The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Archive for the tag “Channel 4”

Having my cake and eating it.

Settled down to understand more about the physiology related to fasting and fell asleep. Even with the Simpsons on Channel 4. I have felt rather fatigued today – I think that’s my body readjusting to what I am doing to it. It really is a mind of matter situation and at the moment it’s neck and neck. Matter kind of won today but I know I have to get the mind back into it. I think when I am working, out there and doing stuff things really do go a lot easier during the fasting day. Today I stayed in my room, read, slept and prayed. I feel more lethargic and the thought of heading out for the night prayer seems like a mammoth effort. Bigger than it did on the other days.

Drinking my cup of tea is rather wonderful though. It makes me appreciate that particular luxury amongst others. In fact as I was pouring out something to eat today, I felt an urge to keep the portion size small. I was just not able to consider eating or even looking at vast amounts of food. In that moment I wondered that if more people were to undertake abstinence from food, through fasting, would that mean less food waste? There was a program on BBC Radio 4 last night as I was driving home about the horrifying amounts of food that are thrown away around the world. Fasting certainly does without a shadow of a doubt make you appreciate the privilege of easy and ready access to food and water. It’s one that not everyone has.

I’m settling down to the BBC’s Newsnight and another cup of tea. Just had a delicious slice of home made fruit cake, complete with icing and marzipan. Now I feel a bit sick.


Ramadhan Kareem 2014

So it’s here. Like most things that require a bit of work and may prove a bit of a challenge, I have been mentally prepping for this first day of Ramadhan since about May!  I have been worried about how fasting for 19 hours will work out, especially with the normal routine of work but reading back over my last two years of blog posts, has been quite helpful. Writing this blog again is really something I anticipate eagerly and look forward to every year. Thinking about the first few posts I have planned this year I know I have something different to offer.

This Ramadhan has already proven a bit different before it even began. I have never been to an Islamic Relief event but was invited to the Pre-Ramadhan Dinner the other night. It took place in the the Church House, near Westminster Abbey. A rather lovely setting and the food was delicious. Speakers included Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties Simon Hughes MP, Amir Khan and Jon Snow. The night was dedicated to launching the latest fund-raising announcement – DFID is to match pound for pound money raised by Islamic Relief. I’ll write more about this event in a piece later when armed with a post Iftar cup of tea.

Also I want to bring in some thoughts about the Algerian football team playing against Germany on Monday 30 July at the World Cup. I am a Les Verts fan – the Desert Foxes are back. I will actually be watching the match tomorrow evening around Iftar time with an Algerian friend and no doubt we will be heading to little Algiers in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London to see the fans. Algerian football fans are a unique bunch and one can’t help but love them.

And then I have been given the rather unique and wonderful opportunity to make a film for the BBC about Ramadhan which will be screened on the 20th July. It has involved meeting and interviewing the London based imam, Ajmal Masroor. It was inspiringly hearing what Ramadhan means both to him personally and to the Muslim community. I also had the chance to sort the science of fasting out in my head with a really insightful meeting with the fasting expert Dr Michael Mosely. It was fantastic. After what I learnt from Michael and also the reassurance I gained from him about what was going on physiologically inside me I felt so much more ready for the challenge ahead in fulfilling my religious obligation of fasting through Ramadhan.  He told how the fat burning stage kicks in about 8 hours into the fast, which for me today at about 6pm I know I am well within. He talked through the dips and cravings we can experience and why. He also explained that over-coming habits is an important part of the process. Michael told me that I should be careful about what I eat in the evenings so that I avoid what normally happens to me every year – I put on weight. it’s because I anticipate the day ahead and eat the food I think will help. He advised lot’s or protein and fresh veg. Sounds rather sensible. Will I stick to it though?

Michael also talked about really taking time to savour the food and not to just gorge. It all makes perfect sense. It is a time of restraint and control and could provide lessons to learn that will remain after the last day of the 30 days.

I am also going to use this time to yet again sort my life out – both the spiritual, physical and the disorganised pile of stuff I keep under the desk.

So today is being spent taking it easy. No caffeine withdrawal headache thank goodness – the reduction in intake over the last few weeks has obviously paid off. I am however struck by how much food is thrust at us on the television. Most of the adverts are screaming at us to buy food, eat and drink all sorts of stuff.

