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Mindful Ramadan

mindful ramadan

There is a misconception that mindfulness is about deep breathing and focusing on the breath alone, such that one remains detached and distracted from their inner thoughts and the external world around them. This is false, and, in fact, disregards the very core of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is about relaxing the mind from over-stimulation; it’s about connecting to the here and now, to be present within. Although it is widely considered to be a form of meditation – which is, of course, an effective approach in practicing mindfulness – it can, however, be applied to any and every mundane task in our day-to-day lives. It’s not about distracting ourselves away from our over-thinking minds, but rather to let our thoughts be and to listen to them non-judgmentally.  And it’s through letting our thoughts come and go, to flow freely, that enables us to centre our focus on our breath to then calm the mind. So why, and how, do I intend on applying this during Ramadan?

Well, not to state the obvious, but fasting is a challenge. Abstaining from food and water is not easy, especially for those living in parts of the world where the sun sets after 9pm. Carrying on with our day-to-day responsibilities while maintaining productivity can get extremely difficult – not to mention the real risk of some serious ‘hanger’ issues. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing hunger-induced anger, and although we try our best to exercise spiritual tranquility throughout this holy month, we can (and I certainly do) often fall victim to some intense hanger during Ramadan. This is where mindfulness comes in; it can serve as a great tool to help curb these challenges. Breathing deeply through pangs of hunger and cravings can help reduce the severity of the experience. That is, the intensity with which we feel hunger and crave certain foods or drinks can be significantly reduced if we breathe, listen to our bodies with acceptance, and allow these feelings to just be. By no means do I intend to imply that this will be an easy process, nor am I making any claims that 5 brief minutes of deep breathing will magically eradicate the feeling of hunger or thirst. With practice, however, it will fill our hearts with patience to endure these moments with greater strength.

Once we start approaching iftar, our instinct is often to indulge in deep-fried foods to satisfy our taste buds. But what if we were to eat mindfully too? This may seem a little nonsensical, so just bear with me here. Activating our senses so as to listen, hear, and to feel our experiences deeply is central to mindful practice. If we then pay attention to the food we choose to put on our plates, and how we feel having finished our meals, it gives us the opportunity to take a step back and question: how are we choosing to treat our bodies? What types of foods are we nourishing our bodies with? In reflecting not only on the experience of abstinence of food & drink, but the act of eating and drinking in itself, it can help us shift towards a healthier diet during the month – which can provide our bodies with more durable resources for the fasting periods. It is important to note here, however, that if you crave a certain food, snack, or drink for iftar or suhoor – don’t judge yourself. Treat yourself with understanding; there is nothing wrong with dedicating a prolonged period of time for self-observation before committing to a gradual shift towards healthier nutrition. Doing so otherwise and adopting a rigid approach can make this shift more difficult, and an unpleasant experience – which will also be tremendously difficult to commit to.

Other than the possibilities of greater abstinence endurance, why even focus so much time and energy on mindfulness, or the act of deep breathing in particular? We can turn to the Quran for some answers:

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud. And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.””

–Quran 15:29-30 (Sahih International)

In accordance with the Quran, the first human being was brought to life when Allah breathed into him. So to breathe deeply, to centre our focus back to the breath in all that we do is an ode to our creation by Allah. Not only does this form of mindfulness practice relax and soothe the soul, it can also then pave way for deeper spiritual connection with our Creator.  

Aside from breathing practices and focusing on the fasting experience, I thought I’d share some daily practices I’ve planned for this month to maintain a more positive frame of mind for deeper spiritual connection:

Fajr routine:

  • Pray
  • Read Quran
  • Meditate for 10 minutes

Note: I usually use an app called Calm and use their daily meditations in the mornings. Meditating in the morning helps maintain a clear mind to carry forward into the rest of the day, so it can help anchor a great sense of spirituality at the onset of the fast.

Morning routine (after the post-Fajr sleep):

  • Gratitude list (x5 things)

Note: practicing gratitude has been proven to increase levels of happiness. By listing out all that you’re thankful to Allah for can set you up for a positive day and to feel more spiritually connected.

