Inside my Modern Ramadan by Shanur Syed - Performance Analyst, Swinton
My routine for 11 months of the year typically looks the same. I hop on a 20-minute train journey to work, and head to Caffè Nero to get my morning caffeine fix before arriving at the office. Around noon, after working on projects and making sure my day is scheduled, Deliveroo is usually my go-to for lunch.
That routine changes for one month each year. You won’t find me with a coffee in my hand or scrolling through food apps, as I, like many other Muslims around the world, fast in observance of Ramadan. Fasting (sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam which form the basis of how Muslims live their lives. This period of fasting allows me to come closer to God and rejuvenate my faith.
Ramadan is the ninth and most important month in the Islamic calendar, and begins once the crescent moon has been sighted. The revelation of the Quran – the holy book of Islam – took place in this month. This year, Ramadan began on the evening of Saturday 2 April, and it’s a time for spiritual reflection, self-discipline, charity (Zakat) and community for myself and 1.8 billion other human beings across ethnic, racial and geographical lines.
Throughout Ramadan, which lasts nearly 30 days each year, many Muslims abstain from eating or drinking anything (even water) from sunrise to sunset. During this time, my typical day starts around 4.00am. My family and I wake up and eat a light pre-dawn meal, also known as ‘suhoor’. This usually consists of overnight oatmeal, or avocado, eggs and toast. For some Muslims, food is not the only abstinence, as many give up other worldly distractions, like binge-watching a great series on Netflix or listening to a favourite playlist, instead focussing on prayer and listening to recitations of the Quran.
My meetings and projects keep me busy throughout the day, but I make sure to grab 15 minutes to head to our on-site Embankment prayer room to perform one of the five daily prayers, where I can really focus on the themes of Ramadan.
At about 8.00pm, it’s ‘iftar'. We break our fast with dates and a light meal – usually chana masala (chickpea curry) and a fruit salad.
During the month, my manager and colleagues at Atlanta are observant and respectful of fasting, and the atmosphere is supportive. Some colleagues feel conscious about eating in front of people fasting, but this is a misperception - they don’t need to feel awkward! During Ramadan, I’m actually more introspective and less likely to be tempted by food and drink. I also encourage colleagues to ask questions about fasting and Ramadan, as I enjoy teaching about my culture. I'm always happy to clear-up any misconceptions or help with anything they may be curious about.
When Ramadan ends – on Sunday 1 May at the sighting of the next crescent moon - the following day is Eid-ul-Fitr (celebration of breaking of the fast) and we always celebrate well! The day begins with morning prayers, and we’ll gather with friends and family, greeting each other with “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid). Children are spoilt with gifts and money from adults, and we eat traditional food such as biryani, samosas and seviyan (vermicelli pudding).
Ramadan is about more than just fasting. I try to stay mindful of my character, and although I am generally a calm person, I set out to practice even more patience during these weeks. I look forward to embracing Ramadan and overhauling my body and mind. Despite the difficulty of keeping my stomach grumbles at bay in quiet meetings, it is a rewarding month and a challenge I look forward to every year.