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Not eating until 10pm every night: Here's what Ramadan is like for me in Ireland

After never adhering to Ramadan while growing up, Mohammed Rahman began doing so a few years ago. He writes about what it’s like for a Muslim in Ireland.

Mohammed Rahman

I NEVER FULLY adhered to Ramadan when I was growing up. My father would do it, but my mother was exempt due to her illness. I used to try it, but only dipping into it, doing a week or ten days here and there.

A few years ago I got married to a Catholic girl from Sri Lanka, which led me to consider religion more closely. Like most people, your religion is something you inherit from your parents and you don’t tend to question it. But being in a non-Muslim country made me look into other options more carefully and consider what is right for me.

Looking at religion

I tried putting myself in the place of a Catholic and even an atheist, in order to try and get a better understanding of the way they think and how I would feel if I adhered to those beliefs too. This was a good exercise to do and I would recommend anyone with doubts about their religion do this, irrelevant of what faith they are, because it strengthened my faith in my own religion.

Like Judaism, and Christianity, Islam is a monotheist religion, believing in the one God. The same God. The main difference is that the latter two believe in prophets as the human embodiment of God.

Islam incorporates many Jewish and Christian beliefs; the tablets of Ibrahim (Abraham), the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel (of Jesus) were all revealed to Mohammed during the month Ramadan, along with the Quran, which was the last to be revealed.

The Week That Was in Asia Photo Gallery Muslims offering prayers during Ramadam Source: Rajesh Kumar Singh/Press Association

Six years ago I committed to fully doing Ramadan and I have been doing it every year since.

Ramadan

For those of who don’t know, Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar; a time when Muslims focus on religious devotion, by fasting, prayer, and giving to charity. Fasting was not a new practice, and was even undertaken by the Pagans in Mecca prior to Mohammed.

Just like the practice of Lent, it can be very healthy for you. I lose weight during Ramadan and it also teaches you how to manage cravings and not give in to them, which is no bad thing. It’s helping me give up smoking too, which I quit two weeks before Ramadan; I had cravings for cigarettes for the first couple of weeks, but since Ramadan has started I have not wanted a cigarette.

It is nice being in tune to the rhythm of the earth too, with eating and drinking habits being guided by a star that sits 150 million miles away from us – it makes you feel very small in the grand scheme of things and puts life into perspective.

Challenges

The hardest aspect of Ramadan, by far, is not being able to drink fluids, particularly when it is warm as it is now. But being from Bangladesh I grew up with it being much hotter.

At work I am on the phone a lot helping customers; my mouth can get very dry, so I have a bottle of mouthwash on my desk, which helps.

I work a staggered shift at Goldfish.ie in Greystones, which is a cloud telecoms firm for businesses. I start late and finish late in order to cover the helpline in the evenings. I’m normally travelling home at sunset, so I have a bag of food and drink on me, so that I can have it as soon as the sun goes down. At the moment that is about 10pm, which is one of the drawbacks of doing Ramadan in Ireland, as the day is longer.

There is some Islamic advice that recommends sticking to the hours of sunrise and sunset as they happen in Mecca, but eating in the daylight during Ramadan wouldn’t feel right to me. So I stick to Irish hours, which is about three and three-quarters of an hour longer than in Mecca.

Sunset in Mecca is about 7pm, so people living there can have an evening meal at a normal time. Sunrise there is 5.40am at present, so people will tend to get up early and have breakfast before the sun comes up.

India Ramadan Indian Muslims breaking fast at sunset Source: Mahesh Kumar A./Press Association

In Ireland I would need to be up at 2am in order to ensure I have finished eating before dawn starts, which is at about 2.30am. When you haven’t eaten until 10pm then breakfast at 2am isn’t really feasible, so during Ramadan I manage on only one meal a day.

There is no eating or drinking and fighting the cravings I have does become easier as Ramadan progresses; your body gets used to it and I presume your stomach shrinks. I do get cravings, but I get myself through the day by promising that, once the sun goes down, I will have whatever food or drink I am craving that day.

Support

My colleagues  have been very supportive and are willing me on to succeed. One has even offered to buy me lunch when Ramadan is finished.

Most of my colleagues are not religious and so they eat and drink as normal in the office. People think this would be harder for me but it is not too bad.

What’s nice is my colleagues have agreed not to eat hot smelly food in the office during Ramadan. I did not and would not ever request this, but it’s nice that they’ve offered to do it.

Mohammed Rahman works at Goldfish.ie.

Read: Explainer: Ramadan starts today – here’s what happens during the Muslim holy month

Read: Israel freezes Ramadan family visit permits for Palestinians after shooting

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Mohammed Rahman

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