How We Are All Celebrating Ramadan Differently This Year

My name is Sabad Khaire and I’m an intern at You Press. Nearing the end of Ramadan with lockdown measures still in effect this year, every Muslim is observing the holy month in different ways around the world. I personally have a different experience here in London compared to some others. As someone who suffers with chronic kidney failure, a long-term illness where I have to take medication for the rest of my life, I do not fast. Those who are sick, pregnant or of old age are exempt from fasting. One of the ways we celebrate is by doing Fidyah, which is the name for the obligatory charitable contribution when you cannot fast in the required times or make up for your fasts on later dates.

My sister, who shares the same condition, also celebrates Ramadan by cooking with me when we’re having a good day. We support each other by cooking our family’s favourite food and coming up with great new dishes for them to try. We believe that giving a helping hand after a long day of fasting and working is our contribution to Ramadan, with the reward of seeing smiling faces at the end of the day. Celebrating Ramadan is a way of being spiritually aware and treating yourself (and others) better.

I got the chance to interview Shahid Waseem from British Land to discuss his views, thoughts and experiences about the month of Ramadan.

Do you feel like Ramadan changes you?

“I think it does change people. I believe it depends on the individual; some people can go very quiet and I certainly becoming more focused. I do find that a lot of change has happened to my personality during Ramadan.”

Do you feel like you refrain from bad habits that you wouldn’t think of as bad when it’s not Ramadan?

“Yes, you try. Like I wouldn’t be having too much coffee in a day and I’m trying not to use bad language. I’m trying to make a conscious effort. “

Apart from fasting, what is the most challenging part about Ramadan?

“Because of the long days and very short nights as we have to fast for 18 hours, I think sleep could be another issue. If your job is demanding and you have to wake up in the early morning, you don’t get enough sleep.”

Do you feel like the community aspect of Ramadan is important?

“It is but it’s currently quite difficult with COVID. However, being involved with the community is definitely good; going to Friday prayers, there’s a spirit in the air bringing a lot of positive vibes. As a community we make an effort in practicing good deeds, focusing on charity, working at the soup kitchen because collectively you want to be better.”

How are you spending this month of Ramadan with the effects of COVID?

“It has been very different these last couple of years with the mosque being very limited with spaces. Even on Friday prayers you get sent back sometimes, it certainly makes me feel very incomplete and I do miss the sense of normality.”

What’s your favourite part of breaking fast?

“You know, it’s the little things. It’s just looking at the food and gaining happiness, having your favourite food or drink and feeling like ‘ahh I can eat now!’. It’s a blessing. Like the difference is normally we would be opening the fridge ten times a day and having the food in front of you. When that’s taken away, that’s how you humble yourself. I normally don’t go without a drink of coffee and if I don’t have much lunch, I would have probably felt like screaming. But now that I’m fasting, I can work through it and I’m focused for the rest of the day.”

Are there any barriers that stop you from fasting? If so, are there any other things that you do to still celebrating Ramadan?

“There are no barriers for me because religion is important to me and it’s close to my heart. I make no excuse and I still go to work because I want to earn halal. But what I do to celebrate is have my family all together to break fast as we have a family unit which normally don’t eat together.”

What Ramadan traditions do you have as a family?  

We make a lot of fried food like samosas or pakoras because this is the time you want to eat all of that delicious food. Other than that, for my family, it’s mostly fasting.”

What keeps you motivated during this month?

“It is the fact that we are fasting because it is compulsory. It is written in the Qur’an that fasting is upon you, it is a pillar of Islam and it keeps me motivated. But some people do also say that there are health benefits. It makes you more peaceful at heart. Even if you pray five times a day it makes you spiritually cleaner; that hunger gives me purpose.”

What is one advice you’d give to your younger self about Ramadan?

“Don’t eat too much fast food, maybe take Ramadan more seriously and learn more. When you’re a young Muslim, you can learn about Islam and Ramadan because knowledge is power. We focus on learning a lot of other things but if I could go back, I would learn my obligation within Islam and about the Qur’an. We can recite the Qur’an but not properly understand the meaning behind it. I would go back and learn the meaning of the Arabic words that we use during our prayers.

Written by Sabad Khaire