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Ramadan is currently being observed all over the world.

It is a time when Muslims fast during the hours of daylight, as well as being a time of spiritual reflection and prayer. Ramadan is a month-long tradition which, this year, started on 23rd April. A central part of this observance is Iftar, when Muslims end the fast each day with a meal, usually eaten with family and friends. This year, Ramadan will look very different because of the COVID-19 pandemic and in this blog, we will share stories of how staff and students at the University of Chester are observing this important practice within their faith over the coming weeks.   

Hanady Hamdallah – Programme Leader MSc Cardiovascular Disease and MSc Respiratory Medicine- Egypt

Ramadan is still Kareem during the lockdown.

Ramadan Kareem is an Arabic expression meaning Ramadan is generous. The way I used to understand this expression, is that during Ramadan, people need to be more generous.

Sharing happiness and celebrating and eating Iftar with family and friends on the same table is hallmark for Ramadan. Unfortunately, it is not possible with the current COVID-19 situation. This Ramadan, we could be generous and provide extra love, care, support, respect and kindness to each other by saving lives and staying home. We are lucky to have social media apps that we still can use to assure each other and support our family, friends and students.

Working remotely for five-weeks has made me develop new habits such as; frequent snacking, frequent baking and limiting my physical activity. Personally, in this Ramadan, I prefer to have just one meal a day which is the Iftar, and I skip Suhoor (the meal before the dawn), so that I can wake up normally and start my work from 9-5pm. After 5pm myself and my husband share Iftar preparations which ideally, should be ready by 8:30pm, however, I am always 15-minutes late! In Ramadan, I am in energy conservative mode so I tend to cook every other day, so when I cook, the portion size should be enough for two days. One hour after Iftar and before going to sleep, I go for a quick run by the river and enjoy the silence and beauty of Chester. This helps to relieve stress, reset my brain, have a deep sleep and be ready for a new day.  

Considering fasting students, I try to schedule my support sessions and PAT meetings online, either late morning or in the afternoon if students are working overnight. Finally, may these 30 days of Ramadan bless us all with happiness, peace and good health.

Ayoup Jarrai – BA International Business Management with French – Italy/Morocco

As a Muslim, I am currently practicing the important observation of Ramadan .In fact, it is one of the five Pillars of Islam.

People practicing Ramadan must observe several rules over this blessed month. As everyone knows, fasting from sunrise to sunset is one of the principles of Ramadan. However, along with fasting, people should also pray, spread happiness, help the less fortunate and get closer to family and friends. This year’s Ramadan is different for every Muslim due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, in this spiritual period, I can only talk with friends and relatives through digital devices, really limiting my experience as I usually spend time with them in person.

During the first days of Ramadan, I started developing different habits. I am more relaxed as the spiritual side is stimulated more through praying every day, providing me with a sense of calm. As I only eat twice per day, I am eating cleaner and healthier, introducing more vegetables in to my diet. Also, with all this free time, I have started exercising twice a day.

The negative side is that I tend to stay awake until very late!

Lastly, I hope this Ramadan will cover us with blessing, guidance and peace of mind.

Naheel Ansari – MSc Family and Child Psychology – Kuwait

Studying abroad has changed my life for the better. It is a life experience I will never forget and I have cherished every minute of it. Being away from family and loved ones is difficult, but hanging on to a positive attitude has made me stronger and more resilient. 

This is my first Ramadan alone. I am away from home in a lockdown, spending most of my time in a studio apartment and only communicating with others digitally. It has been tough, but I am adapting to the circumstances and the prospect of spending this year’s Ramadan alone. One of the greatest achievements I accomplished was to learning to cook! I started making different kinds of dishes and trying something new every day. I love cooking now as it consumes part of the day with a tasty end product! 

My positive attitude has helped me overcome difficult circumstances and lift my inner energy and thoughts to a balanced level. As a certified Life Coach, I have been coaching myself and others through the pandemic and I hope it will end soon!

Anas Karkoutli – BA Economics with International Relations - Syria

Ramadan this year arrived in difficult times, in the middle of nationwide lockdown, and in the period of exams/assessments. But although some think that fasting would make it harder to cope, Ramadan’s arrival this year is a great opportunity for all Muslims to purify our souls and reflect on our lives during this difficult situation. It has given me a sense of hope to look towards many better days to come.

Below is a simple Syrian-style Suhoor to keep me going through the day. Suhoor is a term referring to the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting.

Labone Choudhury – BA Early Years- Primary Education with QTS- UK/Bengal

I’m kind of glad that I got to come home for Ramadan this year, I was worried because I thought that I'd have to fast by myself, losing out on the Ramadan vibes with my family. Even though it's not the same, I still get to be with my family which means I get to have a feast for Iftar. The only difficulty is keeping up with University assignments. All the reading and learning is taking its toll on my mind and body.

Zulashraf Abd Rahman - Regional Liaison Officer - South East Asia – Malaysia

As a practicing Muslim, Ramadan has always been the month where I feel physically, emotionally and spiritually different. Physically, I feel a bit more lethargic, yet surprisingly alert during the day. Emotionally, there is always a feeling of nostalgia - a sort of belonging to a home I cannot describe, even when I am far away from my own home. Spiritually, Ramadan has always been the peak of my faith – I feel closer to my Maker and the will to perform prayers becomes stronger than ever.

This year, Ramadan has been very different. Last year, I was in Chester as a student, fasting alone for nearly 18-hours. This year, I am back home in Malaysia, with my wife and parents, fasting for the normal 13-hours or so. The pandemic has forced me to stay at my parents’ place and not my home, so I wake up at 5.15am for ‘sahur’, which my mum and wife prepare, and ‘buka puasa’ around 7.20pm with my mum, dad and wife - just simple meals and nothing too fancy. Once in a while, I’ll treat my family to something nice which I order online and have delivered to our doorstep. During the day, my work with the International Centre gets done and I thank God for modern technology which allows me to communicate with agents, students and my colleagues.

Overall, the pandemic has taught me a lot – adapting to fully working from home, adjusting to a different social environment and surprisingly, overlapping with Ramadan, it has made me rethink about our privileged position in regards to those around the world who do not have what we have. This year, Ramadan at home has taught me patience, serenity and gratitude. In the end, even though we are no longer allowed to go out, fly away on vacation or buy nice things from shopping malls, we still have our close families with us. We still have a roof and four walls to shelter us, and we still have simple meals to keep us satisfied throughout the day. In the end, I faithfully believe that is what matters the most.


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