My first Ramadan: Week 1 🇬🇧

I have now completed and survived 7 days of Ramadan and I thought it’d be interesting to share this experience with you. Before I do, though, I’d like to just briefly explain what is Ramadan.

Ramadan is a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting and referred to as a holy month, celebrated to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. It’ s the time of spiritual reflection, improvement, increased devotion and worship. Observing Ramadan is believed to provide a fasting person with special blessings and prayers performed in this holy month are considered many times as valuable as those in a non-Ramadan month.

I’d been really looking forward to doing it since last year when I first met Muslim students and watched them at the start of Ramadan. I have written about it before. It took me several months to learn the prayers in Arabic (I could have learnt them in Polish or English first, but I was determined to be able to offer them in the language in which they are supposed to be uttered), so when B. suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t do it because I had just left the hospital (where I had a little surgery 3 days before Ramadan), I burst into tears. However, as I was feeling quite well, I decided to go ahead and see what happens.

In Pakistan it started on 28th May (Sunday) in the early hours of the morning, a day later than in most places. Fasting means not having anything to eat or drink from dawn, which varies from country to country, but here it’s around 03:12-03:20am till around 7:12-7:20pm (local time). Just for you to have an idea, in London it’s 02:30am to 9:05-09:20pm and in Warsaw – 02:15am to 08:50-09:10pm. Currently, days are getting longer, hence different timings. In addition to not eating and drinking, you cannot brush your teeth or chew on/put in your mouth anything that would have any kind of taste. Mind you, before performing a prayer you need to do ablution which involves rinsing your mouth with water, but that’s about it and you mustn’t swallow it. In Ramadan you’re not supposed to say swear words, gossip or lie, have sex, but you are supposed to have a normal life, obviously sticking to the five daily prayers that as a Muslim you’re required to perform anyway. Prayer and fasting are two of the five pillars of islam, the other ones being declaration of faith, charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.

Somehow the beginning of Ramadan coincided with a lot of activity for me. Despite the fact that I’d been feeling well after the hospital, the surgery must have affected me a little and on Saturday morning (27th May) I woke up with a headache. I was hoping that it would disappear before the start of Ramadan around 18 hours later, but this wasn’t the case at all and until day 3 (Tuesday), I had a massive headache, very typical of the first few days. On top of that,  I suddenly seemed to have lots of work, i.e. I was in the middle of translating subtitles for a two-hour-long movie and had quite a few classes on the first 2-3 days, so I suffered quite a lot at the beginning. I had absolutely no energy, buy had to complete my work, so I literally had food/drinks after breaking the fast, slept for a couple of hours, woke up, worked, ate/drank more, slept, etc. Fortunately, by day 4 (Wednesday) I’d completed all my taks and the headache had disappeared, so I started to enjoy it more. I feel very lucky and priviledged anyway, because all the work that I do, i.e. translation and teaching, is home-based. I have air-conditioning and a husband who prepares all the food for us. After the morning prayer, we don’t go to bed until around 4 am, so I can sleep until 12pm. Then I  work and it’s really not until an hour before we break the fast, at around 6 pm, that I actually start feeling hungry. This isn’t to say that I’m full of energy throughout the day – far from it! I admire people who have to go to work early in the morning and be 100% throughout the day. In 2011-2014 I worked for a super busy summer school at Brunel University in London and in July of 2013 and 2014, there was a heatwave. We had two Muslims teachers and looking back I have no idea how they managed: horrendous daily commute to and from Brunel, long working hours, dozens of Italian kids, a heatwave and fasting on top of that! And they were the most cheerful of all teachers! Kudos to them and to all amazing, strong people who can do it, including B. who takes it upon himself to prepare all our food during Ramadan, i.e. the first meal of the day called iftar, then the dinner which we have later on at night and finally suhur, a light meal just before the fast starts again. I have tried helping him, but spending the last hour before breaking the fast in a hot kitchen amongst steaming pots makes me dizzy, so I end up having to sit down. I never knew I was such a weakling! It’s a very humbling experience to feel so feeble…

So, to wrap it up: the fasting lasts for about 16 hours a day. I sleep through 8 and spend the rest fasting whilst doing some serious work (teaching, translation) and less serious work (admin, voluntary), praying, housework, etc. Then there are 8 hours of non-fasting during which we eat/drink, sometimes I have a nap (after iftar) and work a little as this is the most productive part of the day. It’s actually not so bad, particularly now that my body has got used to it. I think I’m beginning to enjoy this new routine…

To be continued…

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