Bedtime routine:

  • Gratitude list (x5 things)
  • Reflections of the day – positive experiences, and what could have been improved (and how).
  • Gentle yoga

This is not a perfect guide to the happiest, healthiest and most spiritual way to fast, nor am I a perfect and consistent mindfulness practitioner. I do fall off the wagon more often than I’d like to, and I do fall into unhealthy patterns of negativity and spiritual neglect. But the beauty of mindfulness is that we can allow ourselves to fall, and to forgive ourselves for doing so. This makes it easier to pick ourselves back up each time we fall, and following attempts to maintain a mindful routine becomes easier and easier. No matter how patient or kind we have the capacity to be towards others, we tend to forget that we, too, are creations of God; therefore, we too are deserving of our own love and kindness. So to be accepting of the self is one of the most important gratitude and mindful practices one can commit to. In so doing, it can allow us to deepen our spiritual cleanse in this holy month. May you have a blessed Ramadan.

By Hanain B

Hanain is doing a PhD in Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University, focusing on interactional identity construction in Muslim women. When she is not nerding out on her research, she likes writing poetry and dabbling in photography as a hobby. She also runs a small-scale project with a couple of friends called Project Happiness, distributing food & care packs to the homeless. You can follow her on Twitter @hanainbrohi 

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Finding the spirit of Ramadan


Ramadan brings to mind an array of sights in the mind’s eye – eager faces turned up to the sky as they wait to witness the beauty of a slight crescent moon which signals the start of a month filled with peace, serenity and forgiveness; laden iftaar tables just waiting to be set upon by hungry worshippers; masjids filled to the brim with Muslims eager to pray in congregation and benefit from the added reward of it. Ramadan is so filled with community, what then happens when that community can no longer be accessed? Is it still Ramadan without all the traditions that have come to be associated with it?

When I was eighteen, I experienced my first few fasts living apart from family and community. I’d travelled several thousand kilometres away to study and, as it happened, Ramadan began whilst I was still writing exams. That year, I’d chosen to live in a dorm and due to both the less than convenient system for applying for some sort of packed meal that I could eat at sehri and iftaar time combined with the fact that I would only be spending a few days of Ramadan away at university meant that I elected to simply eat snacks in my bedroom.

It was the first time that I spent iftaar all alone and I can’t deny that it did feel strange. Something was missing – more than just the obvious food and family, that is. When I look back on that year, it still feels as though I was in some weird kind of limbo where Ramadan hadn’t truly started yet. Getting back home a few days in, it felt like the month only truly began when I woke up for sehri alongside my mother the morning after I arrived.

Fasting is so much more than the physical abstaining from food and drink but I can’t deny that a lot of emphasis is put on it in my community. From weeks in advance when the preparation of savouries begins to gathering together around a table to eat after a long day of fasting, food plays a great role in the fasting that I grew up with.

My second year at university, I spent all of Ramadan away from home. I’d moved into an apartment with a friend that year and we spent a lot of that Ramadan together. That year felt a little closer to the traditional Ramadan I’d grown to expect after so many years of traditions. We cooked together, ate together and made some very special memories. After she’d left to go back home however, I was left alone once again. I still had access to a full kitchen and still made myself some great meals. I should have had all the same atmosphere that I’d had whilst with my flatmate. But something was missing.

“…many of us find ourselves without companions to share this holy month with. As a result, we find ourself searching for the heart of Ramadan…”

Up until then, I’d thought the food was what had been missing. Not so. Company and community are what make Ramadan for a lot of people and back then, that was what made it for me. The atmosphere was only there when I had someone to experience it with. Alone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.

Last year, I spent several fasts alone again. But this time, something was different. I no longer felt a loss when I sat down to break my fast alone. I was different. I’d been gifted with the realization that Ramadan is a month to grow closer not only to one’s community and close ones but also to one’s Creator.

Through a variety of circumstances, many of us find ourselves without companions to share this holy month with. As a result, we find ourself searching for the heart of Ramadan, for the spirit that seems to be an almost tangible presence in the room at times when we’re particularly fortunate. Alone, that spirit seems unreachable and many feel disappointed by the loss.

