The kinship of a shared faith
The first time I fasted for the entire month of Ramadan was in 1995. It was February in London and the sun would set before 17:00. Fasting was incredibly easy – I had good friends who would keep me company at lunchtime and I’d be eating fairly soon after school ended. As soon as I got home I would be straight into the kitchen to help my Mum prepare a smorgasbord of delicious food. The closer it got to Iftar time, the more manic she would become, fretting to make sure that every dish was ready on time. This trait of my mother’s has remained the same all these years, and when I’m in the kitchen now in Doha, racing to cook against the setting sun, I remember my Mum every day and know she will be doing the same a few hours later on UK time.
The last time I fasted in London was in 2011, when the sun didn’t set until almost 21:00. Working full time, sometimes if I worked late I’d have to break my fast on the train home, and I wasn’t the only one. So many times I’d be on the Tube at Maghrib time, and notice other people glancing anxiously at their watches, counting down the seconds to when they could take a sip of water for the first time all day. There’s a strange kind of non-verbal communication that takes place with fellow Muslims through eye contact on the London Underground, checking with one another that it’s time to eat and nodding the confirmation to one another. On a few occasions I’ve been ill-prepared and had nothing to break my fast with, and somebody has offered me a date or piece of gum. In a crowded train carriage, you share a special moment with a stranger, feeling a strong kinship that comes from shared faith and experience. It makes you feel so grateful, humbled, warm and fuzzy to make that rare connection with another human being.
There’s a strange kind of non-verbal communication that takes place with fellow Muslims through eye contact on the London Underground, checking with one another that it’s time to eat and nodding the confirmation to one another.
As is always the case when Ramadan comes round, I’m filled with optimism and a new found vigour to be a better Muslim. During this holy month, we are promised greater reward for our good deeds and forgiveness for our sins. If I’m honest, I keep to my five daily prayers and recitation of the Quran much better in Ramadan than I do at any other time of year, because I find that fasting without praying leaves me spiritually empty. Performing Salah or reading the Quran whilst I’m fasting helps focus my energies towards Allah (SWT), reminds me why I am undertaking this act of devotion, remember those who are less fortunate than me, pray for my loved ones and those who have departed this world, and give thanks for all the blessings in my life, of which there are many.
I was told once that fasting isn’t just for your stomach – that you should fast with your mouth and refrain from foul language or talking about others; fast with your eyes and not look upon bad things; fast with your ears and not listen to negativity; and fast with your hands and refrain from doing any wrong. This is what I and Muslims all around the world will be aiming for this Ramadan, as a complete act of devotion. More than any time in the year, Ramadan makes me feel capable and inspired to improve myself and be a better person. It feels like an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and strive for something better, which is what I think makes it such a special time of year.
– By Habiba Radcliffe