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Aysha Hajat - What Ramadan means to me

As Ramadan approaches in the Islamic Calendar, Aysha Hajat, Specialist Project Worker, tells us about what Ramadan means to her.

Aysha Hajat poses for a photo with her family

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. As Islam uses a lunar calendar (based on the cycles of the moon) dates go back by ten to eleven days every year. Ramadan is observed to mark the time when Allah (God) gave the first chapters of the Quran (holy book) to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in 610AD.

Healthy adult muslims are expected to fast from dawn until dusk. Muslims have to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, sexual activity, unkind or impure thoughts and words and immoral behaviour. Fasting is an act of worship, a chance to get closer to God by regularly praying and reciting the Quran. Giving to charity is also encouraged in this month.

Ramadan to me then and now

I used to dread Ramadan in my teenage years when it became compulsory for me to fast. Growing up with a religious mother and a non-religious father I found it difficult to fast. No pressure was ever applied to me but the expectation was there from my mother.

I would wake up and attempt to have breakfast at 2am (sehri or suhur). I would then have lunch in high school. I would buy crisps and chocolate from the tuck shop and then proceed to eat them in my bedroom in the early evening. When the time came to ‘break fast’ (Iftaar) I would no longer be hungry. To this day my mother is still oblivious of this. Maybe this year l’ll finally confess!

Times have changed since then and now I look forward for Ramadan to start. For me personally Ramadan is so much more than refraining from food and drink; it is a spiritual and physical cleanse. One thing that I continually strive for each year is the need for self-improvement; to better myself and my relationship with Allah.

Imagine the mercy of having one month to withdraw from the pressures of everyday life and just focus on trying to be kinder, more charitable, more disciplined and more forgiving. 

Strengthening bonds

A couple of weeks before, I make a trip to Yorkshire to collect bags full of frozen savouries that my mother and her friends have prepared for me. I also make my special red pepper chutney to distribute amongst family, friends and neighbours. My daughter and I prepare a menu for the whole month as I am surrounded by fussy eaters.

A calm and peaceful atmosphere takes over the house and my adult children actually want to sit down, talk and have a meal with us every evening. I literally feel like we are The for the whole month. Prayer times are observed and the reading of the Quran is increased. Everyone in the house is on their best behaviour.

Ramadan is also a time to strengthen the bond between family, friends and neighbours. It is customary to invite people for Iftaar and to send food to neighbours of any faith or no faith.

Last Ramadan was a very different experience as we were in lockdown. We had no guests for Iftaar and there were no prayers in the mosque after. The daily food parcels to and from the neighbours stopped as there were fears of spreading the virus.

More about fasting

During the month of Ramadan we are supposed to carry on with our normal daily routine. If you work with anyone that observes Ramadan, please be rest assured that we don’t mind people eating and drinking in front of us.

I am very lucky that my line manager and service users have no objection to me changing my hours of work as I usually have an early start. I have a few muslim service users who observe the month of Ramadan but I also have a couple of non muslim residents who fast.  At the start of Ramadan I’ll print off the Ramadan timetable and distribute amongst my residents who have asked for one. Depending on the great British weather, my residents will have Iftaar together in the communal garden a few days a week.

The actual act of fasting can be quite challenging at the start of the month. My husband and children have no difficulty having a three course meal at 2am, me not so much. I find it difficult to eat at that time and then go to sleep again. My stomach does rumble as the day goes on but after a week or so my body is used to fasting and the rumbling stops. The added bonus is that I can typically lose a stone in weight in Ramadan but I usually put it straight back on.

My line manager and service users have no objection to me changing my hours of work.

Eid al-Fitr

When Ramadan ends we celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr. Sweet treats are baked and wrapped in the last few days of Ramadan to distribute amongst family, friends and neighbours. Presents are bought and card and money envelopes are written out.

In a ‘normal’ year I have twenty five people come to my home for lunch and up to a hundred people for afternoon tea. Last year it was just the four of us for lunch which my neighbour kindly provided. We had an extended family Zoom call in the afternoon. In the evening I returned the gesture and we had a bbq. I prepared and cooked everything and we passed food over the garden fence.

Eid al – Fitr is celebrated over three days and once the celebrations are over I often reflect on my self improvement and know that it’s the perfect time to cultivate habits that I can carry on.  

I focus on actions and behaviours that I hope to continue, for example, maintaining my five daily prayers, reading the Quran more regularly, giving more to charity and being more caring and helpful.  As with all New Year resolutions, some make it and some don’t!

This Ramadan is going to be challenging in terms of spending it on our own as a family again. I really hope for good weather so that we can have a few people outdoors. However, with what is going on in the world I am grateful to be witnessing another holy month.

Ramadan Mubarak to all.

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For more information about a career with Sanctuary Supported Living and the variety of roles we offer, see our careers page. To find out more about our services for young people, see our latest news or find a service near you. 

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