The truth is that the spirit of Ramadan is found in many things – in the masjid when people gather to pray to Allah, at the iftaar table when family and friends sit down to enjoy a meal together, and within you as you allow the peace and serenity that are poured down from the heavens to reach your heart and draw you still closer to Allah.

If you can’t find it in the external world, look for it internally. You might have to look a little harder but sooner or later In Shaa Allah, it’ll come to you.

By Neymat Raboobee
Author, Blogger, Social Media Manager, follow her on the platforms below.
Image credit: Omar Chatriwala on Flickr
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
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Benefits of Fasting

90146ca782bdaec7d6aea24e6eab1b0fShiza Khan is back with the second part of her Ramadan preparation series. In part 2 she details the benefits of fasting, so just in case you’re finding the fasts difficult, this is a timely reminder! 

May is already here, and we’re just a few days into oRamadan!  And today, I want to discuss The BENEFITS OF FASTING, mainly on the body, as the benefits on the body will extend to the mind and soul too.

The benefits of fasting are only effective for longer fasting periods, (no, a break between lunch and dinner doesn’t count) , this is because the body needs time before it can break down it’s waste and wash out the toxins, which can only happen in longer periods of fasting. During Ramadan, Muslims fast for a period of at least 14-17 hours, depending on their geography.

Some of the researched benefits of fasting include –


We in our everyday lives, overuse and exploit our digestive system more than we admit. Being the single most overused system in our body, it hardly gets a break or time to rest. Fasting helps achieve this seemingly Herculean task. By providing a break in our digestion we give it and our bodies time to recover. This enables the system to work better when provided with food and absorb nutrients better. Also in the general absence of food, the body is able to clear itself of toxins and breakdown unwanted cells to provide energy. This process helps the body eliminate diseased cells and thereby maintain optimum health.



All those who have a predisposition to developing diabetes (are more likely due to heredity or other conditions) or have diabetes* have more chances of improving their insulin resistance by fasting. Researches have shown that even an 8 hour fast improves insulin action on glucose. This action is also useful for those who simply desire to lose weight, or women who have PCOS, as insulin action is impaired.


Fasting has recently shown to cause a significant improvement in Immune system regeneration. In the process of consuming diseases cells, WBC’s are utilized for energy production. This causes the body to produce new WBC cells and improving immunity. Fasting is also said to reduce hormones that are linked with ageing.

Most people personally experience these changes and improvements, other benefits however are still under research. It however in no way implies that you should doubt for a second before fasting. These are some medically researched benefits that have been proved only recently when in Islam these had been sated 1400 years ago.

So this Ramadan fast your day away consciously keeping in mind that Allah has deemed what is best for you. Peace! stay Healthy, Stay Happy!

*Always seek advice from your doctor or physician before embarking on fasting, if you have any health conditions such as diabetes.

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.

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Preparing for Ramadan


Shiza Khan is back with more advice on how to do your Ramadan prep like a boss! In part 1 of this series she advises that you keep up with your workout routine whilst introducing nutritious foods! Watch out for part 2.

Ramadan is the month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims all over the world, fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting during this month not only entails abstaining from food for the prescribed time, but having control over one’s thoughts, actions, and words. It teaches us not only the obvious, which is the value of food and water, but also tolerance and patience. It makes us sensitive to the issues of hunger, unavailability of clean water, and other blessings we take for granted and waste just because. Ramadan teaches us gratefulness, not only to towards God Almighty but also towards other people.

Fasting for a period of 17-19 hours, 30 days in a row however, is no child’s play. Add to the mix going to school, colleges or work makes it even more challenging. And it’s not only because fasting  in this heat wears you out,but also because the body now has to follow a renewed time-table which it isn’t used to and affects all your day’s activities. In my quest to adjusting in another country, along with making sure I do not fail in my duties as a Muslim or as a student, I juggled through many schedules, trying to make one that fit best and eventually I found one. As a college student then, I found that it worked for me incredibly well, and I was able to use my available time to its maximum capacity. Life after all, is all about balance, isn’t it? And that was exactly why I started this series, where I shall try to dish out tips that will help maximize our time to do all that Ramadan seeks from us in addition to doing the chores that well, must be done.


