Joining the dots with Ramadan


Atika Firasat

For me, Ramadan and nostalgia go hand in hand. Ramadan, inevitably, always takes me to a time when I was a little girl. And as you know, little girls and boys always want to, somehow, magically, turn into big girls and boys, so I wasn’t any different. Fasting for one big whole long day also meant that I was more in the grownups club rather than that of fairy tale reading munchkins. But parental authority meant  fasting efforts went down in vain and one had to make do with the children’s version of fasting, which could mean anything from chewing your food from one side the whole day to just refraining from eating anything a couple of hours before the breaking of the fast at sunset. Nevertheless, whichever juvenile version of fasting it was, there was always profuse excitement around the post sunset feast one would gorge on like a glutton.

Over the years my relationship with Ramadan has transformed through stages, when rules were followed to a tee to the present where I am able to look at it from a critical perspective. Its religious significance aside, the month has a personal meaning and relationship with yourself. Surely, Allah must have meant for it to be something bigger than just a brownie point earning ritual.Atika-Firasat-Profile

Physical, social, mental and spiritual well-being, all form part of this more evolved relationship with Ramadan. It’s like being part of a chemical reaction and coming out transformed from it.

Fasting and its offshoot intermittent fasting have gained popularity as a lifestyle choice, and even gaining traction, believe it or not. In simple terms, fasting gives some overdue rest to our digestive system and a bit of rest, as we all know, never did any harm to anyone!

Enthusiasts, believers, fitness freaks – call them whatever you may, have also realised the social benefits of fasting. After all, eating and socialising are two pleasures that combine admirably. Traditionally, one would get together with family, friends and the larger community over the sunset meal to beak the fast. It is a way to be a part of something bigger, to cultivate love, and make connections with those around us.

I read somewhere that knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. And this is exactly what fasting does to you. It puts you in the shoes of the deprived. And then, when you put that first morsel in your mouth at sunset, you cry a prayer of gratefulness for the good fortune to be able to break your fast. That is also the moment you realise what dreadful sin food wastage is.

The Quran says “Or feeding, on a day of severe hunger, an orphan of near relationship, or a needy person in misery. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion. Those are the companions of the right.”

Ramadan reinforces the principles of generosity and to do the best we can to feed the hungry and help those in need, and it can’t get any straightforward than this.  Nearly one-eighth of the world’s population does not get the food they need to live a healthy life. So, our little drops in this huge ocean of world poverty make for a good start.

So for me, Ramadan is a great helper in joining the dots between the different spheres of our lives. It gives me a much more wholesome perspective – more blessed, less stressed.

Atika Firasat lives in Cambridgeshire and works in the field of Learning & Development, is a keen reader and lover of English language, and a community development enthusiast.


“…in fact I felt like I had in a way come home…” Councillor Gavin Clayton

Despite having grown up with a Muslim stepfather in Manchester in the 1970s and early 1980s I had never been to a Muslim community event, let alone one that played a part in the fast during Ramadan.

Back then the fact that I was growing up in a culturally mixed household was more of an oddity than a cause for celebration. Racism was rife in all forms and the ‘difference’ that my home represented was a challenge as a kid growing up.

So, when I received the invitation from Cam Harmony to join the Muslim community of Cambourne for a Community Iftaar, I was both excited and intrigued… and quickly googling what an Iftaar was?!

What I found was a joyous and inclusive event where I was welcomed warmly and felt completely at my ease…in fact I felt like I had in a way come home…the clothes, greeting phrases and of course the home-made Biryanis!

Cllr Gavin Clayton
Councillor Gavin Clayton

The address from Dr. Timothy Winter aka Shaykh Abdal Hakeem Murad about the New Cambridge Mosque was interesting and I will certainly take a look next time I am down Mill Road, but what I found more pertinent was the discussion on the meaning and experience of fasting during Ramadan.

I had never really considered that it is something many cultures have engaged in for millennia.

For example, Christians have the month of lent and I am familiar with images of the fasting Buddha.

The role of fasting in religion is concerned with sacrifice and cleansing, but in a modern world where (if you have the money) every kind of food and drink is within reach all the time it can also play a part in redefining one’s relationship to food and what constitutes nourishment, need and fulfilment.

At the Iftaar all these elements were present and there was a real air of anticipation as the time to break the 18 hours long Fast (Iftaar) approached.

I had not fasted, but I felt the energy in the room change and the communal experience was a very heartening thing to be part of. The initial prayer happened very subtly and allowed for quiet personal reflection…then the look on faces as they bit into a dried date was a simple yet meaningful act.

It placed nature’s bounty, nourishment (both physical and spiritual) at the centre of everyone’s thoughts and it was a real honour to be part of it.

In an event such as the Iftaar it allows a community to join together and provide for one another…what a generous act and one that helps to cement community bonds.

It was a joyful, open and inclusive event. A good model for Cambourne as we grow together over the coming years.

Now I look forward to the Eid Fair on June 17….and hopefully more Biryanis!!

Gavin Clayton is a Councillor with the South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC).

‘Magical and educational Iftaar’… Councillor Mark Howell

I was extremely fortunate to be invited to the Ramadaan Iftaar on Saturday, 19th May at Cambourne Hub. I must admit that it was magical and really special where I felt exceptionally honoured to be part of this celebration, because it ensured me how the community work together.

It was indeed a wonderful evening. I had an extremely educational time which I found fascinating and delightful. I felt extremely privilege and honoured to be in attendance.

Cllr Mark Howell
Councillor Mark Howell

It was just something which I will never forget. I feel extremely honoured to have been there.

And if you haven’t been invited then ask somebody because I know this, you would be told yes, come along because people want to explain and want to show what they do. You can ask any questions.

I asked some basic questions – why do you do this, why you do that to some of the most eminent people, and they were delighted to explain why that happens.

It was really an eye opener for me to see first time ever in my life Muslims praying live in congregation. I felt exceptionally honoured person to witness this religious practice of Muslims.

I do hope, I get invited again, and I hope I get invited for Eid celebrations, I hope to get invited for everything, I hope to get invited for all these magical events.

Mark Howell is a Councillor for Cambridgeshire County Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.