Miqdad, an Economics student and the Islamic Society President, talks us through his faith and the significance of fasting at this time…
Ramadan is a full month of fasting, sunrise to sunset, which occurs once a year. You can’t eat or drink in that time. The purpose of fasting is to reconnect and develop a spiritual relationship with God and to attain God-consciousness; to be aware of Him and His instructions and commands. Eating and drinking are fundamental bodily instincts, so to give something necessary up for God shows faith. Many people across the world don’t have food, so fasting shows gratitude for what we have.
When the sun goes down we break fast in a meal called iftar, and it’s an intimate moment shared with family. Each culture has different iftar foods – my culture is Bangladeshi, so we traditionally eat biryani, chicken curry, pilaf, samosa and pakora – but all Muslims break their fast with dates, water and maybe some milk. We eat a wide range of foods for iftar over the course of the month, from Chinese food to typically English things like shepherd’s pie and even some junk food and takeaways! But we always start with dates. They have religious significance because the Prophet Mohammed (BPUH) broke his own fast with dates.
Last year because of the pandemic, iftar was being eaten at home, but in normal years anyone can go and have free iftar in the mosque, with food provided by businesses and families in the community. Afterwards there’s a night prayer in the mosque which lasts a couple of hours. In 2020 Ramadan was a complete lifestyle change, so the experience was difficult but it did allow bonding with households and immediate family. This year, mosques are open again, and it’s a wonderful experience of shared faith - we’re able to go out and see each other.
After that we sleep, rise for prayer and maybe have suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, but this isn’t mandatory. We don’t have to eat or drink anything, and if we like can just pray and then sleep through until the next day. Sometimes when the days are long, you can wake before dawn, break your fast, pray and then sleep again till it’s time for work or uni. If you’re ill during Ramadan, you are allowed to eat and drink as necessary. Islam is not overbearing, so you can make up any time you must miss because of illness over the course of the next year, provided you complete the fast days before the beginning of the next Ramadan. But you can also choose to give money to charity instead.
Ultimately Ramadan is a month of change, so it’s a good time for us to set self-development targets for ourselves. These don’t have to be religious, though often they are – to pray a certain amount throughout the month, for instance. Some Muslims also use it as a way to improve their diet and general health. Some of my targets are to recite the Qu’ran and to read it in translation. I’m also having a digital detox from Instagram and Twitter! I’m not setting too many targets for myself, though, because exams are coming up, I need to study and prepare and I don’t want to be overwhelmed.
At the end of Ramadan is Eid. At the beginning of the new month, we celebrate by doing what we were not allowed to do during Ramadan. It’s a time of community, family and giving gifts. Last year we had to send them by post, but this time we’ll be able to come together more. Everyone enjoys themselves, congratulates one another for completing Ramadan and looks forward to the new year!