Demystifying Ramadan

I’m back!

Now, if my previous posts weren’t clear, or if you haven’t cottoned on to my insistence on using the letter “u” in the word colour – I’m British.

I’m also Muslim.

Now, with all the worries mounting over the last few weeks, I thought I’d take a moment to offer some calm.

As most people are aware, we are currently in Ramadan.

(Ramadan is one of the months of the Islamic year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, months start on the sighting of the new moon.)

Now, I’m not sure what the general non-Muslim idea of Ramadan is.

I’ve only heard a few ideas, and while some aren’t too far off the mark, some are frankly bizarre.

So, I thought I’d tell you about my typical day.

Ready? Here we go.

I’m going to start with suhoor – or, as we say it in my language, sehri.

This is the period of time before sunrise, in which we eat to ‘fuel up’ for the coming day. For the past week or so, sunrise has been at 02:30 a.m., so we don’t typically go to sleep in my house until after it’s finished.

During sehri, you can eat whatever you think will keep you ready for the day – and if that’s an over-abundance of chicken nuggets, so be it. But most people use it to drink a ton of water, since we can’t drink water throughout the day either.

After sunrise, we pray the first prayer of the day, Fajr. This takes about 5 minutes.

We then go to sleep.

Now, I’m currently on holiday from university. So where my younger brother and sisters get up at 8 to go to school, and my dad goes off to work, I get to sleep in.

(It’s my only perk.)

I end up asleep until half 10. Sometimes 11.

I then wake up, wash my face and so on, and read a chapter of the Qur’an. (We’re encouraged to read the Qur’an at least once during this month.)

This normally takes me about an hour. Maybe an hour and a half.

Now, that brings us up to… about 1 in the afternoon.

So, from 13:00 to 15:00, my mum goes to work at the nearby school, and I help out around the house. Emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry, changing the bed-sheets – things like that.

At 15:00, I go and pick up my baby sister from school, and my mum comes back. She then goes to pick up my other brother and sister from their school. In the meantime, I make tea for the littlest one, since she’s only 5, and doesn’t fast.

By the time my mum is back, it’s 16:30. In between the resulting hum-drum of my siblings being back, we pray Zuhr (2nd prayer). Again, this takes 5 minutes. 10, maximum.

Now, at the moment, my house is currently a mess. We started an intensive spring cleaning, but the lack of energy that Ramadan causes as a side-effect has slightly slowed that down. So for the last few weeks, between 17:00 and 19:30, I’ve been helping to clear out/freshen up the house. That means anything from painting the walls, to throwing out shelves.

My brother and sister typically get a break from this, since my sister is in GCSE season, and my brother has his end-of-year exams.

Somewhere during this, my dad also comes back from work, where he’s currently being inundated with projects – so he comes home and focuses on finishing a lot of those off.

Truthfully, the time between 7 and 8 is lazy hour. Pretty much everyone takes a nap at some point.

At 8, we start getting up to prepare for the iftar. This is the meal which is used to mark the end of the day’s fast. This means cooking, setting out the table, praying Asr (3rd prayer) if we haven’t done that yet, and waking up the stragglers.

(Of course, sometimes we go to the nearby university, and have iftar with other Muslims in the community.)

Iftar occurs at sunset, which has been at 21:23 for the last few days. We traditionally break the fast with dates, and then proceed to eat.

Now, in my house, we normally eat then pray Maghrib (4th prayer). Other people will eat a date to break their fast, pray, and then finish eating. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

After iftar, at about 22:40, we pray Isha (5th prayer). At 23:00, we normally go to the mosque, and pray taraweh. (That’s an additional prayer.) That takes about an hour and a half, finishing at about 00:30.

And then we stay awake until sehri comes around, and it happens all over again.

That’s a typical day. We fast for most of the day, nap a little, pray 5 times a day, and read the Qur’an a little more often.

I’m not by any means setting my family as a model, nor claiming that we are faultless.

But we’re a normal family. And this is a normal day.

So! That’s it. I hope I’ve helped to make Ramadan a little less ominous than some of the media is currently intent on portraying it.


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