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The last day of Ramadan

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Alhamduallah!

Well here we are, the last day of Ramadan. Boy am I so ready for it to end! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate every minute of it and it definitely brought me an understand that I would never have achieved if I hadn’t participated, but yes, my mind and body feel spent. Maybe it was wrong of me having the vast amount of the experiment during Ramadan, I’m looking forward to the three days of Eid where I can be a Muslim without the holy months restraints. Perhaps a week before and a week after too would have been better? But then, muslim46weeks doesn’t have the same ring to it.
I don’t think this will be my last Ramadan, I don’t think next year I would be able to just sit back and eat and watch as my husband fasts.
But what a fantastic day to have as the last! The weather is perfect, and it is my mum’s birthday (happy birthday!) so people are coming round to sit in the garden and eating. Ok, I’ll have to sit there for nearly two hours before I can join in with the eating part, but still, it is nice that I will have a celebration feel around me like I would if I was in a Muslim country (albeit the celebration is for something else).
I’ve already raved and moaned about the fast in previous blogs, it really is a rollercoaster of emotions. I can’t say I felt closer to God, obviously, but I can see how it makes people reflect more. One month is certainly a good amount of time for it, it pushes people but not to the point of resentment… well there were some moments.
Tomorrow I go to mosque in the morning for feast prayers. My plan: Stand in the back and don’t make eye contact with anyone! If a woman tries to make conversation I don’t know whether to be honest with the experiment, but then making me a total outcast as a disbeliever, perhaps some might not even want me there, or should I say I’m a new convert/exploring Islam? Maybe it will be a case of “me no speak the English” to be on the safe side.
I have to cut this short as male guests will soon be arriving and alas I am not appropriately covered. At some point tomorrow during the Eid celebrations I will of course come on and tell you in detail me experience in the mosque, my experience praying for the first time in a group. I wonder how it would differ to how I feel about prayers now? I could imagine preferring to pray in solitude, but we shall see.
Eid mubarak!

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The Fast

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fasting
Obviously you don’t need to be a Muslim for a month to learn about Islam, anyone can buy a Quran, download one, get the app, and read it at their pleasure. Fasting however is something I don’t think any book can really tell you about. It would just be pointless words on a page, which will have most people thinking Ramadan is crazy.
I didn’t get it. I have seen my husband fast for that last few years and I just couldn’t grasp the point. Oh sure it was explained to me- time to be closer to God, time to appreciate what you have, time to remember those who go without etc etc, but going without food and drink? Really?
Well yes, really! At the end of the month I probably still won’t understand much about Islam, but I can now say I do understand why people fast, why they look forward to it, why they are not all leaving the religion after the first day. This is something you really need to feel to truly *get* it.
I honestly didn’t think I could do it, I never in a million years thought I would enjoy it. But I am and I do. Every morning it feels like an impossible task, than every day at 9pm I get to feel such a sense of achievement, and I get to share it with my husband. Meals are appreciated, I can’t say when the last time was that I truly appreciated a meal before this month, they are a celebration. I love the discipline needed, the focus required. And on the spiritual sense, fasting means you will never forget that you are in a special month, that you are doing something. For the religious every time they feel weak, they feel the pangs of hunger, they have a reminder as to why they are doing it, who they are doing it for, and to be thankful.
Don’t get me wrong, not all Muslims enjoy Ramadan. Out loud they feel they most proclaim a love for the Islamic holiday, but quietly they whisper their true feelings. People can become moodier, lack of food and exhaustion, thanks to the very early wake up to eat, is not a great combination. Apparently breaths can be worse too, something I’ve not noticed (another thing for me to be thankful for!), and someone even said BO increases too, oh my. Too many women also complain how they have to spend half the day in the kitchen cooking, making food more a part of their daily lives than when they could eat. There are feelings of guilt when some think all they are doing is fasting and they don’t have time to also read Quran, perform longer prayers etc.
Having the wrong attitude about Ramadan also doesn’t help. Some spend the whole month counting down to Eid (three days of feasts after Ramadan), or they spend the whole day thinking about their evening meal, and eating more than a days worth of food in the one sitting. Some people spend the day sleeping, completing voiding the whole point of the fast.
I can’t eat or drink between 3am to 9pm, but I’m not going to sit around thinking “oh woe is me”. I’m not going to wish this month away either, in fact when my husband said earlier that we were half way, I felt a pang of sadness. When I had five days where I couldn’t fast, I felt as if I was missing out.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a walk in the park- in fact it was walking in the park on one of England’s hottest days of the years that proved one of the hardest days fasting- there are moments I am just staring at food, smelling it, fantasising about eating it. Then there are the small but more enticing temptations such as wishing I could taste food as I cook it, just to check it is ok. Feeding a child during the day has also had me nearly slipping up from old habits. Before this month I don’t thing my son even knew ice lollies came without a bite taking out of them first!

