As we approach the end of the first week of Ramadan, I feel blessed to experience yet another of the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. This month is all about bettering yourself, fostering all that you’ve learnt and continuing as you mean to go on after it’s over. At a time when the world has undergone so much loss and heartache, being able to take the time to reflect, build a closer relationship with God and help those less fortunate feels like a great privilege.
Despite growing up in a country where Muslims are a minority, I’ve always felt the Ramadan spirit in the UK. My family and I would create an Iftar menu to make food preparation and cooking easier. We would sit down all together to eat my mum’s delicious tuwo da miyan kuka for Suhr, stocking up before we started fasting for the rest of the day. One year my mum even made plates of jollof rice for our neighbours to share a little bit of our culture with them. I also found peace and comfort in praying Taraweeh at my local mosque. As I grew up, I noticed more restaurants creating special Iftar menus and supermarkets offering Ramadan discounts on some food items, spreading the celebrations further afield.
However, with the second Ramadan in lockdown in the UK, I yearn for the days when the holy month was more of a community affair, where I could pray Taraweeh in the mosque and go out for Iftar. Despite the more isolated Ramadan, it has been an unforgettable experience with plenty of teachable moments. The resilience and determination of the Muslim community to fast through all the challenges the world faces right now is a symbol of the strength in our faith.
Last year’s Ramadan experience lessened the distractions from the outside world, making me more mindful of how I spend my time. The lessons I learnt have now influenced me to spend my time more purposefully. I’m trying to use the month wisely, balancing my studies alongside reading the Quran, watching religious lectures, praying, and trying to increase my Islamic knowledge.
Spending an increased amount of time at home due to lockdown restrictions has also increased my productivity and has me wondering how I ever observed Ramadan during pre-COVID times. It’s been a real eye-opener and made me more reflective and intentional with my actions. I’ve joined online talks and spiritual sessions, connecting with Muslims all around the world as we work to better ourselves during the holy month.
While I look forward to future Ramadans under no restrictions, I can’t deny the gratitude I feel for spending this month at home. While this past year has definitely been a challenge, it’s been refreshing fasting with my family. Usually, I would be commuting to work for over an hour, trying to create the same output of work as my non-fasting self, in an environment where no one knows the reality of what you’re experiencing. It can be tiring answering the same questions every year from colleagues and can be difficult getting adjustments to your working hours, but nonetheless, we pull through. Having spent the last several Ramadans away from home and juggling daily life in a world that doesn’t slow down for you, I’m grateful for the time spent at home. With the in-person community spirit missing once again, being surrounded by my loved ones makes up for it immensely.
I’d be lying if I said that fasting is always a breeze. Yes, on some days I may experience some nausea, be very thirsty and tired and lack a lot of energy, but ultimately there’s so much more to Ramadan than abstaining from food and drink. Ramadan teaches me a great deal about discipline. Not only am I forced to stay away from food and drink for 16-17 hours of the day, but I have to think extra hard about my actions, both good and bad. Maintaining this sort of discipline, both with food and drink and being careful in what you do is something that you should hope to apply to every aspect of your life and shouldn’t just end with the Eid celebrations.
We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as lockdown restrictions ease up, meaning we’ll be getting back to “normal” soon. Although I look forward to a sense of normalcy, I hope that some of the observations and experiences we’ve had from two Ramadans in lockdown continue beyond the future. Lessons have been learnt but they’re meaningless if we fail to upkeep this newfound wisdom.