"So, you don't eat for a month?" No, it's not like that. From the breaking of dawn until the sun sets we do not eat or drink anything, not even water.
"Water, are you serious?" Yes, but when the sun sets, all systems are a go. If you’re wondering why your Muslim friend/colleague disappears for an hour during lunch breaks for a nap, doesn't seem as talkative on calls or moves a metre away when talking to you, then it's probably because of Ramadan. Albeit we are working from home, I will miss the confused faces of colleagues who catch me brushing my teeth over the sink of the women's bathroom during lunch and having to explain with a mouth full of toothpaste!
Our focus during this time? Increase prayer and charity giving. Ramadan is a challenge but it is also about understanding the suffering of the less fortunate. When the sun sets and you break your fast do you realise how lucky you are to have food when so many don't have the privilege to even eat that day. It’s a time for quiet reflection and self-discipline so, after eating ‘suhoor’, I often use the time to pray and read. Ramadan also encourages us to act with generosity and charity and, like many others, I donate a portion of my total annual savings to charity.
I am a second generation immigrant, born to parents of Moroccan descent who came to London during the 1970s. I began fasting from a young age, starting with "half- days" and working my way up to expert level "full month". I began learning 'surahs' (verses of the Quran) during this time to aid in my fast. I always remember Ramadan as a time where the whole family would sit and wait for the sun to set. My whole family gathered around the table is an opportunity for us to bond and talk about our day- a time I feel is often lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Fasting is also practiced in other religions such as Judaism, Catholicism, and Buddhism, among other religion. I am lucky that I have also have the support of my non-Muslim friends and colleagues who will always offer to fast with me for a day or so for moral support.
Every household will break their fast with different cuisines depending on their culture. But typically, most people will break their fast with water and dates. I'll then move on to having Harira (a Moroccan soup) and homemade Moroccan bread made by my mum fresh that day. After soup, it really just depends on what you have fancied. Growing up in a western society, I have blended the two worlds together somewhat. Some days I'll have a tagine and other days, I'll be craving fish and chips.
This year, daylight hours will increase over the month so the period of time we will fast will extend by a few minutes every day. After iftar (the meal you break your fast with), I usually sleep for a few hours before waking up at 4am for my breakfast. I find that having breakfast at this time helps keep me full for my fast and is a great time to send a few emails out and get ahead of the working day.
The first verse of the Quran was sent down on a night of 'Laylatyle Qadr' (The night of decree). It falls on any one night of the last 10 days of Ramadan. This night is believed to be better than a thousand, and any good deeds are to have the effect of a thousand. We typically increase our prayers and studying of the Quran during this time. I remember as a kid, my mother explaining it to me as being the time where the angels come down and observe you. I always felt a sense of magic during those days, a feeling that has still not passed at 25 years of age.
Eid al Fitr symbolises the day that the month of Ramadan has finished. We will attend our morning prayers at the mosque after having our first bite of breakfast in 30 days as fasting on this day is forbidden. You'll typically find me staring at the sunlight having my breakfast before moving onto my second breakfast. I'll make a donation on this day to charity, known as Zaat Al-Fitr and prepare to celebrate in the evening. In my culture, we will buy new clothes and it's tradition to eat couscous. I'll spend the weekend before making an assortment of Moroccan to have with our mint tea for that evening. I prepare to give some money or presents to my younger family members (gone are the days I can call myself young) and we will have all my extended family and friends (Muslim or not) come over for a feast and a party. As it stands, it is unlikely we will celebrate in the normal way given the current pandemic but we keep our faith strong that next year we will be able to see more of our family and friends.
An important lesson I feel we can all take from this month is the importance of faith, family and gratitude.
Farrah Talsi, Paralegal