For 11 months of the year, my routine is somewhat similar. Pre-pandemic I’d commute into London by train and grab a hot drink before heading into the office. Once in the office, I would stop by the kitchen on the way to my desk for morning snacks and like most, break for lunch in the afternoon. But for one month each year, you won’t catch me near the kitchen, canteen or cafes as I observe the practice of fasting during the month of Ramadan. Last year, Ramadan brought unique challenges as it coincided with the start of the global pandemic.
During the 30 days of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking anything (even water!) from dawn to sunset. For British Muslims, this year, it means fasting for 16-18 hours a day. Ramadan offers clear ways to connect with gratitude; fasting by choice when others may involuntarily feel hunger, giving charity in abundance and allowing ourselves to feel the impact of these activities, to not take things for granted and open the doors to gratitude and inspiration. Ramadan is about purification, ultimately bettering ourselves in mind, body and spirit to come closer to God. This is achieved by reducing time spent on distracting habits and not focusing on gratification via social media use, Netflix bingeing, apps and games. Instead, time is spent focusing on attending to ourselves and what we need, rather than what we want.
One of the blessings that people often remark on during Ramadan, is that it demonstrates that we are capable of dealing with our bad habits and that we have the capacity to exercise will. Ramadan offers a blueprint through times of isolation, through Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal), Iftar (the meal when breaking the fast) and daily prayers, essential aspects of which are discipline, structure and stillness. Though many of these activities unite us with the larger community, last year traditional Ramadan communal practices came to a standstill, giving a sense of loss to the community. Communal evening meals and nightly congregational prayers at the mosque were absent from the fasting experience but were replaced by something beautiful - an opportunity to introspect and recognise one’s agitations. This year will be as challenging as the last, but with places of worship being permitted to remain open, it will feel somewhat similar to the norm.
I have always used the time leading up to, and during Ramadan, to answer questions and provide context to those keen to learn more about this annual event. My managers have been understanding when headaches kick in from the lack of water, about mid-meeting stomach grumblings (now saved by Zoom’s mute button) and adjusting working hours if required – demonstrating Capco’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. I’ve also had colleagues fast alongside me for a day to get a sense of what it’s really like. With that in mind, I invite you to fast for a day with me in the coming weeks and to share your own personal experiences – of the fasting itself and the feeling of breaking one’s fast at the end of a long day!