Day 13. Thankyou

A very apt quote appeared on my newsfeed earlier today- ‘don’t break your fast because it’s hot. It’s much hotter on the other side’. The other side of course refers to hell, and if the temperature in the kitchen at work today was anything to go by, then I best do what I can to avoid going there at all costs.
I did have a couple of dizzy spells at work today. Part of me did actually think I would need to give in. A little research on the net this morning did say that if your job involves working in heated areas and if you honestly don’t feel well enough to continue fasting, then there would be no issue, as long as you made up for it at a later date. Unfortunately we don’t have air condition at work, but having said that, it’s only probably once every three years that we have a heatwave in the UK. To bring myself round, I decided to go and have a splash in the bathtub with some ice cold water. It was bliss. I could have stood there in the cold water for so much longer, if it wasn’t for people that needed feeding in the cafe. How inconvenient! Seriously though, I find that I cope so much better when I’m busy. It gives me less time to dwell on how I feel, and certainly helps the time pass quicker. 
A couple of the mums at school commented this afternoon on how well I’ve been doing, saying they were proud of me. I can’t begin to explain how happy that makes me feel. As a Muslim, it is my duty to fast, so really, I’m only doing what I’m supposed to be doing. However, for someone to take the time to comment on my progress meant the world. In a society where hatred towards Muslims is unfortunately on the increase, it is so nice and refreshing to know that some people are able to see beyond the crazed fantasists- that they recognise that most Muslims are actually normal people who simply share a different belief.
Muslims don’t condone violence. After a Mum promised she would ninja kick me slow-motion American movie style if I even so much as looked at the ice-cream van, I thought I better obey orders. Last thing I needed was ‘death by Calippo’. I was parched though. People are starting to notice the weight loss, and because I know I’ve not lost the weight carefully, I do feel quite ill because of it. Taking into account my usual nap (although I haven’t had one today), I’m roughly active for 14 hours a day, on nothing but fresh air. I am working 7 days a week in a high paced environment where I probably use up more energy than those who work in office roles. My body is becoming dehydrated because of the hot weather and so in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a healthy way to lose weight. I am living on a bowl of soup, a couple of fried eggs with bread and some fruit, because no matter how hungry I feel all day, that is all I can stomach come 9.45pm.
I have today, felt very content. I have a lot to be grateful for in life, and I think we are all too guilty of taking things for granted. Today my son made pizza on a school trip. He did a fantastic job and brought it home. I warmed it up for the kids for dinner, along with chips and salad and large glasses of juice. They thought it was amazing. My son was proud because of what he had achieved, and the three of them managed to sit through a whole meal without arguing. My two girls even thanked their brother for making dinner ☺️ I then watched them playing out on the streets with their friends without a care in the world. Their laughter filled my heart and in that moment I thanked Allah for all that I had been given in life. I was brought up to believe that manners don’t cost anything, but mean so much. I have taught my own children the same. For whoever we believe in, we should take a moment to say ‘thankyou’. For all the small things we just expect in life, there is no guarantee. Tell your loved ones that you love them, shower your children with love, always kiss goodnight, and more importantly, tell your God that you are grateful, for you never know when something may be taken away. Nothing lasts forever, so let’s be the best we can be. Alhamdulillah.

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Day 12. Testing The Limits

Im not going to lie- I really struggled today. The temperature is starting to rise in the UK, with a heatwave due mid-week, an work was busy as a result. Surprisingly, my husband and I managed to cope under the stress without an argument (believe me, living and working together can be tough at the best of times!) As the day went on, my tongue started to feel like it had been sandpapered, and my mouth felt like it was full of the dust left behind. My throat began to dry up and become scratchy with it. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling at all.

My husband’s friend came for iftar this evening. He doesn’t usually fast, and he had struggled terribly from caffeine withdrawal as a result. Reference was made to me fasting, and how he should have been born English, and I should have been born Turkish. The issue isn’t whether or not you complete a fast, more so, how you complete it. He quite obviously believes that he doesn’t have the stamina to do it, but the fact that he felt in his heart and mind the need to complete one day, is more meaningful than those who fast on a daily basis, but don’t make an effort to be a good Muslim whilst doing so.

