My First Fast

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by Riyya Ahmad, Aldershot

A Nasirat (girls group) member tells of her Ramadhan experience

This month is Ramadhan, the month of fasting for all Muslims world-wide, and in this blessed month I have kept, by the grace of Allah, my very first fast. This is how it went ….

I woke up at around three o clock in the morning to start my fast. The roads were silent and not a light to be seen apart from the glossy shine of the stars and moon. I ate and drank as much as I could and was able to. Then I prayed to God that He give me the stamina to uphold my long fast.

After I finished my Fajr Prayer I went back to bed with a feeling I had never felt before. I felt determined but I also felt a strange sort of excitement. I felt as if I couldn’t sleep.

During the day I tried to read as much Quran as I could and read all of my Prayers. But I also remembered those who were continuously fasting. Those who had no food in their homes or stomachs. Those who were less fortunate than me. I could finally sort of relate to the pain they felt.

Through the day I of course felt hungry, but whenever I thought of Allah and prayed, the hunger from my stomach would vanish and instead I felt quite full.

Then came the time to open my fast. I read my prayers and thanked Allah for enabling me to keep my very first fast. For me this was a milestone in my life, keeping an 18 hour fast. I pray in the future I will be able to keep many more fasts.

Ameen

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The Attainment of Spiritual Heights

My Ramadhan

Dr Munazzah Chou, Hitchin, UK

Ramadan is a time I look forward to; a time of heightened collective and personal spiritual endeavour. Other more worldly or mundane commitments fade into the background and spiritual activity is brought into focus. More time for Quranic recitation is carved out, more time is spent in superogatory prayers and the entire day, more than ever, revolves around fulfilling religious obligations.

Ramadan reminds me of exam revision; intensive study for hours you would never imagine possible (at least at the beginning of term) and then once it’s all over, you look back with satisfaction in the knowledge that you managed to push yourself to a level which you never knew you could.

Part of the beauty of Islam in my eyes is the flexibility it allows for and the emphasis on intentions. While fasting during Ramadan may be obligatory in principle, there are those who may have the intention to fast but are unable to due to personal circumstances. The surgeon or pilot who cannot function optimally if fasting would legitimately choose to fast on non-theatre or non-flying days and make up the deficit. Islam allows for this as the spirit and philosophy of fasting is the attainment of spiritual heights, not at the expense of others and not just bullishly charging towards a goal of questionable personal relevance or blindingly following the masses.

Once Ramadan is over you are left with a feeling that something is missing and the feeling that if you could possibly maintain that level of commitment and endeavour you could achieve so much.

More often than not however, that level of intensity falls precipitously. But as my father says, progress is step wise, you will rise and fall, which is ok as long you don’t fall back to below the stage you were at before.

Nutrition During Ramadhan

breakfast

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

As Ramadhan progresses those fasting will have got into a routine to pass the day from before dawn to night. Proper nutrition is essential to ensure there are no negative effects brought on by fasting, especially in these long days with eighteen hour fasts.

The fast is opened at sunset and this is called iftar; many people will be familiar with this as it is traditional to gather with friends and family to break the fast. For this reason Muslims will often invite their non-Muslim friends to join with them.

Following the tradition of the Holy Prophet of Islam (on whom be peace) dates are eaten to actually break the fast; these can be fresh, semi dried or dried and are in fact a really good way of providing an instant energy boost at the end of a fast. Along with water this is enough to sustain people who are fasting for a short while longer to enable them to perform the evening Maghrib Prayer.

The food eaten after this can be whatever people feel like eating but it is healthier not too eat too heavily as there is little time to digest before sleeping and the pre-dawn breakfast is only a few hours away.

“… eat and drink but exceed not the bounds; surely, He does not love those who exceed the bounds.”
Holy Qur’an 7:32

Plenty of fluids should be drunk to compensate for the whole day and it is also a chance to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables which might otherwise be lacking during the month. Also while deep fried food may seem extremely tempting it is best kept to a minimum so you don’t cancel the health benefits you have gained from fasting.

Sahoor, the pre-dawn breakfast, is the most important meal for Muslims during Ramadhan and even those not fasting are encouraged to join in. It is a good way for children to get a feel of Ramadhan despite being too young to fast.

The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) said:

“The difference between our observance of the fast and that of the People of the Book is the eating of breakfast”
And
“Take breakfast before the fast begins. There is blessing in breakfast”

Gardens of the Righteous

It is important that this meal should be nutritious enough to sustain people through the long, often hot days of fasting. Again plenty of fluids should be taken to avoid dehydration; water, milk and yoghurt based drinks are good for this. A small amount of fruit juice provides vitamins but fizzy and sugary drinks may work for a while but can dehydrate and once the ‘sugar rush’ has finished can cause tiredness. While it may be difficult to avoid completely, tea and coffee should be kept to a minimum as they stimulate quicker water loss.

The food eaten at this time ideally should contain slow release carbohydrates – porridge and bananas or berries are excellent sources and eating wholemeal breads are better than refined white. Lentils, rice and sweet potatoes are nutritious as well as filling and eating a few nuts and dates adds to the slow release energy intake.

