Let's talk about the Holy Month of Ramadan and the Festival of Eid
By Sannah Tariq and Zaryawb Hussain
12 May 2021
Recently, our day-to-day routine has been a bit different and we wanted to give you an insight into the reason behind it: celebrating Ramadan.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic calendar and it is obligatory for Muslim adults to fast during this month. Muslims all around the world have been fasting since 13/14 April 2021 during which they abstain from food and water from dawn till sunset.
What is the routine like?
Before starting our fasts each day, we eat a pre-dawn meal called suhoor. This year the timing involved waking up at around 3/3:30am to eat before sunrise. Some of us choose not to sleep before this meal as it can be difficult to wake up and eat a filling meal straight away. This obviously means less sleep than usual but flexible working and lack of commute has been a positive during Ramadan. Many of us also try to fit in some spiritual practices including but not limited to our compulsory prayers, additional prayers, Quran recitals and strengthening our Islamic knowledge. In the evening, after sunset, families usually gather and Muslims break their fast with iftar, a meal which usually starts with dates, water and fruits, followed by dinner.
Working for Max Fordham during Ramadan
Max Fordham LLP has been very supportive and understanding in allowing us to be more flexible with our hours which means we can get more sleep in during the working week. This has meant there is an option of starting and finishing work later than usual so instead of 9am-6pm, we have been working from 10am-7pm. In addition, the practice has not been rigid in its approach which is an advantage and we have been able to shorten or skip lunch to finish earlier on some days, take a midday break to rest or even start and finish early depending on preference. In terms of workload, we typically find staying busy is helpful as it makes the day pass quicker. Colleagues at Max Fordham LLP are very mindful that we may experience peaks and troughs in energy levels and are happy to assist with work if it gets too much We can take a day or so off for Eid as part of our annual leave which means we can celebrate the Eid festival with our friends and family.
Why do Muslims actually fast?
Fasting during Ramadan is not intended to be a punishment but instead has significant spiritual benefits. It allows Muslims to completely devote themselves to their faith and practice spiritual discipline. It assists us to reflect on the luxuries we have, which others around the world are deprived of, such as easy access to food, clean water and shelter. We find that we are much more aware of our blessings when we are fasting and experience an increased sense of gratitude and patience. Physical discipline of fasting helps us to be more mindful and drives us to be aware of our actions. The Prophet Muhammad saw taught us that God has no use for those who refrain from food but not from false speech, using foul language, lying and gossip.
Ramadan also strengthens the feeling of togetherness amongst Muslims, not just amongst families, but across the globe as approximately 1.9 billion Muslims observe fasts worldwide. This sense of unity is important in the current environment where due to COVID many people are observing Ramadan away from families.
Wider benefits of Ramadan
For those who do fast and eat proper suhoor and iftar meals there are many physical benefits. Experts have found that fasting can prevent health issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity. It also removes toxins from the body as the digestive system can rest and experience a detox. Research has shown not only does your appetite gradually shrink during Ramadan, making it an ideal stepping stone to a healthier lifestyle but nutrients are also absorbed more readily in your body, improving your body function and health. Fasting improves brain function and reduces the amount of the hormone cortisol being produced which means that stress levels are greatly reduced both during and after Ramadan. Thus, improving mental wellbeing. Many individuals with family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, regardless of their faith partake in fasting throughout the year to reduce these risks.
This month is also a perfect opportunity to ditch unhealthy habits or cravings, i.e. sugary foods, fizzy drinks and smoking which would improve general health. Indeed, the act of fasting or intermittent fasting (a widely encouraged weight loss practice) also promotes restraint, self-control and discipline which are excellent practical qualities beneficial in work and personal life.
In the UK, the days are particularly long in summertime. It means that Muslims in the UK are currently having to fast for almost 17 hours. Although it might seem extreme, Muslims are often very equipped with managing their day and coping with fasting as soon as they start to approach adulthood. Having said that as the Islamic calendar is based on lunar phases, therefore, every year the month of Ramadan moves forward by approximately 10 days in the Gregorian calendar so after a few years, Muslims will start fasting in the winter when the days are shorter. Geographical position is another factor to consider. Generally, the closer you are to the equator, the shorter the days are hence in the Middle East and South Asian countries, fasts are usually 14-15 hours. Indeed, the downside is that the climate is hotter there as compared to the UK so often people feel thirstier.
- Do all Muslims have to fast?
There are certain conditions which exempt Muslims from fasting like illness, travelling, menstruation, breast feeding and pregnancy.
- What happens if you forget you are fasting and eat or drink?
If you eat or drink by mistake then your fast is not invalidated. This is often viewed as a blessing from Allah swt and only intentional eating or drinking would break the fast.
- “Not even water?”
Muslims are required to fast completely and so you are not allowed to eat or drink anything from dawn to sunset.
Celebrating the month with Eid
Ramadan is concluded with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr which is spent with family and friends with a big feast. Usually Eid prayers are performed during the first day, sweet dishes are often served when friends and family visit each other, and gifts are exchanged. Last year due to COVID, this event has been low key but with the easing of restrictions, this Eid is something Muslims are eagerly looking forward to. There is often a difference of opinion regarding when Ramadan and Eid start as it is based on moon sighting. Some UK Muslims follow the sighting of the moon in the nearest Muslim country or Saudi Arabia whereas other Muslims follow local moon sighting. However, as UK weather is often cloudy it is hard to accurately see the moon with the naked eye, therefore you might notice that there are often two dates upon which Muslims in the UK celebrate. This is a unique situation in the West and hopefully a few years down the line there might be consensus of which day it should be, based on data collected in the UK or based on a central UK Islamic authority making a unanimous decision.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish all those celebrating Eid Mubarak on behalf of Max Fordham!
- swt – this stands for subhanau wa ta’ala in Arabic, which means ‘the most glorified, the most high’ when referring to God as a sign of respect
- saw – this stands for sallallahu alaihi wasallam in Arabic which means ‘may blessings and peace be upon him’ when referring to the Prophet Muhammad as a sign of respect
- Eid-ul-Fitr – the celebration which concludes the month of Ramadan. This is different to Eid-ul-Adha which is a few months after, which marks the conclusion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as it known as the Festival of Sacrifice
- suhoor and iftar – pre-dawn meal and sunset meal respectively