By now every Muslim across the world should have celebrated Eid and a new month is upon us.

Saturday was our last fast and it was a busy one as Mo and I travelled across to the Yorkshire town where my (very large) family live, to visit and catch up with loved ones who we knew we wouldn’t get a chance to see on the day.

I also managed to find time to pop into the Trafford Centre to check out some of their celebrations, which I was excited about – it’s been really amazing to see how many mainstream companies and organisations are starting to recognise this all-important Islamic holiday! Of course, I also had some last minute shopping to do (face. palm).

I officially began my Eid celebrations with family on Sunday morning. Even with the rain, there was a great turnout at the park for the community Eid prayers. Followed by visiting more family, lots of good food and some real laughs!

The holy month of Ramadhan is now over and I personally feel like it passed way too quickly. I feel almost a bit in shock that everything is expected to return to normal.

I ran an #idealiftar competition over the last few weeks, which I really enjoyed hosting. There were so many great entries and I received some really nice supportive messages from non-Muslims, it was wonderful. The winning entry was from Sadia Iqbal who sent in a fantastic tweet of her ideal iftar at a Great Get Together community evening, in memory of Jo Cox. It completely captured the essence of Ramadhan to me – a worthy winner! (Congratulations again Sadia!)

At dinner the other day, one of my dear friends asked me:

“so what do you think you’ve gained during this month?”

I kind of paused. Partly because in my head there was so much I had planned for Ramadhan which I just didn’t get round to doing. With such long days, tiredness stopped me from being as productive as usual. It’s left me feeling a bit disappointed in myself.

But I knew that fasting this year reinforced my feeling of gratitude – a key element of why we do what we do.

When the weather heated up in the last week, all I wanted for iftar was a glass of water. I can’t actually describe that feeling of the cold glass in hand, the relief of feeling that same coolness travel down your throat. The throbbing headache from lack of fluid starts to slowly relieve itself. I didn’t even care about food on those days.

Filling the glasses ready to drink, it really hits you how privileged we are to be able to turn on a tap and know that the water gushing out is clean, cool and safe to drink. It broke my heart to think of those around the world, from all kinds of situations, who probably endure the same ‘fasting’ conditions we observed, not by choice. Feeling that sense of dehydration only to quench it with a warm drink, perhaps one that isn’t clean. If you look at world news right now, Yemen is currently suffering from the worlds worst outbreak of cholera – 14.5 million people are said to have been cut off from clean and safe water supplies. It really puts things into perspective.

From that moment, I’ve thought about that same feeling every day and I hope I continue to do so for the foreseeable. One of the problems with the month of Ramadhan is a lot of people assume its a month to behave, but it’s actually more about reflecting on your life and making long term changes.

Changes for your own good and that of others. Changes that make you a better person.

I am so grateful for everything I have in my life.

For my husband. My mum, my dad. My sisters. My brothers. My grandparents. All my crazy cousins, aunties, uncles… of which I have many (like seriously, hundreds). For my friends. Scattered all over the world.

For the privileges God has given to me throughout my life. For the tests he’s thrown my way. For the ambition and strength he has given me to do everything that I do.

For the fight he has burned into me these last few years. For the feeling that I want to be more than just a 9-5 TV watcher robot and for helping me feel that even just the one person can make a difference.

For opening my eyes to learning about the world. Through travel. Through politics, through hope and activism.

I’m going to end with a quote I heard recently… one of the worlds greatest singers of all time, the sensational Celine Dion, said that her late husband gave her a piece of advice that she will always remember.

“You don’t want a hit. You want a career”

 

 

And she said from hearing those words, that’s exactly what she set out to do. (And she did a bloody good job)

Now I too want to take those words of wisdom, I want to take everything that I love doing and not focus on just the one thing becoming a ‘hit’ – I want to throw the same amount of dedication Celine has put forward and turn my dreams of helping people into a career.

Turn my fight for humanity, politics and spreading hope into something more meaningful.

It’s not going to be easy, I know that. But we got through a month of 18 hour fasts, so surely anything is possible!