Now, I have a slight fasting problem- on Wednesday I’m due to be put under general anaesthetic to have my wisdom teeth removed. I haven’t had my consultation so don’t know if you are supposed to eat beforehand, however I’m pretty sure afterwards I’ll be wanting pain killers, which breaks the fast.

religion data

What am I?


Another issue my minor operation is causing is the form I have to fill out. It asks for my religion. I will still be wearing hijab (though taking it off for the actual operation), so ticking nonreligious or N/A seems a bit of an eyebrow raiser. But I don’t want to lie either. I’m guessing I should leave it blank, after all as far as I’m aware legally I’m not obliged to answer.
Hmm, I don’t really like being a blank.
I guess a devout Muslim would put of the op until after Ramadan, the problem is it turns out I have a massive fear of GA (never been put to sleep before) and if I put it off now I doubt I will ever do it. Oh well, I guess it is impracticalities such as this that make some people hate this month.

Right, now I really must sleep, I have to get up in two and a half hours to eat before my fasting day starts again. Alhamdulillah.

Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink

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thirsty in ramadan

Mmmm water


Ok, so I got smug, I put my hands up to that. Fasting was surprisingly easy and I was happy to brag about it, I was asking for trouble wasn’t I? I’m not actually a believer of karma but if I were, I would say she came back for vengeance.
The first few days of Ramadan England was its typical wet and grey self, well yesterday summer finally arrived, and boy did it hit hard. It felt like the whole of the country took to the streets, when hot days are so precious us English have learnt to appreciate them to their fullest. But I didn’t want to be one of them, however as a mother, I had little choice.
Off I walked to the town park with my toddler to enjoy the large playground there. The place was unsurprisingly busy, a sea of hair and as much flesh as legally allowed to show. Boy did I stick out like a sore thumb! Out of the many I was the only one in long sleeves, let alone being the only one in a head scarf. I seemed more bothered about this than anyone else though, I’m not one who likes to stand out from the crowds, I’m also not one to enjoy feeling sweltering hot, this covering seems to be having a countereffect to its purpose.
After running after my child as he tried all the more dangerous equipment, I couldn’t take it any more (and not because the amount of heart attacks my toddler was giving me). I was hot, I was uncomfortable I was THIRSTY.
The walk back had many steep hills and by the time I got to my door you would have thought I’d walked the width of the Sahara. My face was bright red, my lips cracking, sweat was pouring from me. I immediately stripped out of all the unnecessary clothing and enjoyed the cool shade of my home. I would have happily sacrificed my later meal (iftar) for a pint of cold water. At this point it was only just reaching 3pm, the hottest part of the day was just beginning.
I knew I had reached an all time low when looking at a picture a friend posted of a scenic lake I was licking my lips thinking how refreshing that would taste! I was in trouble.
Watching my son enjoy fresh fruit and ice cold squish was salt in the wound. You can’t forget thirst, you can’t distract yourself from it. Running my hands under water helps, but watching it fall from the tap had me practically drooling, it looked better than a Christmas roast at that moment.
Some release came when at 6pm my work shift began, the building was beautifully air conditioned. By the time I could break my fast, a day of licking my lips in an attempt to hydrate them had left them sore. Still unsure the true time to break fast in my town, I kept on until 9:20pm to be on the safe side before running behind kiosk to down my Oasis in record breaking time (and no, the irony of my drinks name was not lost on me). Finally a felt sane, I had no interest of food, and would never eat again if I could just continuously relive the joy those first mouthfuls gave to me.
The heat is set to increase today and tomorrow, we look set to be in the hottest days of the year. I would love to be able to sit in a beer garden with a cold glass of lemonade, or take my son strawberry picking and eat far more there than I actually take home- but at the end of each day, when I finally break my fast, the pride I feel for sticking with it makes it worth the sacrifices.

