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Finding the spirit of Ramadan

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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
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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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 –

1. RESTING THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

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.

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2. IMPROVED INSULIN RESISTANCE

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.

3. IMPROVED IMMUNE SYSTEM

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 shespeakswehear@gmail.com. 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.

1. PREPARE YOUR BODY PHYSICALLY

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.

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2. CHANGE THE INGREDIENTS

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.

3. DON’T FORGET THE WATER

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.

4. KEEP THE WORKOUT ON

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.

**DISCLAIMERS**

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.

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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 shespeakswehear@gmail.com. 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.

1. FLAXSEEDS

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.

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

2. SOYBEAN

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.

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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.

3. GREENS

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.

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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.

4. OATS

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.

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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*

5. BERRIES

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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.

**DISCLAIMERS**

– 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 shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.