Although I actually feel fine and full of the eagerness of spiritual awakening that fasting can bring, I am switching over from Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me.  I am human after all and have not eaten since 2.49am!!


Channel 4’s Ramadhan Stuff

Channel 4’s Ramadhan Stuff

So this year Channel 4 are having a bit of a Ramadhan love in. They are going to be broadcasting calls to prayer – the adhan – at strategic fasting times of the day – like when you have to stop eating and when you can eat again. 

The channel are broadcasting films, having online ongoing content and asking for mass participation. It’s quite a new concept and I wonder what has brought on this extravaganza. So until I can ask Ralph Lee in person I have done a bit of google search to get some answers…

He wrote exclusively for the Radio Times, defending his reasoning for broadcasting the adhan.  “No doubt Channel 4 will be criticised for focusing attention on a ‘minority’ religion but that’s what we’re here to do – provide space for the alternative and a voice to the under-represented.

“And let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK. Like Channel 4’s target audience, its followers are young. It’s recently been reported that half of British Muslims are under 25.”

Now I have heard the adhan from some rather remote and extreme places . In the pre 9/11 years I heard it from a Kashmiri mujahideen group’s camp, whilst making a Channel 4 documentary. I have heard it in the middle of a Libyan frontline hospital as we simultaneously received patients flooding in from the Bani Walid frontline. And now I am about to be able to tune in to hear it in my room fresh from Channel 4! I am not sure which one I am going to find the most bizarre.Lee describes it as “a nationwide tannoy system, a deliberate ‘provocation’ to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word”.


Channel 4’s British Ramadhan

Channel 4’s British Ramadhan

So Channel 4 are really embracing the Ramadhan spirit. There are LOADS of programmes on about the Muslim month of fasting.

WELCOME RAMADHAN 2013!!! Woohooo – it’s been a year


Woohooo – it’s been a year since I uploaded here. I can’t believe it’s been a year! It’s that time again – feeling, hungry, sleep deprived, a bit caffeine withdrawn and for you smokers out there – oh dear is all I can say. BUT hold tight, dig deep and go for it. It’s also a massive hardcore group stamina test – a massive community event, an international fest of shared togetherness and rumbly tummies. I mean how cool to think that when you are not eating during the day, abstaining from coffee and the fags, and the chocolates and the biscuits and the morning croissants well so are others – whether it’s someone in your town, your city, your country or on the planet!

It kind of is quite cool to think about. Although I am not going to fluff this up to be anything dreamy. IT IS HARD! OK there I admitetd it. I am onmy knees fasting. I don’t float around in some spiritual high. I get caffeine withdrawal headaches from some dark place, I get embaressing growly snarly tummy sounds emanating from the pit of an empty stomach, I worry about my breath – we all know that we get smelly breath from fasting! It’s embarressing and I worry about leaning over my patients with a killer breath.I mean they come to hospital because they feel ill- and then I’m all over them with my fasting breath. So there are many things to contest with. And then once you have fasted, there is an even bigger stamina test of standing in prayer for quite awhile each night. It’s called the taraweer prayers – which people can do on their own or more commonly in congregation in mosques. When I am in the middle of one those sessions, and if my mind wonders for a moment, and I think about my feet being a bit sore – I get a bit of buzz thinking that everyone else must feeling a wee bit weary too – but how hardcore are we for what we believe in!

I might be bringing this to a basic level – but I am just being honest. I am apprehensive because I don’t want to fail by obligations. I am apprehensive because I know my dedication to this month surpasses all else – and I am worried how it will impact what else I have to do in my life during this month. So I do ask God to help me – to stop me from being a wimp or feeling sorry for myself because I am going to have to find other ways to wake me up other than caffeine! So my first prayer is to thank God for giving me another Ramadhan where I have the health to fast. My brothers can’t fast this year because during the last Ramadhan one of them was diagnosed with end stage renal failure. He was only 24 at the time and it was out of the blue. He now only has one working kidney – after my other brother donated his kidney to save his life. So now both are vulnerable, on medications and at risk of complete renal failure if they don’t keep hydrated and medicated. They never knew that they would not be able to participate in this global fasting event again. So I do appreciate that I have another year so much. I suppose when it is taken from you – that is when you’ll miss those times the most.

I am also rather impressed with my naming of this blog last year- ‘The Ramadhan Diaries’ as I have just seen a diary starting on Channel 4- video diaries called – guess what RAMADHAN DIARIES!!

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