What Ramadan and Eid mean to me
- Posted on May 12, 2020
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Ramadan (one of the five pillars of Islam) is very special to Muslims. Everyone makes extra efforts to recite Quran daily, perform nafal ibadaah (a non-mandatory prayer), try to be extra kind to others, say Taraweeh after Isha prayer (last one of the five daily prayers, which are Fajar, Zuhar, Asar, Maghrib, Isha), say Tahajat Salah (a non-mandatory prayer before sunrise), avoid conflicts and arguments and do charity with open heart. Fasting becomes compulsory from the age of puberty and onwards, but exempted if you are ill, travelling, pregnant, a breastfeeding mother, menstruating or elderly.
I have been lucky to experience Ramadan back home in Pakistan during my college and university life and then here in London after relocation in 2009. It is a completely different experience as being a mum now, I am responsible for preparing the feast for my family past midnight, in contrast to the leisure of being the youngest sibling, where I was usually woken up 10 minutes before the closing time to come to kitchen and gulp the food in with my eyes half open.
One of the highlights is the extensive grocery shopping before the start of the Ramadan. As the eating pattern is shifted (having the first meal “Sehar” before sunrise and then breaking fast “Iftar” at sunset), special meals are prepared instead of the routine ones. In our Pakistani culture, “Sehar” meal will usually be a paratha with curry and fry egg, dates, water, few spoons of yogurt and tea. No eating and drinking is permitted until sunset. Then almost an hour and half before the sunset, preparation of the “Iftar” starts to break the fast and then the joy of eating dates, Samosas, sandwiches, chana chaat, rolls, kebabs, fruit salad and drinking juice to your heart’s content. Special Iftar/feast parties are arranged over the weekends, where one family prepare the feast for all invitees and friends.
Islamic calendar is based on Lunar cycle, and as a result of this, the Holy month of Ramadan rotates by approximately 10 days each year. In an average person’s life span, he or she will fast in all the different months as Ramadan starts roughly 10 days earlier every year. Depending on your global location, you might experience an easy eight hours of winter fasting or a challenging 20 hours of summer fasting. I would like to clarify that you don’t lose weight by fasting, not in my case at least. 😊
Fasting lasts for a month, and when it is the first day of “Shawaal” (Islamic lunar month after Ramadan), Muslims celebrate Eid. Eid festivities include the special Eid prayer in the morning, wearing new clothes, eating Asian desserts, meeting with family and friends, giving eidi (money) to children and younger siblings, girls drawing hena patterns on their hands, wearing colourful bangles and watching special Eid programmes on TV channels. Eid festivities last for three days and are also public holidays in Pakistan. Here, we tend to celebrate Eid by going out for a nice dinner with friends and then celebrating at our home on the following weekend with a get together.
This year, because of the COVID-19, Muslims across the globe will experience a unique fasting experience as there will be no joint prayers in the mosques, no trips to Makkah to perform Umrah, no iftar dinners at friend’s place, no special Eid morning congregational prayer, but it will give us an opportunity to pray in isolation and to reflect on ourselves. Some Muslim societies are leveraging technology and are arranging sessions on Zoom or Skype. Remote working will also save our energy, time and cost spent on commuting.
I am really proud to be an Avanade employee, as it is inclusive and supportive workplace environment, which gave me the flexibility in my working hours so that I can observe fasting with ease. Being a member of Beyond – the UKI BAME Affinity Group – gave me the opportunity to share with my colleagues what Ramadan means to Muslims by showcasing the beauty in diversity and inclusion through our similarities, our differences, our faiths and culture. We also prepared a Ramadan guide and conducted a Lunch and Learn Session just before start of Ramadan to create awareness among the colleagues. It provided an educational element so employees and clients observing Ramadan can be best supported, thus fostering an inclusive workplace.
All in all, it is great annual opportunity to be cleared of our sins and be a better version of ourselves. Fasting teaches us empathy, self-control, patience, tolerance, acceptance and is immensely rewarding.