Ramadan diary: day 12 – 14

I guess I’ve been having feelings that I didn’t want to share under my Ramadan blogs so I didn’t. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to instead.

This weekend I travelled to join some friends and strangers at an annual Iftar gathering. The atmosphere and the generosity of the family hosting was nothing short of beautiful. It was lovely catching up with like minded friends I had not seen in several months. And the food was banging! Inshallah if I have the capacity I hope I can host annual Iftar gatherings for friends and neighbours when I am living in my own house. Food really does bring people together and during Ramadan it is just like magic.

Some of my friends were driving back after fota (sehri/suhoor) and had a spare seat. I had a train booked for the next day but that would have meant I did not get home until 4 – less time to see mum. We stopped by at a local mosque to pray and I was pleasantly surprised to find not only did they have a women’s section (and a large one at that) but it was open for women for fajr. Even one of my local mosques which is one of the biggest in the country closes their women’s centre during fajr.

The drive back took several hours and was full of laughter and sharing stories. The sun was shining and the scenery was breath taking. At one point we did make a small stop to take it all in only to be attacked by little bugs. I did manage to capture this view though.

somewhere up north

By the time we got home it was just after 9 and I was shattered. I thought I would take a little nap and then wake up with everyone else. You see my mum was a little annoyed I had decided to go away for Iftar since I am working away anyway and we had a dawat (gathering) on Saturday. I know she could have used the help and I’m sure it wasn’t fun for her to explain I had decided to go out with friends to her friends and family. I was planning to make it up to her but next thing you know it was 5PM. Naturally she was annoyed I had wasted the whole day and was throwing me ample shade throughout the rest of the evening.

All is well now though. And I will remember to buy flowers of Friday inshallah just to quell any remaining remnants of anger.

I’m currently sitting in first class on my way up to the north. I hate sitting here and feel very conscious of my presence. As I walk in I know people are surprised I am even here. The man sitting next to me actually asked “this is your seat is it?” when I asked him if he could move his coat off of my seat. The man infront of me is taking up a significant portion of my leg room. I’m a small person so usually I’m ok to let people have a little more room. But he keeps moving his feet onto my mine every few minutes to the point I’m currently sitting crosslegged with one of my legs on the other side. The whole idea of “class” carriages annoy me. It’s not exactly about class anymore. I assume many of the people sitting here will be getting their tickets reimbursed. So it’s a better service – just call it that without gripping onto the horrible class segregation histories associated with the two carriages.

Damn I sound grumpy. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep.

Wishing everyone the best today – it’s the longest day of the year here so it only gets easier from here on out!

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Ramadan diary: day 8

Ramadan, naturally, is centred around food. The eating of it and the abstention of it. I remember when we were young iftar would be a feast. All types of fried food, several curries, several types of rice (pilau, plain, rice pudding), and of course mishti (bengali sweets). My mum would spend hours everyday, slaving away, preparing in the kitchen.

We have now changed our priorities. That much rich food, everyday, is not only unhealthy, wasteful and expensive, but simply unnecessary. Eating to bursting point and then struggling with prayer – what is the point!

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“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” – Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) (Tirmidhi)

Now we enjoy one main food, some light side dishes (preferably grilled rather than fried) and fruit too. We all help out before iftar so mum does not have to spend hours. In fact, some days my sister will take over completely. Mum has time to relax, and more importantly to her – to read her prayers and reflect on the day.

Each of us has our own task so that the whole thing happens quickly. My brother has his role too. He cuts the watermelon, takes the plates of food into the living room, and prepares the sheets that we sit in. Three simple tasks yet every little bit makes the job go quicker. In so many households it is the women who are expected to do everything while the men sleep waiting for the food. We must teach our sons to be better – to do better. For the sake of our daughters if not for their own sake.

Iftar is a special family moment, but there is no reason why the whole process cannot be so – from the preparation, to the minutes before when you’re hungrily eyeing up the food with date in hand, and to when we actually take the first sweet bite or gulp that first cold sip.

What we eat is something we rarely consider outside of eating halal (lawful). Yet the obligation of eating halal came with and good:

And eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And fear Allah , in whom you are believers. (The Holy Quran, 5:88)

For a few years now my family have been exploring the and good part of this command. It is interesting how often this part is completely ignored and our teachings focus on the halal. How is the produce treated? Where does it come from (it’s carbon footprint)? And what is actually in it? We try to eat organic fruits and foods. We have tried to reduce the amount of oils, chilly and salt we consume. Unfortunately organic meat is too expensive for us to afford, and of course I understand how eating healthy is a privilege in itself. We still consume too much meat and this is something we are working on.

What healthy tips do you have for Ramadan and otherwise?

Today I will be breaking my fast alone again. But alhamdulliah I do not have to prepare any food and will be ordering room service 😛

Ramadan diary: day 5

I’m home! Well not right now because I’m working from the local office but home in the wider sense and it feels glorious. My work – both occupational and voluntary – means I travel up and down the country quite a bit so being away from home is not new to me. But being away during Ramadan is a different ballgame entirely and I was feeling very homesick.

When I found out on Wednesday I could come back, I decided to surprise my family. Watching my mum’s face light up as I walked in was priceless. And that hug was pure comfort.

Iftar was everything it should be. Us sitting on the floor, chatting and laughing and reminding each other of our faith through little tidbits. Dates and watermelons. Mum reminding us to go and pray Magrib but us wanting to stay and chat a little longer. Then all sitting on the sofas, content, reminiscing about funny memories like mum falling flat on her bottom (unhurt) that year it snowed, planning the future and of course a little hating on the Tories.

The Prophet said, “When a Muslim spends something on his family intending to receive Allah’s reward it is regarded as Sadaqa for him.” (Bukari)

In terms of faith boost – I did nothing yesterday but my sister introduced me to daily videos posted on Nouman Ali Khan’s Facebook so I will spend my breaks at work catching up with those! I also realised perhaps with my memorising the reason I’m not moving forward is because I’m not setting myself SMART objectives (you know those ones they make you set at school!). So from now on I am aiming to revise 5 short surahs a day and learn 3 new lines a day. InshaAllah.

And to all you queens spending Ramadan alone this year – perhaps you’re estranged from your family, perhaps you have to travel, perhaps you were just never close to your family – I pray Allah fills your heart with content and patience. Ameen.

Calling Londoners: Free food and epic vibes 

If you’re around London in the evening I recommend you pop down to the Ramadan Tent in Malet Street (nearest train stations: Russel Sq, Euston or Euston Sq).

This is an awesome initiative that provides hot, fresh food and water to anyone who comes along so the community can break their fast together. Muslims and people of other faiths and none, and people from all walks of life (students, parents, the homeless) are welcome to share a meal and get to know each other. And the best thing – it’s completely free!

I’ve been a few times this year and each time I’ve been blown away by the warm atmosphere and loving feels. Families bring along children and the whole tent is just buzzing. I’ve been able to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while and make new ones. So you can come along alone or with people – either way you’re bound to have a great time.

And the food is scrummy too! So far we’ve been treated with rice and chicken curry, mince pasta and lahmacun (Turkish pizza). Vegetarian options are provided and there’s dessert!

So heartwarming to see initiatives like this blooming at times where we’re told to fear and hate each other.

Eat together and not separately, for the blessing is associated with the company. – Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)

Check out their website for more details. The London tent opens from 8.45 – 10 PM on Monday – Saturday. Most cities have similar initiatives so try finding yours. There is a place to pray in congregation for Magrib and on Saturday they also pray Taraweeh together. The project will continue throughout Ramadan.