From eating 3 main meals and maybe 2 smaller ones in a day to 2 meals considerably smaller in portion, is a transition that our body needs time adjusting to. Which is why some people get comfortable with fasting only halfway through the month, and that makes it increasingly necessary to train our bodies so as to ease it into the transition. I find the best time to begin is at least a week before Ramadan starts if not more. Reducing the portion size is a very effective method to achieve this. It is a durable way to train the body instead of  just cutting down an entire meal as the body recognizes meal timings more efficiently as opposed to size. As the days go by, the body starts to use the available quantity of food for maximum energy release.



Opt for lighter ingredients in your meals that won’t cause Gastric issues like heartburn, acidity or reflux conditions. Decreasing the amount of spices used is a very effective way of making meals lighter.  Add plenty of vegetables and fruits to your diet and choose high fibre whole cereals wherever possible. Gradually start decrease the sugar content in your meals, as this is the most easy source of energy, and during abstinence of food, the body’s demand for an easy and quick energy source may cause lack of concentration and will leave you craving sugar the entire day.


Or any other fluid for that matter. Staying hydrated is the key. Make sure you get in a minimum of 8 glasses of water in you through out the day. Your body needs that water to clean itself of the toxic metabolites and to keep functioning efficiently. Also the heat is going nowhere and will only increase as the days pass, increasing the body’s demand for water as losses occur in the form of sweat.


Lastly, there is no need for you to stop you fitness routine if you are on one, definitely not during the preparatory stage. If you eat well and drink plenty water, your body will be able to carry out its regular functions with ease.


Readers with any medical condition that need constant medication are to refer to their doctors before making any changes in their diets and routines. Please DO NOT on any account stop medications on your own accord. Introduction of any new ingredient must be done keeping in mind allergic and clinical conditions, if any.


With that said, I shall also add that this practice worked pretty well for me personally, and as a nutritionist I shall recommend it for healthy individuals, who find it difficult to change their routines. You are however free to mix and match and create your own way that you may find useful, as these are just guidelines. Remember, if you have a control over your diet, you have a control over your life, and it becomes much easier than to concentrate  on praying, study, work or any other job that you do.

I hope this helps, and hope you come back to check the part 2. Till then Stay Healthy, Stay Happy!!

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.

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5 Foods Dieticians Swear By

In the run up to Ramadan  our Shiza Khan has 5 top nutritional tips for key foods to include in your diet. 

Have you ever so often looked at the shelves in the supermarkets and marvelled at all the pricey, probably hyped “health products” and wondered if they really do what their claims say?  Quinoa, Amaranth grains, gluten free flours, wheatgrass powders are just the tip of the iceberg. So what is so special about these items that every fitness expert and any person with even a little money to spare will splurge in?

Well for one, they are all packed with nutrients and are beneficial for more than one health condition, so most of those health claims are quite true. Some of these are bursting with antioxidants that have become of primary importance considering the toxins we ingest daily, be it through food or just by breathing. The thing is, that nature is so kind to us that it has spread out these benefits in a lot of other foods that have always been traditionally used, but over time forgotten.

Being a clinical dietitian, I come across clinical conditions that can either completely be healed by nutrition, or need nutrition therapy as an adjunct to medical treatment. Through the process of learning, I’ve discovered a pattern of repeating ingredients that we collectively use over and over. Looking into those individually I’ve found why we do so. So, after much thought, I’ve decided to uncover our trade secrets. Moving on, here are five ingredients we all swear by.


Also called linseeds, these tiny beasts are packed with omega- 3, which are suggested for most conditions like diabetes, liver diseases, renal problems and generally for good health. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties which is helpful in reducing symptoms of compromising health conditions. It is found to be beneficial for people trying to lose weight. Along with the good fats, flaxseed also is a good source fibre, when coarsely ground and consumed in either milkshakes, smoothies, protein drinks, or layered in a parfait. It can be ground to a fine powder and mixed with flours.


Before you jump up to consume it though, note that flaxseed once ground spoils quickly. It is advisable to grind it just before consumption.


