Ramadan Diaries: ‘What fasting has taught me from re-fuelling the body to patience’

Zesha Saleem is a freelance journalist, Muslim and medical student. She's been writing a diary for us this month to show how she observes the festival. In her final column for OK!, she tells us about what it's meant to her…

"Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan by taking part in Eid – a holy festival which comes twice a year (once after Ramadan, once after the annual pilgrimage Hajj.)

It’s never a fixed date, as it depends on the sighting of the moon – Muslims follow the lunar calendar for Islam related events. This Eid, we were lucky to have it on the same day as Bank Holiday Monday, meaning that most families were already off and I was free to enjoy the festive day even more.

Preparations for Eid started a few days in advance. We put the decorations up, went to Tesco to do a huge food shop, cleaned the house from top to bottom and bought our special Eid clothes.

It felt very exciting, there was a sense of festivity in the air and everyone was looking forward to celebrating with family and good food. After everything that's happened in the world recently, with the pandemic and war raging in Ukraine, it felt even more important to be together and take stock of life and our faith.

Eid day starts off with going to the mosque for the Eid prayers followed by a massive brunch. We called relatives to wish them Eid Mubarak, received lots of Eid money (Eidi) and, quite frankly, ate our way through the day.

However, eating at lunchtime felt extremely weird given that we were fasting the day before! My mother made an array of Eid dishes – from traditional South Asian semolina pudding to pilau rice with curry and many side dishes. I helped out by setting up the dessert table for the younger kids to feast on – which disappeared very quickly! We spent the time with family, and it felt really special, especially since we’re not going to get together like this in a good while now due to our busy lives.

Ramadan, and Eid, has gone past extremely quickly. As I’m sitting here finishing off this final column, it feels like the last month passed in a blur and now I’m back to my normal routine – working in the library and the hospital.

The special spirit of the month has left, and it’ll be a whole year before we can experience anything like that again. The biggest thing I learnt from this year is that working and praying together, as a community, is incredibly important.

After two years of isolation due to lockdowns, I’ve never appreciated hanging out with random people more – there’s a different sort of joy when you see everyone get together as one big community.

However, the most important thing is to carry what we learnt from Ramadan into the rest of the year – we shouldn’t forget the important lessons of patience, kindness and keeping faith at the forefront of what we do.

We’re also encouraged to think about the year ahead, and make plans for what we want to achieve. For example, I want to try and keep additional fasts throughout the year so when it comes to Ramadan, I’m not as overwhelmed anymore.

It’s not just spiritual goals though – fasting all day and praying at night has made me realise that fuelling your body well, in the way you think is best, is important. Not just for Muslims, but for everyone."

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