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Insights Facts on fasting as Ramadan begins

image of Ikram smiling

Ikram Hamud | Assistant Civil Engineer

The early evening of 6 May marked the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the month of fasting for Muslims. This religious festival, which is observed by millions around the world, is underpinned by five pillars: Fasting, confession of faith, five daily prayers, Zakat (charity) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). It can be a challenging period for those who observe, making support from colleagues, friends and family that much more meaningful and important.

In this article, Ikram Hamud, Assistant Civil Engineer and member of our BAME Network, shares some insight into the purpose of the fast, one of the more commonly known aspects of this annual celebration, to help raise some awareness about the motivations behind it:

Every year, people ask how Muslims cope throughout Ramadan. We fast from early dawn to sunset every day throughout the month, which ends up being around 17 hours every day. The fast requires Muslims to abstain from food, drink, marital relations and ill-conduct. It’s recognised for its health, spiritual and psychological benefits, and is considered a means to improve our moral character and an opportunity for a spiritual renewal.

Fasting also intrigues people of all faith and backgrounds. I frequently get asked questions like: “are you thirsty?”, “are you hungry?”, “do you regret fasting?” and the one I find the most amusing, “how come you haven't died of starvation?”

Fasting is a mental challenge and I’ve found it's also been very important to have an understanding line manager who has allowed me to arrange more
flexible working hours, adjusting my workload to start
and finish later during Ramadan.

I think it would be absolutely amazing to host a challenge with colleagues who want to try and fast for the first time.  Fasting is a mental challenge and I think that many people would find that it’s more do-able than they think!  What better way to build inclusivity than by experiencing something different with your colleagues?

Are you interested in joining in? The rules are simple:

  1. The fast begins when the sun rises at 03:41; no more eating or drinking after this time
  2. You cannot swear or offend anyone; just promote love, peace and cohesion
  3. No smoking
  4. No cheeky drinks and nibbles when no one is looking!
  5. The sun sets at 20:34 at which point, we break the fast together.

Safety warning:

  1. If you have any health conditions, you cannot fast
  2. If you feel weak, then break your fast
  3. If it’s too hard, then do an intermediate fast, which involves periods of alternating between fasting and eating.

If you can’t fast from food or drink, there are other ways you can join your colleagues in observing Ramadan in your own way. For example:

  • Forgiving people
  • Quitting a bad habit
  • Spending more time with family
  • Smiling more often
  • Speaking to a colleague that you’ve never spoken to before
  • Visiting your local mosque to join Iftar.

What some people may not realise is that Ramadan is also a month to increase charitable giving as well as being a festive month.  Muslims gather every night for Iftar, the breaking of the fast, which is celebrated differently around the world (see below) and sometimes involves charities giving back to those who cannot afford to break their fast.

Personally, Ramadan allows me to refocus on all the areas of my life. It makes me think about what is important (family, friends, relationships) and how I adjust my time accordingly. This means refining my ‘To Be’ list and not letting the ‘To Do’ list get the better of me. 

I would like to give thanks to all the line managers and colleagues that are trying to understand Ramadan better to support our Muslim community. I would also like to hear what Ramadan means to you. This is my perspective, and everyone has their own opinion. Ramadan Mubarak; have a blissful month!

For those wondering what a month of fasting feels like, here’s a window into a typical Ramadan for me:

Week 1: Ready, set... go!

The first fast, with a busy day at work. Headaches turn into migraines. The first day’s always the hardest. My routine is usually waking at 3am, closing my fast around 4am, sleep, get up, go to work, come home, open fast at around 9pm and then evening prayers. I usually go to a mosque next to my house but love to try and visit the beautiful mosques around London.

Week 2: First full week of fasting

By this point, I’ve pretty much adjusted to fasting. I usually attend a lot of iftars with my friends and family. Given the timings of prayer, this month also makes me really appreciate the welfare room facilities in our office which support ablution (ceremonial washing) and prayer.

Week 3: Out and about…

I’m usually particularly tired at this point. The month can be hardest, too, for those away from home. For me, I like to squeeze in an iftar with a friend who is also away from their family.

Week 4: Sharing in the community spirit

I usually attend a short ‘journey through the Quran’ class and make my first visit to the Ramadan Tent Project, a fantastic initiative that brings together people from all walks of life, both friends and strangers.

Week 5: Savouring the last few days

And finally, I like a bit of solitude. Last, but by no means least, I check my Zakat, which requires each Muslim to give 2.5% of their wealth to charity. Many Muslims also choose to spend the last ten nights of Ramadan immersed in all night worship, known as ‘Itikaf’.