The Ramadan diaries #3: The resident Muslim on eating in secret, interrogation and Netanyahu

By Iram Ramzan, Social Affairs Correspondent

With less than a week until the end of Ramadan, MM’s ‘zombie’ Iram Ramzan has turned into a monosyllabic cavewoman capable only of communicating with grunts and points, and contemplated gate crashing high-profile Ramadan dinners.

After not fasting for a few days, it did take some getting used to again. At least I wasn’t being interrogated by MM’s editor for not fasting (“aren’t you supposed to be fasting, why aren’t you fasting?”).

I found myself falling asleep on my keyboard several times, much to the bemusement of my colleagues, some of whom have been asking me since day three (seriously) of Ramadan ‘isn’t it over yet?’ According to MM’s Liam Barnes I was like a computer on standby mode. Often described as a somewhat feisty person, Ramadan has made me completely mellow, unable to think of anything too complicated. I’m nicer this way, so I’m told.

I went out shopping with some relatives for new Eid clothes. As a woman I do not usually turn down the opportunity to shop till I drop but this time I feared the favourite saying would soon become reality – shopping on an empty stomach is not fun and causes bouts of dizziness.

It is even more unpleasant when one of the group members barges into your changing rooms while you’re trying on clothes (made for a stick insect) and promptly wolfs down a Wispa bar far from prying fasting eyes. I admit readers, I was tempted to elbow her in the face and snatch that bar of chocolate. But with my head stuck in a sleeve I did not have the upper, er, hand.

The last 10 days of Ramadan are more special and some nights hold more blessings than others. One such night is Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Power), described as ‘better than a thousand nights’ in the Qur’an (AlQadr v. 1‐5).

It was the night in which the Qur’an was revealed, hence its significance. The exact date is not known though most scholars have said it is most likely to be the 27th night. As a result everyone becomes extremely devout and pious, praying all night and reading as much of the Qur’an as possible. 

Despite Ramadan almost drawing to a close I’m still surrounded by many people, who all hover around me in a circle, and ask me so many questions. I could get used to the attention… Here are some of my favourites:  

If you’re on a night shift do you then have to fast all night but then eat during the day? Er. No. It depends on the sun. When the sun comes up you stop eating. When the sun is down you start.  In fact, let’s turn it into a song: # when the sun comes up you begin your fast, when the sun goes down you end your fast. Fa la la la la la laaaa#

Wow 30 days? Whoever invented Ramadan couldn’t they have shortened it? Who knows perhaps God didn’t have enough time to go back to the drawing board.

I thought Ramadan only lasted a week. Ah if only. See previous question.

Does your 4-year-old brother have to fast? I know some people out there think Ramadan is a ‘cruel month’ but come on. ‘Cruelty’ is for healthy adults only. While young children are encouraged to learn about fasting, it is only obligatory for anyone beyond adolescence.

Muslims who have medical conditions that prevent or make fasting difficult (feeling really, really hungry does not count), those who are going through a pregnancy or menstruation and the elderly do not have to fast. In some circumstances, individuals who cannot fast for any number of reasons may make up the fast at a later date. I might cheat and make up my fasts in the winter…

Speaking of stuffing one’s face, I found out that Barack Obama hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House. Dinner and politics, hello where’s my invite? Even Shimon Peres, President of Israel, has jumped on the bandwagon.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, gave a warm Ramadan greeting to Muslims at the beginning of the month, which went down like a lead balloon with some. I must admit though, I found him almost alluring at that point.

Perhaps it was the very guttural Hebrew in which the speech was delivered or maybe it’s the whole ‘bad boy’ thing (I’m Muslim, he’s Jewish, it could never work). The pro-Palestinian activists were not so delighted with this confession…

Ironically, in a month where we are told to turn off the televisions and radios (It’s double haram-unlawful-during Ramadan. Go figure.), hundreds of special religious shows and channels pop up.

The adverts are the worst. Exactly after sunset appeals for charities and aid come up, one after the other, after the other, ensuring your meal goes down with a side helping of guilt.

Ramadan usually for me means The Let’s Talk Show on Radio Ramadan 87.7fm which is hosted by the editor of The Revival magazine at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The show is sometimes full of conspiracy nutters (“It’s all America’s fault!”) but otherwise it’s a good show on the whole.

This month has gone by so quickly and it’s astonishing when you realise there’s less than a week left.  Don’t get me wrong I love my food but when I wasn’t fasting for a few days I felt guilty (even though I had genuine reasons) and I missed that shared hunger and purpose.

I like how there’s a unity among Muslims during this time of the year. We’re all fasting, we’re all hungry and tired and fantasising about food but after Eid we’ll go back to our separate ways and I’ll miss that when it’s all over.

More related stories:

The Ramadan diaries: A Manchester Muslim on fasting, feasts and motivational texts

The Ramadan diaries #2: A Manchester Muslim on Ramadanitis, hummus and torsos

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