The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Archive for the day “July 18, 2013”

Fasting in the midday sun

I had some filming to do today in London. I needed to be there for about 2pm but just quivered at the thought of getting onto the underground in the heat of today – something over 30 degrees I think. I got a taxi instead and fell asleep learning my lines in the back.

The rest of the team did a pseudo fast with me – I think people find it difficult to eat and drink in front of fasters. It was immensely hot and Rob was not only producing and directing the shoot he was also filming it too. So I disappeared for little periods of time and hoped he was gulping water during my absences. No point in everyone getting dehydrated. And anyway I have been doing this for most of my life and am used to it. And I am getting acclimatised to it for this year now.

I stumbled, coughed and spluttered my way through the pieces to camera. But it’s all in the mind – because as soon as Rob said ‘Action’ I imagined  a switch turning on and sparkly me was there. It really did work.

It flowed so well that the shoot finished earlier than anticipated and I piled into the back of a taxi once more to get home. I fell into blissful sleep again and let someone else worry about the traffic. When I got home I had about 7 minutes to the break of fast time and I just appreciated the cool evening air like I was experiencing it for the first time. I think when you fast all the things you go through and are denied are reinforced in their wonderfulness and you appreciate them that much more. A cool evening breeze and a glass of cold water really do feel like the most precious things when you have not been able to enjoy them all day. Being reminded of that – of their simplicity and yet their importance – is surely a good thing.

When to fast and when not

So I might have slipped in my blogging obligations but to be fair I was exempt from fasting in the first week. I was on the lady’s holiday. So I am now a week behind in acclimatisation. But whilst we are at it I thought I would go through what the rules are for who can fast and who is exempt and what they can do to feel part of the gang.

Essentially fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for Muslim adults who are in good mental and physical health. The age of when Muslims are supposed to fast is when they have past the age of puberty. Those who have a chronic health condition which would result in a deterioration of their condition are of course exempt. A good idea for those in doubt is to check things out with your doctor first. The aim is not to make yourself unwell by pushing your body to do something it is not able to do because of ill-health. So be sensible people and don’t try to be a hero! There are other things you can do to make up for the missed days.

If you’re travelling and on a journey you are also exempt. but this is a case of do as I say and not what I do. I went to Libya in 2011 and my journey came towards the end of Ramadhan. I thought about not fasting during the journey – it was going to be a bit of a crazy one from a sleepy little village in Essex to Gatwick onto Tunis and then Tataouine near the Libyan-Tunisian border. Yes it was a hike and a half. But my flight was in the late afternoon and so I thought I’d tough it out and fasted. I am pretty glad I did. On the flight with Tunis Air I found that fellow travellers were also fasting and when it came to the iftar – breaking the fast  – I have never seen an inflight meal like it. We all got min-banquets on a tray. It was such a lovely sight and I felt really humbled by the respect given to us as travellers and Muslims observing Ramadhan. We even got an announcement from the pilot on the time when the fast was open. And that sealed my thoughts on whether I was going to fast for the rest of the days spent travelling even though I was exempt. Fasting in a Muslim country is a far different experience than fasting here in the UK and I wanted to embrace it.

The Muslim Council of Britain website suggests the following list of exemptions but acknowledges that some of them are optional:

• People who are mentally incapacitated or not responsible for their actions
• The elderly
• The sick
• Travellers who are on journeys of more than about fifty miles
• Pregnant women and nursing mothers
• Women who are menstruating

It is kind of widely appreciated that if you miss fasts you make them up later. And if you can’t do that then you feed those who can’t afford food.

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