By Ali Raza Ilyas, Commercial Solicitor

Following the lunar calendar, this year Ramadan begins on 2 April and will be observed from sunrise to sunset. It’s considered to be the holiest month of the year for Muslims and many of our colleagues will be taking part in it.

For me, Ramadan is a time of heightened spirituality and self-reflection. It’s a time when communities come together and I can concentrate on and strengthen ties with family and friends, read the Qur’an, pray and perform as many charitable deeds as I can.

I see Ramadan as a gift. It’s a time to disconnect from everything and to focus on yourself and your relationship with God and the wider community. The self-reflection is like a purification process where you can better yourself as it’s a time to reflect on all our blessings but it also teaches me how much we don’t need. Whether that’s excessive eating and food waste, or the general climate of consumerism. In the process of abstention, it teaches me that I don’t really need all the things I thought I needed to feel gratitude and be happy.

Giving to charity, and performing charitable deeds is an important part of Ramadan for me and other colleagues. Part of the faith includes two different types of charity we should be engaging in all year around, and especially in Ramadan. The main being Zakkat which is mandatory for all Muslims, where we’re required to give 2.5% of our capital assets directly to the less fortunate. This insures money not only gets to those that truly need it, but also helps discourage hoarding of wealth. I usually wait, and I know many other colleagues may also wait until Ramadan to make these mandatory payments to the less fortunate. Others may make pledges to give £5,000 or £10,000 to charity and then fundraise throughout the year before making the donation during Ramadan. The second form of charity we’re encouraged to give is Sadaqah and this is optional. Often it’s in the form of money, but another major act of Sadaqah is planting a tree and even smiling at other people is an encouraged act of charity. So I’ll also make an effort to smile more in Ramadan, and really focus on my mannerism as encouraged.

Throughout the month, I try praying regularly and get back to practising the basics of Islam, as I know many other colleagues may also do the same. This includes a special congregational night prayer – over the course of the 30 days, for a couple of hours at night we pray as we go through the 30 chapters of the Qur’an.

At this time of year, fasting from sunrise to sunset can mean around 16 hours without food or drink, reaching up to 18 hours by the end of the month. People sometimes find the first couple of days tough before your body gets used to fasting, but I usually feel it more towards the middle to the end of the month. This is when I find myself reaching for motivation and inspiration to make it through it to the end.

Abstaining from food and drink isn’t really what the focus is, it’s about everything else. Things like you can’t swear, you can’t lie and you can’t fight – even a heated argument could technically count as breaking your fast. So I really have to be on my best behaviour.

People can be exempt from fasting if they’re ill or pregnant. My grandparents are at an age now where they can’t complete the fast, but the inclusive element to the month means they’re able to donate money to those who are less well off instead, so they’re still contributing and partaking in Ramadan in their own way.

When the month draws to a close, I move from a time of reflection to celebration with the holiday of Eid al-Fitr or “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. A special prayer and sermon are held the morning of Eid day followed by celebrations full of food, games, exchanging gifts with loved ones and giving to charity. I find Ramadan a blessing, where I can recharge spiritually, strengthen family ties, and give back to the community.

Everyone can get involved

Co-op champions a diverse and inclusive environment where it’s important for all colleagues to feel included. To support this, Wednesday 6 April is a Co-op wide fasting day.

Colleagues can choose to join the full fasting day from sunrise to sunset without drinking any water or can take part but drink water through the duration before breaking the fast at sunset. An Iftar event is being held in 1 Angel Square to allow people to gather as a community to break the fast and enjoy food and drink together.

It’d be great to see as many people as possible joining in. Find our more information and register to take part using this Engagement Pack.

Colleague members can also learn more with the latest Join In activity by watching a couple of short videos and answering a couple of questions, you can take part here.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Really informative and personal piece Ali – I never realised the scale of charitable giving that was involved – incredible. Thanks for sharing and all the best to you, your family and community at this special time.

  2. Thanks Ali, that gives a great insight into what Ramadan means. So much more demanding physically than Lent is for me, there is fasting but not sustained for a full month. Ramadan Mubarak to you and yours.

  3. Thank you so much for this really informative piece. I thought I knew quite a bit about Ramadan but you certainly filled-in some gaps for me.

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