I just know that even if we don’t always have the answers, faith can carry us through so I won’t give up on mine.

After all…

Love comes to those who believe in it.

That’s the way it is

😉

 

 

What career are you wanting to make for yourself? If you were fasting too, do you intend on carrying forward any life changes???

 

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We’ve just passed the halfway mark of Ramadhan! If you’ve been fasting, I think you definitely deserve a pat on the back. I know I’m certainly chuffed I’ve managed to make it so far this year without too much whingeing, very unlike me but I am trying my best to keep my cool.

I’ve got a few bits and pieces I’d like to share which may seem a bit random but I’m in an offload kind of mood. Things that I’ve been thinking about, stuff coming up and also just a general update:

 

First of all…

Still time to enter your #idealiftar for a chance to win a £100 intu Trafford Centre Gift card!

A competition not exclusive to Muslims, I’m simply asking you to share what your #idealiftar (meal) would be. I’ve had loads of great entries on twitter and Instagram already, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites so far:

 

 

I’ve been lucky enough to share a number of wonderful iftar meals over the last two weeks, even an extra special one with a non-Muslim friend who decided to give fasting a go that day (she did amazing!).

 

 

The competition is running up until the 22nd June so snap those pics and send through your ideas – there’s a hundred pounds at stake here!!!

 

(click here if you want to read the full competition info)

 

Ramadhan update:

Earlier this month I wrote a post explaining exactly why we fast and why this month is so important to us. Many people look at Ramadhan like an esteemed passing guest, one that has chosen to enter our homes and we are expected to be on our best behaviour. I also mentioned in my last post that this was the month in which the Quran, our Holy Book, was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him)

It is believed that this important moment occurred in the last ten days of Ramadhan. The night it happened is called ‘Laylat Ul Qadr’ an Arabic phrase that loosely translates to ‘Night of Power.’

In the Quran, we are told that worship on this night is better than 1,000 nights of worship, the angels descend upon the earth and it is the ultimate time to ask for forgiveness, for mercy and for blessings.

Of course the beauty of this blessed night is that no-one knows exactly when it is! The date itself was never revealed, all we know is that it occurs at some point in the last ten days of the month. Most Muslims believe that there is a high probability that it falls on one of the odd nights, i.e. the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th etc.

It’s a night like no other and is the reason why most people ramp up their prayers and try to dedicate as much time as possible to worship, this can be quite hard as energy levels start to fade as we start nearing the end!

But needs must, it only comes around once a year and with the state of the world these days we have a lot of peace to pray for 😉

 

What’s coming up?

Well the last half is not just the most precious spiritually, it’s also the most testing. Some people find it flies, others find it drags… it always varies for me. But by this point most food reserves have been burned off and exhaustion can start to set in.

Either way, I’m looking forward to savouring the last moments of this holy month and of course excited to start preparing for Eid too!!

Across America, even here in Manchester, this weekend saw a number of organisations out on the streets protesting – mainly against Muslims. But what these people didn’t expect is that love is always the most triumphant power of all and counter protests were quick to assemble and in most cases completely outnumbered the hate-preachers.

As a Muslim, knowing that there are so many people out there who are willing to stand up for us is comforting. And that goes for companies and governments too. My (very obvious) love for Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters stems for their belief in equality and looking out for everyone, no matter who they are. And when better to show Muslims support than Eid.

London draws on its strength of community and plays host to a fantastic Eid celebration right in the heart of the city. On the 2nd of July Trafalgar Square will host their annual Eid Festival.  Theres a main stage, stalls, food carts and much more as everyone is invited to celebrate this special time of year.

Up here in Manchester, our very own intu Trafford Centre has decided to show they are also ready to celebrate, and have organised a celebration of their own. Whether you’re Muslim or not.. get involved! Come and see the shows, the drummers, the Bollywood harpist (!?!) get a henna tattoo… Mo and I will definitely be checking it out so come join us!

 

 

I am so excited that people are starting to acknowledge our celebrations, the way they have with others such as Chinese New Year, Diwali and Christmas.