My first day as a Muslim

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Salamu alaikum and Ramadan mubarak!

Where do I begin? Well I guess 2:30 in the morning when the alarm went off. Having not slept until past midnight, you will understand why it took a good half hour before I managed to have both my eyes open at the same time.
Boy I couldn’t have been less hungry at silly o’clock, but like a trooper I made up my porridge with fruit, hard boiled egg on wholemeal bread and water with lemon. I ate it all with minimal angry tired mutterings too.

suhoor

suhoor: What I forced fed myself at 3am

Then there was my first ever wudu (certain way of cleaning before prayer). Hands three times, face, ears, hair, arms, nose, feet (the correct order is already lost on me), well it certainly perked me up.
The actual prayer itself? Well to be fair I didn’t really know what I was doing. I followed my husbands movements, listened to his Arabic words. I could tell the meaning was a bit lost on me when I noticed I was thinking that the carpet didn’t smell how I imagined it would, instead of God. But right now I am just going through the motions, I really must get the English translation, there is no hope with me connecting to words I don’t understand.
I crawled back into bed at 4am and realised it was bloody hard to get back to sleep with a full tummy and freshly splashed face. As you can imagine when my son woke me up nice and early I was doing my usual morning errands in a zombie state.

I finally got to wear one of my new hijabs out in the world, and had zero issue walking outside my door with it on.

Attemping to wrap my hijab

It was perfectly colour coordinated with my t-shirt, denim jacket and jeans (all suitably wide and long), and I even managed a strong wrap so I was able to walk around hardly noticing the new thing on my head. People’s reactions were nonexistent. I got the same amount of polite smiles, doors being held open and small talk, as ever (when I’m walking around with my toddler that is, without him people don’t bother with an acknowledgement). My town isn’t far from London, so although we are not incredibly diverse, hijabs are not a total rarity either.
The weather played nice, giving the same grey skies as England has known most of summer. I felt comfortable in my clothes and relaxed. I do wonder what the reactions will be of people who know me, but not the experiment (such as neighbours).
I made sure I was home for the other prayer times, one of which was without my husband as he was at work. To compensate I had a youtube video open and copied from there. I have to say these later prayers were as far from meditation as you can get. My son has rarely seen his father pray, so seeing me perform those movements were a bit of a novelty. He was climbing on my back, running between my legs, going under my skirt, etc, and when he wasn’t bothering me, he was bothering the dog, so I had to keep a close eye on the pair.
Prayer- five times a day, every day. How many Muslims reading this actually do that? It seems so much. Maybe once I get used to it, understand the words, then finding it a welcome relaxation will come. Right now however, out of all the things I am trying to do: Hijab, fast, reading Quran etc, it is the prayers that I’m struggling with.