During Ramadhan alongside spiritual regeneration there is a great opportunity to learn self-discipline and make healthy changes to the diet which should be continued throughout the year. So switch from deep fried to baked food, white to wholemeal flour and resist the temptation to snack unnecessarily throughout the day. After all if you can do it during Ramadhan, you can do it afterwards too.

I Think Fasting Is A Good Idea

My Ramadhan

Riyya Ahmad, age 12, Aldershot, UK

It’s finally here, the month of fasting for Muslims worldwide. Ramadan is the month where we remember the people who are less fortunate than us. Most of all it’s the time to remember Allah. As a young Muslim school girl I do not have to keep a full fast.

The feeling of waking up at 2:30 am makes your blood rush. The streets are silent and not a light is lit. I offer 2 Nawafil, voluntary prayer, and come down to have my sehri, the pre-dawn breakfast. We usually have boiled eggs and tea for sehri as it gives us protein. Then we all perform Fajr Prayer at dawn as a family.

This is followed by us sleeping for the rest of the morning and not waking up until 7am. Then I get ready for school, I put my headscarf on and get ready for the day. At about 2pm I tend to break my fast as I am young and then perform Zuhr Prayer.

After keeping a fast you feel proud that in those special hours you remembered Allah and that you have His blessings. Some adults do not feel too hungry but those who feel the hunger can understand the exact feeling the less fortunate do.

It has been scientifically proven that fasting helps your immune system immensely. As a young school girl I only do mini fasts at the weekends as I find it hard at school.

I think fasting is good idea; do you?

Ramadhan: What Does It Actually Involve?

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

The phrase “Ramadhan Mubarak” and good wishes for a blessed Ramadhan are quite commonplace now and heard from Muslims and non-Muslims. Gone are the days when those in the West may not have realised that Ramadhan was taking place and these days politicians, sports teams and celebrities will all send messages of support to their Muslim friends. However despite the knowledge of Ramadhan and fasting there still exist misconceptions and many people may wonder what it is and just what is actually involved

In the Holy Qur’an it is written:

“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.”
Chapter 2, verse 184

Thus Muslims fast because it has been commanded by God as a means of self-purification. Fasting also gives a sense, for a short time, of what it must be like for those underprivileged people who don’t have enough food. On breaking the fast Muslims should eat in moderation; Ramadhan should not be a series of daily feasts which would somewhat defeat the purpose. Incidentally in recent years the health benefits of a fasting diet have been widely discussed and the 5:2 diet, with two days of fasting a week has been widely promoted. This follows the practice of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be on him) who often used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays when it was not Ramadhan.

Fasting is not particularly an Islamic injunction as all the major religions have or have had aspects of fasting involved, for example Lent. For a Muslim fasting means abstaining from all food and drink from dawn – about one and a half hours before sunrise – until sunset.

The word Ramadhan refers to the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar and this is also the month in which the revelation of the Holy Qur’an began making it an even more special month for Muslims. The lunar month begins at the sighting of the new moon which may be easy in places with clear skies but not so easy here in the UK. Some may wait and attempt to actually catch sight of the moon and some coordinate their Ramadhan with other countries, for example Saudi Arabia which is home to Mecca. The method, used by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is to use data provided by a national Observatory who calculate when the earliest sighting of the moon is possible with the naked eye.

As the lunar calendar is shorter than the Gregorian one, every year Ramadhan takes place about eleven days earlier than the previous one. This means that over a number of years Ramadhan is experienced in all times of the year, during winter as well as summer; currently in the UK we are experiencing fasting at the height of summer and each fast lasts for around 18 plus hours.

While fasting is obligatory for Muslims there are exceptions, as the Holy Qur’an states:

“… whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you…”
Chapter 2, verse 186

So those that are ill or on a journey and menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding women are not required to fast and instead may make up their missed fasts afterwards when they are able to. A special monetary contribution, called “Fidya” is made by those unable to fast which is the equivalent of feeding a person two meals a day for the duration of Ramadhan.

There are often cases of children as young as primary age fasting, even during summer fasts and non-Muslims have commented on the fact. However fasting is obligatory for healthy adults so children should not fast because it can interfere with their health. During winter fasts a healthy child may try out a fast to give them a taste of how it feels as long as they do not suffer in any way.

Children and those adults not fasting are able to fully participate in Ramadhan in other ways. They can pray and recite the Holy Qur’an more than they usually would and read the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be on him). Waking up for voluntary prayer in the night, eating with those who are keeping a fast and breaking the fast with them gives the feeling of being part of Ramadhan. Increasing charitable contributions and helping those in need is also a way of participating as one way to please God is to serve humanity.

Ultimately the month of Ramadhan brings one closer to God and serves to renew the faith of Muslims who can resolve to change some aspect of themselves for the better and continue that change after Ramadhan ends. That is why Muslims wish each other “Ramadhan Mubarak” – a happy, blessed Ramadhan.