely standing, so if you have overindulged when opening the fast, it’s great for burning off the excess calories, although the intention is more for contemplation and selflessness.
As I write the article, we are only a few days away from the end of Ramadhan so preparation for Eid, the festival celebrating the culmination of the month are beginning in earnest. So too however is the annual discussion of ‘When is Eid’?
It may sound strange to a non-Muslim, but in comparison to the normal calendar, the Ramadan dates differ, moving forward approximately ten days every year, dependent on the moon. As such not all the Mosques use the same system for calculating the end of the month, leading unfortunately on occasions to some sections of the community celebrating the day on different days.
That doesn’t take away the enjoyment though and having disciplined ourselves for thirty days to eat the minimum, Eid is a day of lavish food and even more lavish outfits for the ladies.
Remarkably at the end of the month, there is a tinge of sadness to see the period over as we return to ‘normality’. Oh well, back to completing the funding applications!
This article was written by Hanif Malik using our Community Reporters website