Each individual knows their limits, and can decide for themselves whether or not they are fit enough to fast. I had several moments today where I honestly thought that I couldn’t carry on anymore. I even Googled to find out the consequences of breaking a fast. Believe me, I surprised myself when I made it through the day, and I have had couple of occasions so far where I sat at the table and cried. The emotion is so overwhelming, There is a constant battle going on in your head, with the devil goading you, telling you that you’re not good enough, and the feeling that you’re better than to listen to him.

The fast is actually broken into three levels. The ordinary fasting covers abstention from food, drink and sexual satisfaction. This is the bare minimum requirement. The second level involves keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue and hands away from committing sin, and the third level of extra special fasting involves abstaining from all unworthy thoughts. For some, like myself, my intention to fast and my commitment to doing so, means that on a personal level, if I can complete the ordinary fasting in a sincere way, then I can be proud of myself. The other two levels require a lot of restraint and strict boundaries, and all I can say is that Im only human, and I hope that Allah will forgive any mistakes that I make.

Another two hour nap on the sofa before iftar has thrown me out of sync again. Were nearly half way through now, and I feel like I have slept through half of the past 12 days. I hope Allah will oversee this, and appreciate that I am trying my best. That is all we can do in life. There will always be a part of our habits that we criticise ourselves for. There will always be something we are not happy with, but as long as we try our best, we can never call ourselves failures.

Day 11. Unexpected Item In The Baggage Area

Patience is an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. It is the capacity to tolerate delay without becoming annoyed or anxious. There is no better time for a person to test their patience than in the month of Ramadan. At this time of year in the UK, the days are on average 19 hours between sunrise and sunset. I don’t think I knew how much of a patient person I could be until this year’s fast.

If you really want to test your patience, and pass the hours until Iftar, you could always take a Sunday afternoon shopping trip to Asda. I knew I would be asking for trouble when I had to park at the back end of the car park because half of the city had decided to descend for an afternoon trip out to the supermarket as opposed to the park. I remembered to look up and check the letter corresponding to the part of the car park that I was in, to save a good 20 minutes looking for my car once I had finished.

Thankfully I didn’t need much. It was a shame really as it would have made waiting 15 minutes at the check out at little more worthwhile. The self-service tills are becoming more popular as people try to avoid the awkward and unnecessary chit-chat at the tills with the cashier. I don’t mind it, but I was put off on my last visit when two cashiers opposite each other were having a gossip about so-and-so from such and such department and what she would do with her time now that she was ready for retirement. It added a good 10 minutes on to my checkout process as somehow they managed to end up on the topic of alcoholic beverages and then involved me in the conversation. I regretted telling them that I liked sherry as that opened up a whole new can of worms when I told them I was only 30. Last time I checked, Im sure there wasn’t an lower age limit on a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream.

I found a self service that looked relatively speedy, until I listened in on the conversation with the group in front of me. There was an elderly Indian couple who were new to the whole self-service system, and in their broken English, they were asking the lady in front of them for help. She was more than happy to oblige, and used such flamboyant hand gestures in order to show them, that she would suit working on the runways at Heathrow guiding the planes to their stands with those bright orange table tennis bats.

I could hear the couple behind me starting to moan as they realised it wouldn’t be as quick as they’d have hoped. The tills were far too busy for them to reload their trolleys and move elsewhere, so they were stuck, and made no secret of the fact they were annoyed. I looked at the Indian couple and saw myself. Don’t misunderstand me here, my Mum and Dad were as British as you could get, but I remembered when I first moved to Turkey and didn’t speak a word of the language. It was a very intimidating experience, and I used to communicate with my mother in law through sign language as neither of us had a clue how to speak each other’s mother tongue. Not only did these people not know English, they braved the ultimate challenge by using a self service till. I almost prayed that they wouldn’t be told they had an unexpected item in the baggage area.

 I did expect her to help them with their shopping as they only had a few bits, but instead she enticed the help of the checkout assistant and he started them off. All went well until the old man tried to scan a bunch of bananas. It just wasn’t happening. I pulled the superhero cape out of my bag and came to the rescue. I took the bunch and flipped the bag over to find the barcode. I then entered the numbers in one by one. The checkout assistant came flying over, and I could smell the fear in the air when he thought that he might have competition for his job. The next disaster was when, by mistake, the man tried to put a punnet of kiwis in his carrier bag without scanning them first. ‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’. The monotonous tone was bound to pipe up at some point. Checkout Charlie came running over before I had chance to intervene- he wasn’t risking getting his P45 for the sake of some blonde who had probably used self service more than he had. I kept my mouth shut and let him fathom out for myself that the kiwis hadn’t been scanned. The last thing I wanted was security coming to ship off the couple over a £1.50 pack of fruit. 