So let’s talk about the fast. I feel like I must have eaten in some dreamlike state throughout the day because come evening I felt absolutely fine! Once or twice in the day I felt hunger pangs, but mostly I just wanted to eat, instead of felt the need to eat. By the end however I felt as if I had eaten breakfast just an hour before.
I broke my fast with a glass of pure orange juice and a date and fig. I prayed before having my main meal: lamb tabbouleh. I ate a portion size equal to any day and felt absolutely stuffed. What will I be praying for in my fajr (dawn) prayer? That the whole of Ramadan will be as easy as today!
Ok, so honesty time: I wasn’t perfect. In the morning when I opened a yogurt drink for my son I licked the lid automatically. I immediately realised what I done and was able to wipe my tongue before swallowing. Another thing, when my son dropped his lollypop on the floor I done the typical mothers thing of giving it a quick suck to clean it before handing it back to him. Old habits die hard. There were some times when the little devil on my shoulder whispered: “just take a bite, no one will know”, and yes of course I could technically lie all I want here, but I can’t lie to myself. At the very least I’m determined to have a sense of an achievement at the end of the month.

Tomorrow will be my first day at work as a Muslim. I realised today I actually forgot to give a heads up to my general manager, who also happens to be the one who works Saturday mornings. I think if I do recieve a negative reaction it will be from keeping her in the dark instead of the actual concept though. I work around food and it will be an incredibly busy shift, so I have a feeling my prayers for all days to be as easy as this one will go answered. Oh god, I can smell the hotdogs now!

Now I must sleep. It was likely this total exhaustion that kept the hunger at bay today- I lose appetite when tired- but I think I’d rather be hungry to be honest.
We still haven’t been able to figure out the accurate Fijr time for my town! Anyway…
Ma’a salama

What to eat when you’re fasting

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ramadan

It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it, but the truth is the foods you eat when you break your fast after dusk, and again your meal before dawn has a massive impact on your hunger levels, mood and health during the day.
There are certain things you can’t avoid: you will feel hunger. In fact, you SHOULD feel hunger. Many say a part of Ramadan is to help you remember those who go without. Also there will be times I feel sucked of energy. There will probably be times that I curse this whole experiment (probably whenever I get a whiff from restaurant doors as I walk around the town or prepare my sons meals). This month is supposed to be challenging, and as they say: “nothing in life worth having comes easy”.
But being careful with what you do eat will hopefully get you off to the best possible start.
After scanning the internet (health sites and Islamic ones), as well as talking to some “Ramadan seasoned” Muslims, a menu is starting to form in my mind.
The meal in the early hours of the morning (suhoor) should be taken by 3.17am according to current time tables. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’ve just woken up I certainly don’t want to spend much time cooking (when do I ever?), nor do I have the stomach for it.
So firstly, water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. In this time I would like to drink at least a pint of water to help keep me hydrated for the day. To eat: porridge, boiled egg, wholemeal bread and fruit should be enough to make sure my body has the nourishment it needs.
Now this greatly differs from my husband’s idea of breakfast. Fuul (a type of bean with tahini), falafel (heavily fried), cheese and lots of white bread is his (and most of the Egyptian population) favourite. Fuul is certainly a required taste, and falafel has far too much grease, so I think I’ll just be leaving him to it. Let’s see who feels healthier at the end of the month.
And now dinner (iftar), the meal that I will probably be obsessing about throughout the day. After a day of fasting it will be hard not to raid the cupboards and fridge and eat myself into a food coma. Obviously this isn’t exactly the best way to do it, but hungry tummies aren’t the best decision makers.
Many people have told me it is important to break your fast slowly. Well I don’t really have time for that as I have to go to bed so that I have the energy to wake up and eat again, and then to be woken in the morning by my toddler. I’ll be able to eat from 9.08pm (side note: because the times go on sunrise and sunset they change by nearly an hour as the days go past). Traditionally a drink and dates are the first thing consumed and then perform a prayer before the rest of the meal.
The important and difficult thing to do here is not to engorge yourself. I have plenty of weight watchers recipe books that are filled with healthy foods and proper size portions. Soup is considered a great way to start the meal, so perhaps a mug of healthy vegetable soup would do the trick of preventing me overeating on the mains. Citrus fruit is the recommended way to finish the meal.

Any hope of being able to save money on the shopping for a month is totally out the window, but if I am able to stick to my ideas above then I will probably be healthier than I currently am.
Anyone with meal suggestions and tips are welcome to share.