I remember a conversation with the lovely Emaan, marketing and events manager at Scene in Spinningfields, where she was telling me about her upbringing in Trinidad. One thing that always resonated with me was when she said one of her favourite things about growing up there was that everyone in the community made the effort to celebrate each other’s religions, cultures and festivals. Each person proud to show off their heritage and what makes them different.

I love that we can do that here too and I love even more that this time of year I can share mine!

 

 

What have you got planned for Eid? Are there any other Eid events you can recommend? Or perhaps you celebrate some other way? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

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EidMubarak Jet set Chick

 

The search for the new moon is over, the sweets and treats have been shared out and it’s been a wonderful day catching up with friends and family.

I’m going to be honest – the last few years my excitement for Eid started to decline ever so slightly, maybe that’s down to age? Eid was no longer about bags of sweets and gifts and games. Maybe it was down to the fasts being so long? I know I made a joke on my last fasting post about the struggles we go through, but in all seriousness no food or drink for 18 hours a day is hard work when you have a full time job!

But this year I was pretty excited. And I think it’s all down to remembering what the festival is all about:

A celebration gifted to us by God to mark the end of Ramadhan.

Definitely a cause to jump for joy right? 🙂

So what did the day entail?

No Eid morning is complete without a cup of mums special recipe homemade hot spice-infused milk, the most perfect way to start the morning!

Next up, it’s a mad rush to get ready, ideally dressing up in something new to mark the occasion.

Once beautification is complete (which simply entails whacking on some eyeliner in my case) it’s time to head out for Eid prayers. In Manchester, we normally go to the Muslim Youth Foundation right in the heart of city centre. This year we all went to the local park in my parents town, where the community had set up an outside prayer area for anyone and everyone to join. After the hit and miss weather we’ve been having over the last few weeks, we were blessed that this morning, the sun decided to shine brightly for us. Not a rain cloud in sight!

After that well the day followed pretty much the same old pattern:

Visiting family. Eating. More visiting – quick mini shift at work (which also involved some eating) – then off to a different town for more family visiting (between Mo and I our family’s pretty huge). Followed by surprise surprise more eating. and so it continued…

The kids had a ball, I literally couldn’t move from all the food consumption and on a day where once again bad politics is making the news (damn you Tony Blair), it was nice to push it all aside for a minute and just be happy.

All in all it was a pretty, great, day.

 

How did you celebrate Eid? Do you have any yearly traditions?

 

Have you entered my Eid giveaway? Click here to enter and be in with a chance to win an advanced tea tasting session for two at Himalayas tea PLUS two day tickets to the Foodies festival in Tatton Park, don’t miss out!

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10 emotions you feel when you're fasting

 

I actually can’t believe we’re already halfway into Ramadhan!?!? I feel like the two weeks have passed by in a blink, but then again when faced with a daily 18 hours fast, sometimes it does feel like time has stood still.

I thought I’d take a few moments to reflect on how it’s all going, and I decided the best way to express my every day struggles was with the help of some very good Friends:

 

1. Constantly trying to convince people it’s perfectly fine to look at food, because you know, you genuinely don’t feel hungry…

 

2. Even though all you want to do is attach yourself to the end of that sandwich…

 

3. You find yourself trying to come up with creative ways to stop your breath from reaching the person you’re talking to.

 

4. And most of the day revolves around trying not to fall asleep…

 

5. When it gets close to sunset, every minute counts, h-anger starts to set in…

 

6. And pretty much everything starts to look like dinner…

 

7. As soon as its time to break fast, restraint is not easy…

 

8. And although you’ve prepared a feast, it’s a mission to get past the starter…

 

9. But you know you have to power through to survive the next 18 hour fast…

 

10. And just when you’ve finished and you’re beginning to feel normal …it’s time to start the 18 hours all over again!

 

How are you finding Ramadan this year?

Have you got a fasting friend who’s going through these emotions?

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ramadhanmubarak

 

Last night, many Muslims all over the world received the exciting news that Ramadhan had started. I had spent the majority of the weekend having a spring clean in preparation; Mo went and braved the supermarket to stock up the cupboards and we spent an evening discussing plans and goals and catching up with friends, knowing that once fasting starts, our priorities will be elsewhere.