This legume of oriental origin has lately come into the limelight, thanks to all the resources gone into exploring its health benefits. Soybean is available in the market either as the legume, or processed and de-fatted in the form of granules and chunks or as soy milk and tofu. The protein content of Soy with the absence of saturated fats like in meat and other non-vegetarian sources, makes it highly sought out. In fact soybean scores a position among the top five in protein digestibility ratios, and provides all the 9 essential amino acids, which is rare in a plant food, quinoa being the other to do so.


Apart from its very attractive protein content, soy is also rich in isoflavones, a type of phytochemical that has protective effects for the body. Studies done on Asian populations have shown a positive correlation among women eating soy and the reduction of breast cancer risk (Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study).

Soy isoflavones are also phytoestrogens, that the body can use to mimic the functions of oestrogen, and thereby helpful in reducing the symptoms of menopause.

Soybean is versatile in its use, from being ground and used mixed with flour to make multi-grain flour, to being used in desserts. The commercially available chunks and granules are just as versatile as their parent legume.


Once upon a time mothers used to literally run behind their children, forcing them to eat those greens, and now those children grew up and add raw spinach and kale to their drinks and tonics. Greens have taken a dip and have emerged with a fury back on the health front.

Green Leafies

Now generally, spinach is celebrated for its iron content. Thank Popeye for that! The truth however is, that spinach is actually a very poor source of it. Dill leaves on the other hand have the highest iron content amongst the commonly consumed greens.

Green leafy vegetables however are abundantly rich in fibre, which makes it perfectly suitable for diabetics and beta carotene, making the leafies not only a good source of vitamin A, but also aids as an antioxidant in the biological system.


I know, I know. There’s enough said about oats on the internet, in person, in magazines and books and every possible source of diet inspiration, that is because oats are that multi-functional and are effective as a part of the diet for more than one condition.


Oats are mostly rich in beta glucans, which is a type of soluble fibre. That is its singular feature that gives it it’s benefit. It helps patients with lipidaemia (abnormal lipid levels in the body), chelates cholesterol (binds to it) and reduces it, aids weight loss, has a low GI and therefore can be included in a diabetic diet, can be used in a variety of recipes and is cost effective. Phew! *grabs a bowl of oatmeal*



Okay, berries are my personal favourite. Just like oats, these are well advocated for their antioxidant content. they protect the body’s cells against damage by toxins and chemical toxins produced during metabolism. Being anti-ageing, cardio protective, great for weight loss and a healthy drink, quirky ingredient for desserts and just an overall package, berries sure will feature on the our foods most picked list.


– Even though the foods have the said benefits, if you have a medical condition, it is highly advised that you consult a doctor or a dietitian before you consume any of these foods.

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Images credit: Shiza Khan

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.

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Blessings of Ramadan: a personal reflection

by Sprinkle of Surprise

Ramadan Geylang Serai, Singapore:

Ramadan Geylang Serai, Singapore:

Ramadan. This month means so many different things to so many different people. For some this is another month, for others, this is the time of utmost importance. Everyone performs various religious duties as they see fit this month, what ties us all together is the fasting. Fasting by abstaining from food & other acts that will break our fasts. Recitation of the Quran is at its peak this month, as are iftar get togethers & gatherings at the masjid.

As a child, I loved waking up for sehri* / sahoor with my parents thinking I was so cool eating in the middle of the night. As I got older, the less and less cool this became and the more tired I felt eating at such odd times of the night. All through most of my life, I never truly understood or cared enough to understand the true meaning and gains one can receive through this month. It hasn’t been until this past year, when I truly did a lot of soul searching and found the need, desire, passion and joy in praying to Allah & trying to better myself as a Muslim girl living in America.

This Ramadan for me is different than any of my last. I feel like I am truly fasting for the first time in my life. The fasts this year are extremely long and extremely testing. I work full time and this year for the first time I’m keeping my fasts without waking up for sehri. I have iftar at normal iftar time, and an hour or two later I just eat something light which is my sehri. I can’t wake up in the middle of the night any more like I used to as a child. Sigh, adult life problems.

Besides the actual abstaining from food, I have also told my coworkers of this month. They’re all so supportive and questioning (as they all are) but I still take my lunch break with them and they eat while I pass time. It doesn’t bother me, and it helps keep the regularity in my work day. For the first time this Ramadan, I am not listening to music for this whole month. I know for some people that is normal during this month, but I was never one of those people. This year I felt like I should keep myself from that as well, and so far I am succeeding. I have a long drive to and from work, so I now I put youtube on as I drive listening to naats.

