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The last days of Ramadan

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My last blog entry caused the biggest reaction I’ve had, with the topic spilling over to a facebook group I am on. The more I look into the subject of Hadith, the more firmly I believe that the Hadith was never supposed to be part of Islam. If God truly sent the Quran, then when he said it was complete he meant it.
I find the subject fascinating and will likely delve far more into it when I have the time, but right now with the end of my exploration in sight I have too many other pressing matters to focus on.

Firstly, when I talked about going to Mosque that wasn’t just idle chitchat. It is customary to go to mosque the first morning of Eid, so that is what I shall do. Eid (three days of feasts after Ramadan) looks set to start on Sunday, that gives me just enough time to truly freak out about it. Ok, it is actually an Islamic centre as my town doesn’t have a mosque, but still, eek!
Secondly, there is the pressing matter of reading the Quran. I could finish it if I just speed through like I would with any other book, but I like to take note, reflect, question, perhaps frown and scratch my head.

Just three more days of fasting! You have no idea how good that sounds to me now. After having my wisdom teeth removed last Wednesday I had a few days off the fast whilst I took medication and returned to it on Tuesday. And now I’m already sick of it. It isn’t the hunger, that comes and go briefly throughout the day but doesn’t really burden me, it is the *wanting* to eat that is frustrating. An ice cold lemonade on a hot summers day, a cheeky lick of my sons ice lolly before I give it to him, testing the food as I cook it, meeting the girls for lunch, having popcorn when I go see a film, going out with my husband for a dinner date, stuffing my face with free strawberries when I go strawberry picking, oh god I miss it all. Due to one reason and the other I have had ten days off fasting this month, so I can imagine how much I would be tearing my hair out if I didn’t at least have those breaks. Saying that though, even when I didn’t have to fast I still felt too uncomfortable to eat in public whilst wearing a hijab.
And talking about hijab, I miss my hair! Sure I take it off when I’m at home, but due to having it on earlier in the day my hair has a massive bump in it from being in a bun, so I just keep it tied up. People always joke to me that at least I don’t have to worry about brushing my hair, no instead every time I want to go out, even if it is just to get the mail from my postbox, I have to find a scarf that doesn’t clash with my clothes and pin it all together. Ok I’m approving with my time, I can now easily just use hijab pins instead of holding it all together with safety pins, but it is still more time consuming than brushing hair (which I never bothered about doing just to go to my postbox anyway).

nonmuslim hijabi

Despite my complaints, I had fun trying out new hijab styles


If I were to ever convert to Islam I’m still of two minds whether I think a hijab is essential or not. The majority of Muslims would say yes, but I just can’t see the logic of it, nor does it seem particularly important in the Quran.
Saying that though, I do get a buzz when someone greets me in Arabic, and I definitely think it was the right thing to wear for this month to “fast track” me into the community feel.

On a brighter note we are planning Eid! It couldn’t have landed on a better day as Sunday is the one day both my husband and I don’t work. Mosque in the morning (did I mention “eek”?) and then a fun filled day with our son and perhaps a romantic dinner out in the evening, hmm maybe a film with popcorn too. Also traditionally (I don’t think there is any religious bases for it, just cultural) people buy new clothes to wear for the feast. Now I’m not one to need an excuse to shop, but if you are going to give me one, I’ll happily use it! For mosque however I’m going to pull out one of my abayas that I got from Egypt. I haven’t been out in one yet, I have found in the past people react far more to them than they do the hijab alone. My neighbours will probably think I’ll be in a burka next!

Well, this time next well it will all be over. I’m still not quite sure what “over” means just yet though.

The Fast

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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.

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.

Preparing for a fast

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Food glorious food

Whist stuffing ourselves at Mcdonalds yesterday, my husband Sam confessed a concern he has about what I am doing- the fast.
Without belief that I’m doing it for God, and with pretty much no previous experience, and the fact that I could easily be described as an overeater, well it all seems like a recipe for torture and not a spiritual journey.
I don’t want this month to be just about how hungry I am, the fast is just one part of the many I am exploring.
Sam suggested I start like Muslim children- extending the periods of abstaining from food as I go along until I get to a point where I can do a whole day.
Fantastic idea, but I know converts to Islam that manage their first Ramadan and live to tell the tale. So I will take that concept but start before Ramadan, so that on day one I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
For my first day of preparation, I’m going to start easy. Finished breakfast by 9am and eat something small at 3pm. Dinner will be late tonight as it is a meal with friends so about 8pm.
This might not sound like a hard start, but when I say I’m an overeater I’m NOT exaggerating. I’m the type who starts a diet every day and by 10am I have raided all the cupboards.
With about nine days to go (Ramadan isn’t a set yearly date and it isn’t officially announced it is about to start until the day before) I hope at the very least I will have become used to not snacking throughout the day and just having set meals.
Boy will I miss my daily cake, crisps, chocolates, lollies, cheese, sweets, biscuits… hey I told you I was an overeater!

I welcome any advice when it comes to fasting and peoples own stories of their first fast.