When they had finally paid and were loading the trolley, they turned around and couldn’t thank me enough. I hadn’t done anything that anybody shouldn’t do to help anyway. I could hear the tuts from the couple behind and I wondered to myself how mankind had become so selfish and impatient. If you are in a rush, don’t leave your weekly shopping until peak shopping hours on a weekend afternoon. Never underestimate when you might need help from someone- karma works in wonderful ways. Luckily for them, I had scanned my stuff and packed my bags in less than three minutes. In the same way I’m learning to curb my road rage, I’m learning to curb my habit of thinking out loud, thanks to fasting. I left the supermarket without losing my rag at their attitude towards those who needed help, but in the moment of my blood boiling quietly inside, I had managed to forget where I parked my car. Patience is walking around the car park for the whole 20 minutes you tried to knock off when you first arrived, and trying to look like you know the direction in which you’re supposed to go.

Day 10. The Last Laugh

I am a member of a well known parenting forum, and one thoughtful lady has created a thread for those Mums of us who are fasting for Ramadan. The thread is fairly active, and we have all been charting our journey and sending each other blessings. Everything was pleasant until this afternoon when a not so polite poster quizzed us on our reasons for fasting. Let me quote. 
‘Why do you all out yourselves through this? It sounds miserable. Do you think something will happen to you if you don’t starve yourselves?’ It gets better when the said poster calls Allah a ‘sky fairy’ and insinuated our religion was controlling us. Poster then signs off by saying they were going to cook themselves a healthy and nutritious meal and that hopefully we don’t starve over the next few weeks. 
The comments made were too childish for me to even become angry. Had the person politely asked the meaning behind the tradition, there would have been a large group of friendly and supportive women who would have loved to share their knowledge. Instead, as frequently happens, it was almost like we were being mocked for following a religion we believe in, and trying to better ourselves for doing so. 
Fasting has historically been an institution commonly practised by various religious communities (by Christians during Lent, and by Jews on Yom Kippur). Through fasting, we demonstrate the highest level of obedience by abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations between sunrise and sunset for one whole month. This regimentation is an excellent means for spiritual and moral improvement. Through fasting, a person comes to grip with their carnal self, taming physical appetites, subsiding greed and lust and elevates their consciousness from physical, to a moral and spiritual state. 
With regards to fasting being ‘miserable’, I need to disagree. Yes, it has been a struggle and at times I have been so close to giving in, but the lack of nutrition has seemed to put my body in such a state of laziness, that I now laugh at the smalles of things. I found myself doing a cracking Tina Turner expression in work today, complete with finger clicking and dodgy dancing. When I laughed and commented that I felt ‘high’, our lovely girl Sophie hit me with the comeback ‘well you can’t be high on much can you?!’, and that had me creased up on the floor. She has seen me wilting away over the past week and knows that it has been hard for me. She has been there to help me laugh through the moments when I’ve almost given up, and she passes no judgment on my faith. 
I have grown a thick skin and have learnt not to be offended. I can take a joke as well as anyone, and I appreciate that people struggle to understand what good can come out of fasting for a month. I will respect those who have a respect for what I do and believe in. I will be the first to pass on my knowledge when someone asks why we do, what we do as a faith. It is not ignorant to wonder and want to learn, however, it is just plain rude for someone who deliberately wants to create trouble out of something that they simply have no idea about. 
For those of you who have followed my blog so far, thank you. I hope it has helped educate those who may have had questions and were afraid to ask. I am trying to make this as light hearted and humorous as I can, and I’m proud to know so many of you are following me on my journey. 
In other news, today’s weigh in came in at 59.7kgs. That is a dramatic loss in the past couple of days. Who needs Slimming World when you have Ramadan? There’s no weekly weigh in charge, and there’s no syns either- get it?! 

