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What Ramadan means to me

Category: testimonial, Faith, Insurance, Staff Testimonial, Insurance London, islamic, islam, faith initiaties, faith & belief, Brit Insurance, Brit, British Muslims, Celebrating Ramadan, Faith & Culture, Religion, Ramadan in the workplace

Religious Beliefs

Rizwan Kermali, Senior Manager in Regulatory Reporting at Brit

I am Rizwan Kermali, Senior Manager in Regulatory Reporting at Brit. I want to share some personal reflections on Ramadan in 2022 and what fasting means to me and my faith.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is the month where Muslims observe fasting each day from dawn to sunset. This means refraining from food and drink. Other actions that are also prohibited during the day include smoking and intimate activities.

Why do Muslims fast?

The requirement to fast stems from instructions from the Qur’an, which instructs the believers that ‘fasting is prescribed for you, as it has been prescribed for those before you, so that you may attain god-consciousness’ (2:183).

We can derive a couple of interesting points from this verse:

  • Fasting is not something new for Muslims and gives comfort that the obligation of fasting is something normal rather than something unusual or unique.
  • The purpose of fasting is to help attain god-consciousness. God-consciousness is an important objective for Muslims to enable them to do the right thing in all circumstances. Attaining God-consciousness requires pro-active discipline, character building and spiritual development.
  • However, the Qur’an does not guarantee god-consciousness for those who fast – the word may means that fasting alone won’t get us there. Rather, fasting acts as a vehicle through which our journey towards god-consciousness can be accelerated.
  • This is because through fasting, we are already exercising a high degree of discipline through refraining from food and drink, and we can leverage that to also refrain from other negative thoughts and habits (e.g arguing, wasting time on social media, harbouring envy towards others, lying etc) and instead engage in positive thoughts and habits (e.g being grateful, helping the needy, prayer, charity, smiling, acts of service to the community/family around you etc) and in so doing, spiritually purify ourselves.

It is important to note that fasting is only expected from those who are fit and able. People who are unwell, frail, elderly, pregnant or travelling are exempted.

What does fasting mean to me?

While the theory is all well and good, I do personally approach Ramadan with a slight sense of dread as I find fasting is actually quite inconvenient (but I suppose that is the point!). The first couple of days can be quite challenging as the body adapts and gets used to only getting food and drink outside of daylight hours but before you know it, it’s day five and you’re fully in the swing of things. Outside of Ramadan, I tend to have a slightly poor habit of seeking out snacks to alleviate boredom (i.e just having a peek into the fridge to see what’s going on and then suddenly finding myself downing a fruit yoghurt!) but not having that option during Ramadan means I need to focus on my self-discipline and I gradually end up more productive as I spend less time foraging for nibbles.

I am always touched by well-meaning colleagues or friends asking me questions about Ramadan. It amuses me that most conversations end up with ‘you can’t drink water as well???’ alongside proclamations that they could never fast – I always insist that they’re capable of doing more than they think and it just takes some getting used to, but I guess it’s easy to say as I’ve just had more practice over the years.

Before COVID-19, Ramadan also meant spending time with family and the wider community, engaging in collective prayer and breaking the fast together. I for one took that community aspect for granted and so this year’s Ramadan is definitely more special as we can once again visit loved ones and community centres to pray and eat together, sharing the precious moments of this month with others.

The experience of hunger provides some degree of empathy towards others who are suffering and helps me to be more willing to give in charity. Ramadan, in particular, is a good time for charitable causes to raise funds as Muslims develop a greater sense of altruism. I try to remind myself and my family how blessed we are to have a meal at the end of every fast – not everyone, especially in the current cost-of-living crisis, is privileged to have a warm place and a full plate. Gratefulness for our blessings is a hugely important aspect of our faith.

Before you know it, we reach the end of the month and debates over whether the moon has been sighted or not (moon sighting marks the beginning of the next month and the start of Eid) ripple through our WhatsApp messages and we celebrate a successful Ramadan with our friends, family and community hopefully having achieved a greater level of god-consciousness to take into the rest of the year.

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