“I am proud of myself for making these changes & feeling a difference in myself this Ramadan. I hope I can continue this in the next few years and better myself as a Muslim.”

With Eid approaching in almost a week, Eid fashion is all the hype amongst Muslim girls these days. Every time I go to an iftar party or the Mosque, this becomes a topic of discussion. Being a Pakistani Muslim, our Eids are even more extravagant than they probably should be. One of our Mosque’s in the state I live in, holds an ‘Eid Chaand Raat’ a week before Eid—This year it is July 10—where a bunch of clothing vendors come to sell their clothes. We go to this every year as the selection is so wide and it’s a good time to invest in some new clothes. I can’t wait to go shopping this weekend for a new outfit. I’m not sure yet of what I would like to buy, but we’ll see, if I find something nice, then it will be my Eid outfit.

Traditional sweet cakes and desserts served in Ramadan.

Traditional sweet cakes and desserts served in Ramadan.

Eid clothing & food is one of the many ways that Muslims celebrate Eid. It’s my favorite part of the holiday as it gives us all an excuse to look nice and dress up to celebrate the end of this beautiful month. The food we eat, especially in the Pakistani/Indian community, for Eid, is truly a feast. So much food is made and eaten, I always feel too full after Eid. But we should all be thankful that we are blessed with such meals on a daily basis, and especially on Eid. There are so many Muslims around the world starving and cannot enjoy these simple luxuries we have.

I hope your Ramadan is a blessed one and a very Eid Mubarak to you and your family! ☺

*’Sehri is essentially the time of the morning meal. We wake at 3 am to eat something, before morning prayer time-the time our fasts begin.

Sprinkle of Surprise is a 20 something year old girl living in the USA. She writes a personal blog ‘Sprinkle of Surprise’ documenting moments of her life and experiences. She enjoy’s writing about her life, beauty, fashion, and healthy lifestyle. She would love it if you follow her on her blog and Instagram @sprinkleofsurprise

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Images credit: Yeowatzup on Flickr commons and Isuann L.


A personal rant about Ramadan: Fasting with Depression

by Zara

Image credit: Sadi_M,

Image credit: Sadi_M,

Random personal rant about Ramadan

So, some of you may or may not know that I am a Muslim. Not a good one, but a Muslim nevertheless. A little info is that in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, we fast from dawn to dusk (no food or water, no smoking, ingesting of any substances).

For a few years, my psychiatrists deemed me unfit to fast. Last year I started again, this time in full knowledge of the illnesses I carry. Before then, fasting was still hard, but I was in enough denial and enough emotional pain to be completely fine with not eating or drinking, it was almost another form of self harm. Now, fasts are longer, I smoke, and instead of just being ill, I’m fighting my mental health.

Last year I managed to fast roughly half the month, and this year I’m aiming to complete the month. But my dear lord it is hard. I’ve had to rearrange my time so that I take my medication at 2am before the fast begins. And it is like all my emotions and feelings are so much more heightened during fasting. There are tidal waves of anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness and a range of many other feelings that all hit at once and are so overwhelming all I want to do is find a rock to cry under, to cut those feelings out, to make it go away. But I can’t, and I sit there with those feelings, with hunger and thirst also, in my bed waiting for dusk so I can eat something and smoke and calm down. Only to do it all again. Everyone keeps telling me if I find it too much, it is acceptable to break my fast. While I am grateful for the understanding that fasting when you have mental health difficulties is harder than fasting without, I don’t think anyone understands that breaking the fast is not helpful either. I end up feeling guilty, like I’m such a shit person for not being able to finish it. I know that may not be reality, but it’s how I feel. Like I’m stuck in a black hole.

I don’t know why I’m posting this, but what I do know is that I feel a little bit better for putting some of my thoughts into words. Anyway, another fast begins, wish me luck.

Zara wishes to remain anonymous, and is not using her real name.

Image credit Sadi_M from Flickr Creative Commons 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


Ramadhan – “Why Aren’t You Fasting?”

by Maaiysa Valli


 Every year, Ramadhan comes. And every year, I struggle. Not with the fast – which this year is around 20+ hours long – but with NOT being able to fast.