Day 9. Imagine

Today’s blog is written with a very heavy heart. Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims, in which we believe it is a time for reflection, for self-discovery and most importantly, a time to forgive and start afresh. The news of today’s barbaric attacks in not just one, but three countries worldwide have left people in shock, and quite acceptingly, disgust.

Three separate terrorist attacks, in which more than 60 innocent lives have been taken, have further blackened the already tarnished name of Islam. I cannot even bring myself to call these people ‘Muslim’. These people are the scum of the earth who have a brainwashed belief that they are superior and above all mankind. A true Muslim would know that in at least ten different references, the Quran not only forbids murder, but clearly states that terrorism is above all murder. According to Sunni tradition, ‘Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, gave these instructions to his armies: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ”

It was only yesterday on my Facebook news feed that the local news channel had shared a short video of an article they would be using on their bulletin, in which a Muslim woman gave a brief talk about Ramadan. The comments left underneath made me ashamed to call myself British. The hatred and disgust against one innocent woman who had been asked to teach about her faith, was sickening. The biggest issue I have when it comes to racial hatred is the hypocrisy that comes with it.

I am a tall, white, 30 year old woman with blue eyes and blonde hair. I wear skinny jeans. I wear a bikini on the beach in summer. I own over 15 different shades of pink nail polish, and can scrub up quite well when I put my mind to it. I serve on average 250 customers a week. I could say without a doubt, that 98% of my customers have no idea that Im muslim, and I bet the same proportion wouldn’t expect that I was. I am lucky that I live in an area where people are well educated. Although we do not have an ethnic minority population close by- we are majorly White British- I am yet to have a conversation in which somebody slates Islam because of the sadistic acts of a select few. However, this wouldn’t necessarily apply this to other areas, in which all Muslims are tarnished with the same brush, where people believe we are all murderers and all deserve to be disgraced.

I will be the first to admit that I was slightly intimidated by Islam when I was growing up. It seemed such a powerful and strict religion, and at the time as migration hadn’t grown to the level it has today, very little was known about it. We had vague teachings on the topic at school, and that was the only brief knowledge I had. My best friend in high school was a Muslim girl, and not once did we sit and chat about religion, because to me it didn’t matter. She was kind, funny, honest and genuine. I didn’t need to know her faith in order to know I wanted to be her friend. Since 9/11, and as expected, there has been nothing but negative press surrounding Islam. Roughly 25% of the world’s population follow Islam, and in Turkey alone, it is reported that 99.8% of the population are Muslim. I have been fortunate enough to live in Turkey for over three years, and still visit for a few months every year. I have never visited a country so warm and welcoming. I wonder if those narrow-minded individuals, who holiday there and who are quick enough to berate every Muslim, are aware that those they class as scum, are the ones who serve them in their hotels and restaurants whilst they stay in a predominantly Muslim country.

My point is this. As long as an individual is genuine, kind and sincere, it shouldn’t matter what they believe in. To the mothers in the playground at my daughters school, who only a few weeks back, openly admitted that they were ‘Islamophobic’, I bet you have no idea that your children are best friends with one of the few Muslim girls in the class. You were quick to send out invitations to your children’s birthday parties, because to you, my daughter was ‘white and British looking’, yet behind our very backs, you have the nerve to slate a religion you quite clearly have no idea about, and still be pleasant to our faces.

Along with the majority of Muslims worldwide, I will continue to go about my daily business without causing harm to anyone. I will not force my religion down the throat of anybody. I will not preach and tell people that what they believe in is wrong. I will continue to fast because as a Muslim I have a duty to do so, and people in the street will have no idea, because I am just like any other person, going about life. I will continue to pray for my family and friends, and hope that Allah blesses them. Tonight, I will pray for those who were so unlawfully killed and injured in today’s attacks, and I will pray that people either educate themselves in order to try make judgement, or to keep their hypocritical opinions to themselves.

