Celebrating the month of Ramadan at GoCardless
By HassanMay 20203 min read
Several of our GoCardless colleagues of the Islamic faith are observing the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is considered a holy month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is one where Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk and fulfil one of the five pillars of the Islamic Faith known as Sawm (fasting).
This period entails a lot of self-reflection and varying acts of worship but the lockdown has really posed all manner of challenges to what most would normally consider a spiritual break. I thought I'd answer some of the common questions about Ramadan to help everyone understand a little bit more about it.
So is it like… intermittent fasting?
Well, yes and no. During a fast, Muslims abstain from not just food but also water, smoking, sex. We are also mindful of how we speak and keep ourselves from lying, gossiping and otherwise engaging in bad habits.
Fasting itself is an act which has varying purposes behind it. It is one which allows us to untether from the material world and to feel solidarity to the poor of the world who may be going hungry throughout the year.
"Fasting blinds the body in order to open the eyes of your soul” - Rumi
Wait, not even water?
That’s right., #notevenwater - which is a real hashtag and meme amongst Muslims, by the way. It can come as a bit of a surprise to most but after a few days into Ramadan, the body adjusts to the new conditions and it becomes much easier to go the day without food and drink.
The fast ends at the time of the dusk prayer of Maghrib, this is when we undergo what is known as Iftar, the breaking of the fast. Traditionally, a fast is broken with a date from date palms and then a good nutritious dinner. You would think we would wolf food down at this point but interestingly most find they don’t need to eat a whole lot during Iftar to satiate their rumbling tummies.
What else does Ramadan entail?
This is a period where many Muslims get involved in various forms of prayer. Without going into too much detail, there’s a lot of reading, praying and a lot of giving to charity. Many find themselves in the mosques for most of the night while some go full hermit and stay home for their engagement.
During Ramadan, shortly after the fast is broken, mosques undergo what is known as Tarawih, or the Night Prayers. This is a gentle prayer which can carry on for hours but it’s up to the individual if they wish to stay for the whole thing or just a small part. That may sound a little exhausting but Tarawih actually means ‘to relax’.
So if you fast during the day and pray during the night, what are some of the struggles and challenges?
This is a question that each person could have a different answer for. Some really struggle with adjusting to the lack of food and water through the day, whereas others find it relatively easy. Some may struggle to not smoke during their fast others might have trouble simply not gossiping!
Of course, if fasting brings any semblance of harm or can compromise a vulnerable person’s health in any way, they are encouraged not to fast.
This particular Ramadan, however, has been an unprecedented one as it’s the first ever to occur in a global lockdown.
How is the lockdown affecting this Ramadan?
This is a period where the community really comes together and the lockdown has all but removed that aspect. During Ramadan, we would make food for our neighbours, invite our friends and family and even some strangers for Iftar, but with no interactions with those around us… it’s feeling quite lonely for a lot of us.
All mosques have been shut. While this is certainly what is best for the current situation, many within the community truly miss the calmness of the mosque and the Night Prayers themselves. Though it’s possible to do Tarawih at home, it’s an entirely different experience to do them in congregation at a mosque.
Eid is the day Ramadan comes to an end and one where Muslims celebrate by getting together with family and friends, having delicious meals and exchanging presents. The lockdown has put a bit of a damper on that too, but we will surely adjust and make the best of it when the time comes.
A lot of my Muslim colleagues here at GoCardless are coping well and are going full steam ahead for the remainder of the month of Ramadan.
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