https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2018/06/15/what-ramadan-means-to-me/

What Ramadan means to me

The festival of Eid ul-Fitr (14/15 June) marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Civil Service Muslim Network Chair Nabeela Rasul shares her experience of the last month.

Nabeela Rasul, Chair of the Civil Service Muslim Network

Going without food for 18 to 19 hours is a spiritual (mental and physical) test. However, Ramadan allows me to redefine what success means – so, less about gratification and more about gratitude.

I work in the Home Office, as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Director General of UK Visas and Immigration and Her Majesty’s Passport Office. My role is pretty fast-paced, dealing with an array of operational and ministerial priorities.

Personally, Ramadan allows me to refocus all areas of my life. It makes me think about what is important (family, friends, relationships) and how I adjust my time accordingly. This means refining my ‘To Be’ list and not letting the ‘To Do’ list get the better of me.  

For those perhaps wondering what a month of fasting feels like, here is a window into my Ramadan.

Getting ready

  • Issuing updated Ramadan guidance to line managers and staff via Cabinet Office.
  • On the eve of Ramadan, speaking at an event in St Ethelburga’s church in the City of London, co-organised by Emerald Network and the National Zakat Foundation. I get to plug the importance of staff networks in creating an inclusive work environment – and how, both in the Home Office and across the Civil Service, colleagues are working to achieve a truly diverse organisation that represents the communities it serves.
  • Real buzz in the air with Ramadan’s arrival and making the most of it, which starts the month on a high note.
Nabeela Rasul sharing the importance of creating an inclusive workplace during a pre-Ramadan event at St Ethelburga's church

Week One: Ready, set... go!

  • The first fast– with a busy day at work… headache turns into a migraine. The first day or so is often the hardest.
  • Routine generally will be to wake at 2am, close fast around 3am, sleep, get up, go to work, come home, open fast at around 9pm and then evening prayers. I usually stay up and sleep at dawn… and this is where flexible working and understanding line management are great, as I adjust my workload to start and finish later during Ramadan.

Week Two: First full week of fasting

  • Pretty much adjusted to fasting. Work busy with continued focus on the issues of the day.
  • Attended an annual Iftar (opening fast) get together organised by Mosaic. As a former Prince’s Trust Development Coach and Mosaic supporter I’m pleased to make it as they do brilliant work in mentoring young people.
  • Given timings of prayer, the month also makes me really appreciate the multi-faith room facilities in the Home Office to support ablution and prayer.  
Hints and tips on preparing for Ramadan from the Muslim Doctors Association

Week Three: Out and about...

  • Particularly tired (partly a sign of getting older, partly about long days!).
  • Find myself at an inspired Iftar at the Shard.
  • The month can be hardest for those away from home, so I squeeze in an Iftar with a friend who is away from their family.

Week Four: Sharing in the community spirit

  • Attend a short ‘Journey through the Quran’ class and make my first visit to Ramadan Tent Project – a fantastic initiative that brings together people from all walks of life (friends and strangers).
  • Lots of wider interfaith Iftars, some I don’t make it to – including the well-received remarks from the Home Secretary at the first Iftar in the Speaker’s House, organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Muslims.

Week Five: Savouring the last few days

  • A bit of solitude – welcome the pre-planned leave to get some ‘me’ time.
  • Last, but by no means least, checking my Zakat (charity) - which requires each Muslim to give 2.5% of their wealth to charity.

Eid Mubarak – and thank you!

It’s arrived - Eid Mubarak!

Thank you to supportive line managers and colleagues who checked in and asked how it was going. And to those who skipped a lunch (or fasted) in solidarity to share the experience – a great initiative organised by the Muslim Network Collaborative (Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England).

Graphic with legend 'A great place to work'Thank you also to those who shared their departmental Ramadan guidance. And congrats to the Department for Transport Muslim Network, who hosted an event welcoming Ramadan with Nusrat Ghani MP (who has the great accolade of being the first female Muslim minister to speak at the despatch box in the House of Commons).

7 comments

  1. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    I fasted during Ramadan in support of close friends of mine. I did not do it everyday as I am not Muslim. However I did find it very interesting as an experience and it opened my eyes as to how hard it is! It takes a lot of will power to not drink all day especially. I would like to do it again next year and this time do it for longer. I could not do the full Ramadan experience as I am in the gym and I need fuel for lifting weights and things. But next year I certainly will be looking to do much more.

    Happy Eid!!

  2. Comment by Nabeela Rasul posted on

    thanks Charlotte for sharing your personal experience. Awesome that you even tried it yourself. The 'not even water' part is I agree sometimes the hardest bit but for me it is mind over matter. Some of my friends actually trained for Ramadan by skipping lunches - I'll def thinking about some intermittent fasting to help me for next year 🙂

  3. Comment by Kulsoom posted on

    An excellent blog, thank you for sharing.

  4. Comment by Alison Wedge posted on

    Excellent blog - really interetsing. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Comment by Bipin posted on

    Fasting , it's a challenge , I can jump , fly , run ,exercise but without food in a single day is totally impossible . I salute to those who fast.
    I hope to take up this chalenge one day

  6. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Nabeela for sharing your experience. I am currently on a posting to Istanbul and was here during Ramadan. We were fortunate in that the weather was cooler at the start but the temperatures over the past couple of week rose and was 30c+ on several days.

    The British Embassy in Ankara and the British Consulate General Offices in Istanbul did seek to be as flexible as possible to take into account that staff would be fasting. I have to say that I commend by colleagues for their self discipline and will power.

  7. Comment by Helen Pickering posted on

    Thanks for the blog, it's really interesting to hear how it is from your perspective. I'm not sure I could do it so I really salute those who do - especially when Ramadan falls in the summer months with most daylight. I imagine it's much easier in January, albeit no doubt still difficult.