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My Experience of Ramadan by Samea Mahboob

Samea and her family in Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage

Dementia Support Worker Samea shares her experiences and thoughts about the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan started on Sunday 2nd April, and I have been fasting since then. During Ramadan, I have an early start every day, waking up at 2am to prepare for my fast (Sahoor) and to get ready for my Morning prayers which ends around 5am. Then I take my son to school.

The first week of fasting is always a little harder as the body and brain is adopting to massive changes. I have been feeling either very cold or having hot flushes, I also get very hungry at lunch time and very thirsty and sleepy after 4pm. When I end my fast, I usually get severe headaches due to dehydration and caffeine withdrawal.

Even though it is very difficult, Ramadan has benefits for my physical health in terms having a detox and improving my stamina to refrain from eating and drinking. People who need to lose weight can use this opportunity to make the most of it.

It’s important to understand that Ramadan is not just about stop eating and drinking it is also about behavioural changes, as it is not allowed to swear, curse, or get angry during Ramadan.

My fast ends when the sun goes down around 8:25pm, the day is becoming two minutes longer every day and the last fast will end 8:45pm. I break it with three dates and a glass of coconut water, I give myself a few minutes before I eat food. After ending my fast, I do a small prayer with family before Taraweeh special prayer starts at 10pm. On the 20th Ramadan, Taraweeh special prayer will start at 10:30pm and end around 12:30am which means not much sleep at all.

Ramadan brings my family together – we are all praying together in one line at the same time, standing together in front of God, breaking our fasts without any TV on in the background or distractions from other gadgets. Breaking fast time is the most serene, relaxed, humbled moment when we appreciate the food in front of us. It helps us to realise how people are in need and are not as fortunate as ourselves.

This realisation turns into actions, and we give to charity every single day as a family. Ramadan unites communities, on the weekends, we cook food and deliver to homeless people in our local town. Every Muslim who has savings in property or cash must give to charity. There is a specific rule which means if someone has had a thousand pounds in savings then they will need to give 2.5% of that amount to charity in Ramadan before they celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr.

“Ramadan is a time for reflection and I feel that it is the most important part of my life.”

I will be celebrating Eid-ul Fitr or Eid-al-Fitr at home with my family. On the 29th Ramadan everyone will be eager to know whether it is Eid tomorrow or whether they will they be fasting for another day. Eid will start with Moon sighting which is only possible once the sun has set. The sun is setting after 8:45pm during this season and it will be very late for us to prepare because it is tricky to sight the moon in UK weather.

Therefore, Muslim leaders reach out to the nearest Muslim countries for sighting the moon. We have two groups in UK, one is Ahle Hadis who follow Saudi Arabia and they exactly know when Eid is. There is another group which I belong to is called Ahle Sunnat, which will try to sight the moon all over the UK and if no one has witnessed the moon in UK then they would reach out to Morocco and Cape Town in South Africa. If the moon is sighted in one of these countries, then we will be celebrating Eid the next day or completing the 30 days of Ramadan.

On Chaand Raat (like Christmas Eve), we start buying Halal meat, food to get the Eid feast ready. Myself and my mum will get all the desserts ready a night before and all the young ones in the family would get takeout or go to Asian shopping centres to do last minute Eid shopping and the girls all get Henna painted on their hands.

On Eid Day, everyone wakes up early and read Eid prayers, men start the day by eating dates then they go to the mosque. Giving to charity starts off the celebration of Eid, when they return from the mosque, they choose an alternative route back. This is a tradition, so that they meet as many different people as possible. In this country, men visit all their relative straight after mosque and give Eid money to the children.

Once my brothers come back from mosque, the food is ready, and we will all get dressed in our Eid special clothes, read prayers and eat together. We might not be able to eat much because of fasting we won’t be used to having food during the day. We all give each other Eid money and then some family friends/relatives will come over to our house as my mum is the eldest in the family. This is also a tradition all the families get together at the eldest persons house for meal and do whatever they have planned.

As I am a single parent, I will have to arrange the Eid so that my son gets to spend time with his dad too. I will be driving to pick my son up from his dad’s house straight after Eid prayer so I can have the half a day of Eid with him.

Ramadan is a time for reflection and I feel that it is the most important part of my life. It helps me to realise and appreciate how blessed and fortunate I am to have food, water, a house to live in and most importantly, reminds me that I am human.

If anyone would like to experience the (Iftar) breaking fast together, then please let me know and I can arrange something or contact me if you have any questions about Ramadan: samea.mahboob@commlinks.co.uk

Samea Mahboob, Dementia Support Coordinator, Kirklees Dementia Hub