It’s a battle I quietly face every year. And here I’ll explain why.

You may know that certain groups are exempt from fasting. The elderly, young children, pregnant or nursing women, and those who are ill. I’d love to say I’m too young to fast (but definitely not too old!!) but unfortunately, the reason I can’t fast is due to a lifelong illness. It’s meant I’ve not been able to fast since my health took a real turn for the worse when I was in my teens – though trust me, that didn’t stop me from fasting back then! But now, as the fasts get longer, I have to take the medical advice that I just can’t do it. And that saddens me. To some of you, that might sound strange: “Why would you be sad at not being able to starve yourself from 1am to 9pm?” But for Muslim brothers and sisters, you’ll know that feeling of sorrow. For those who aren’t able to fast, you can pay a Fidyah – which is money that goes towards feeding poor people. I do that every year, but I also used to make up the missed fasts in winter months – when the fasting hours are much shorter. The last time I did that though was 2011 and I ended up in hospital, so that was that!

I’ve been in two minds about writing this blog for years, as it opens me up to more questions and I’m a very private person, but I need to do this for my own sake. I don’t talk about things that are important to me. My personal life is just that and you’ll rarely find me opening up about my religion, let alone my health. In fact,  I’m someone who likes to deal with big issues internally. But for years now, I’ve dealt with the question “Why aren’t you fasting?”. People ask if I’m pregnant (no!), if I’m constantly on my period (NO!) or they just assume that I’m a “lazy Muslim” (DEFINITE NO!!) Because I’m such a private person, I never tell people the full story, I simply say “I can’t because of my health”. (And I’m afraid to say I won’t be giving the full answer here either.)

But everytime I’m asked why – by Muslims and non-Muslims alike – it hurts. It hurts that I can’t feel those hunger pains, it hurts that I can’t feel tired through fasting or the thirst that parches your throat – all for the love of God. Despite not being able to fast, I’ve always done Iftar (breaking the fast at sunset) and work permitting – Suhoor (keeping the fast at sunrise) because Ramadhan is so much about family. It’s probably the only time in the year where you’ll eat together as a family day in, day out and I love that. I love being with my parents and praying with them. But still, I always feel like I’m “missing out” in Ramadhan because I’m not fasting.

It’s the holiest month for Muslims and when you hear the word “Ramadhan”, you’ll probably instantly think about fasting. But Ramadhan is SO much more than starving yourself from food. It’s about starving yourself from sin. It’s a month for self-reflection, sacrifice, and love and peace. So while I can’t fast, I try to make up for it in other ways. I’ll pray lots of Qur’an, try and keep up with my salah (five daily prayers) and listen to lots of lectures by top scholars. In my house the telly is switched off for the whole month! But still, I get that feeling that I’m not doing enough. I’m not striving hard enough or doing my best. I always feel lazy if I’m not spending every minute in prayer or doing something good. I know for some of you reading this, it will sound so alien, but some of you will understand.

I heard a lecture the other day that said Ramadhan always comes at the perfect time and it hit the nail on the head for me. As Muslims, we look forward to Ramadhan coming, we’re sad when it ends. And for me this year, I REALLY needed Ramadhan to come. Like I said – it’s a month of self-reflection. This year has been tough for me, and recently I had a run-in with my past that made me evaluate my life. I felt like a failure. Like I’d achieved nothing and that this wasn’t how my life was supposed to be. But Ramadhan came. And less than a week in, I’m already feeling the benefits. I’m reminded that THIS is exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. THIS is what’s written for me. And every battle I go through is just a test – and Ramadhan is as good a reminder as any of that.

So while I write this blog – probably my most emotional and personal outpouring – I pray you all have a peaceful and blessed month. Whether you observe Ramadhan or not. Whether you fast or not. Whether you’re religious or not. It doesn’t matter. This month is about remembering what you’ve been blessed with and being thankful for that. And I am very thankful and very blessed. I just needed reminding…

Maaiysa Valli

This post first appeared on Maaiysa Valli’s personal website and has been reposted with permission. 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.