Islam and Ramadan

Topics: Islam, Eid ul-Fitr, Ramadan Pages: 3 (949 words) Published: July 12, 2013
Ramadan in Britain during the early Eighties, when I was growing up, was very different from the way it is now. There was no awareness of the rotating month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, no flexibility to working hours, no facility for prayer in offices and no calls for prayer on television.

For one month every year, my family and I would undertake this annual Islamic duty furtively, tip-toeing around for the pre-dawn meal for fear of waking up the neighbours with the kitchen clatter, and reluctant to talk about the practice for fear of censure or mockery.

Four decades on, Ramadan is marked far more openly in Britain. Some employers are offering flexi-time to those Muslims who, from this week, will undertake a daily fast for 30 consecutive days that will involve around 19 hours of abstention from all food and drink – from sunrise to sunset. Some firms are allowing Muslims to begin their working day later, so they can catch up on sleep after waking up at 3am to eat, and to end their shifts earlier, so that they are not working when they are physically weakened.

The Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan is also increasingly celebrated in public venues around the country, including Trafalgar Square in London. Channel 4 announced last week that it would broadcast one out of five "calls for prayer" during the month-long fasting period. The channel called it a deliberately "provocative" act that would, it hoped, challenge prejudices that link Islam to extremism.

It is not just Ramadan that has received a PR boost in recent times but fasting itself. In the early days of fasting – at school and then at university – I was often warned by well-wishers of the danger I might be putting my body under and that abstaining from eating and drinking water for long hours could do me harm.

Now, fasting seems to have been reinvented as the ancients saw it – a way of giving the body a rest, cleansing both physically and spiritually, and a way of sharpening...
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