So, now its here! And every year without fail, we get asked pretty much the same questions… which by the way, is great, people should always ask questions! Muslims have a pretty hard time in the press these days so the more people ask questions, the more we can help change the perception of our religion.

I thought I’d try and answer some of the most common:

 

What exactly is Ramadhan??

Ramadhan is a month in the Islamic calendar, its the ninth month and considered to be the holiest one of them all.

The Holy Book of Islam, the Quran, was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and its a time when every good deed is multiplied and every prayer is that bit more special.

 

What is fasting?

As a Muslim, there are five pillars of our religion which are compulsory – fasting is one of them.

The word Fasting in Arabic, “sawm” means to refrain. So during daylight hours, between sunrise and sunset, no food or drink is to be consumed. Not only food and drink, but any actions or behaviour that is bad for you or your soul such as smoking, back-biting, foul language etc.

For those of us in the UK, we stop eating at about 3am and we break fast at half 9 at night (there are exact timings but it differs very slightly depending on your region). So that’s around 18 hours in total!

 

Why do we fast? What’s it all for?

Although the act of fasting is physical one, it’s actually a mental challenge more than anything. Fasting shouldn’t mean you retreat from daily activities, lock yourself at home and sleep all day. The whole purpose is to understand patience, endurance and through feeling a small sample of what the less fortunate in this world have to go through, it should increase our generosity.

It’s a month of reflection, one to discover yourself without having to travel anywhere and a time to share and celebrate with others. Every night the mosques will host the Tarawih prayers, which will see them overflowing in most cases as men and women take advantage of spending more time as a community, praying in congregation.

 

When is it? Why does it change?

As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the date shifts slightly every year. The month of  Ramadhan starts on the sighting of the crescent moon.

 

No food and no drink?!? Surely that’s bad for you?

Well no, not really. We are still eating and drinking every day and so as long as we eat healthily and drink plenty of fluid, its all good.

In fact, many doctors have spoken about the benefits of fasting. After a few days your body starts to break down toxins, so the whole process is like a detox (provided you’re not feasting on unhealthy dinners).

Anyone who is sick or has medical issues is not expected to fast, in fact it is discouraged. Our religion is all about looking after yourself physically, mentally and spiritually – so if fasting is somehow doing your body harm then you shouldn’t be doing it.

 

 

Today, is day one and although the hunger and thirst has not been an issue, the small task of trying to stay awake has been very challenging, especially since this heat wave decided to drop in! The last part of the day was pretty tough, but I’ve survived.

Luckily, I managed to get a number of blog posts finished beforehand, but you may find the blog looks a bit sparse this month, not just because working full time whilst fasting will have me pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but I’d also like to savour my free time and use it to learn more about Islam.

So if you’re a brother/sister who is fasting this month, stay strong! And embrace it – I’ll be trying my best to.

If you’re not, but know someone who is, wish them a Happy Ramadhan or say ‘Ramadhan Mubarak’ – translates as have a blessed Ramadhan, it’ll mean a lot to them.

I know a lot of people feel bad eating, drinking, even discussing food in front of someone who is fasting, but the majority of us Muslims have been doing this for years (I started when I was early teens) so yes our tummies might be a lot more vocal over the next few weeks, but this is the one month where our minds can overpower it. So don’t worry, personally I still like to talk about what I’m having for dinner (albeit my dinner will probably be four hours after yours!).

You will find some of us don’t like getting too close this month – one word – halitosis. We know it, we get it, we can’t help it. I usually find my hands get a lot busier when I communicate to try and minimise the amount of talking I do.

It’s now getting pretty late and I’ve only got a few hours before I’m up again so I suppose I should try and sleep.

Once again Ramadhan Mubarak! I wish you all the best in this blessed month 🙂

 

Please feel free to fire any other questions in the comments below, I’ll try my best to answer, or at least find someone who can.

If you’re a Muslim blogger, let me know if you’re writing about fasting, I’d love to read how you’re doing!

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