Day 8. My new best friend

Today’s fact- whether I’m fasting or not, there will always be somebody who takes great pleasure in straddling over the entrance/exit into my side road. Witnessing this has become part of my daily routine. I used to think it was bad luck. Now I think it was written in my destiny. 
The devil and I had a good chat today. He knew it wasn’t a good day for me and he took full advantage of it. The weather was warm and work was busy (Alhamdulillah), but I struggled. I imagined that I would do, with me having a ‘day off’ yesterday, I just didn’t anticipate how much I would struggle. By lunch time, I had more or less convinced myself I couldn’t carry on. I had even managed to burn my hand on the griddle and I am usually so careful. That was the devil leaving his mark I reckon. I wasn’t hungry, but I was dry and feeling light headed. Yes, I know that if it’s likely to damage your health then you shouldn’t do it, but this leads me onto the issue of mind over matter.
When I was allowed to eat and drink yesterday, I didnt. Well, of course I did, but I didn’t feel the constant urge to because I knew I could whenever I wanted to. Today, because my mind knows that I can’t eat or drink, I have a bigger fight trying to stop the temptation. Your body is capable of so much, but only if your mind allows it.  
I knew I couldn’t give up, I had come too far. I just didn’t know where to get my strength from. The devil was having a good laugh at me. I had gone back to feeling like a dried up, crumpled flower and probably looked as dull and lifeless too. Having the break yesterday hadn’t done me any favours at all as my body was expecting me to have the Kinder Bueno that I had at 3pm yesterday. I could almost feel his presence on my shoulder and whispering into my ear, ‘go on, have a drink, nobody will know. It will be good for you’. Well yes, a drink would have been very good for me, but that’s not the point. Nothing is achievable in life if you don’t work for it. I can’t be expected to run 10km if I sit on my sofa and do no training towards it. Just in the same way, I can’t expect to be rewarded by Allah if I don’t try my hardest to do what is expected of myself as a Muslim.
The biggest test of the day had to be walking past the ice-cream van at the children’s school. I craved an ice lolly. As usual, I wasn’t hungry, but I couldn’t think of anything more refreshing that an ice cold lolly to cool me down and quench my thirst. I resisted. Just. By 4pm I was over the worst. Work had finished, the school run had been done and I had put some lentil soup onto cook. Alhamdulillah Allah had seen me through my struggles and I was on the home stretch. That was until I had another dizzy spell when bringing the washing in from outside. Most people would probably find the nearest chair and have a quiet minute or two. I, on the other hand, stuck my head in the freezer. Yes, I did. I came eye to eye with a bag of frozen prawns and rested my chin on the shelf. It was bliss. It cooled me down no end, and considering I have spent the past week complaining of being cold, there wasn’t a place I’d have rather been at that point. The freezer was my new best friend. 
In the weight loss news, I’m now at 63.4 kilos. We’re only one week in, but that is a definite weight loss. The dehydration might explain the wrinkles on my stomach as my body fights and uses up every last drop of fluid in order to keep going. Well, that’s my excuse for the next three weeks at least, anyway. 

Day 7. Tomorrow

There are certain things that prevent a person from fasting, and certain things that would break a fast too. A medical examination today meant that my fast would have been broken, so for just today, I was ‘exempt’. I have to make up for this at a later date, but it gave my body a chance to recouperate and made me even more determined to carry on through to the end of the month.
I did feel a bit of a fraud to be honest. I am fit and well, but anything entering into the body and the blood stream breaks a fast as there are impurities in your body, invalidating the cleansing you have done prior to fasting. The first thing I did this morning was make sure I had some caffeine. I was lucky to only have one day where I had withdrawal symptoms, but my body was running on empty. I had gone from being active for 17 hours a day, to now needing an afternoon nap, and falling asleep mid-conversation by 10.30pm. Both my mind and body weren’t used to such a change! 
I was careful not to over indulge today. The last thing I need is my body going into more shock tomorrow when by 10am I still haven’t had my eggs and muffins. My husband was a gem and made me breakfast when I returned from the doctors. I told him not to as I felt uneasy about it with him fasting, but he insisted, and of course, it should score him extra brownie points along with his fast. 
I haven’t particularly liked the person I have been today. My new found energy has almost made me forget the values I have been blogging about the past few days, and has turned me into the person I was before Ramadan started. It all boiled down to a road rage incident this afternoon. A female, quite clearly clued up on her Highway Code, had pulled up at the side of the road waiting for somebody, but managed to have the front of her car straddled across my entry into the side road (what is it with people’s obsession of blocking my side road?). Had I have been fasting, I would have probably just tutted, but not today. I beeped the horn and nothing. I then swerved in such a fashion anybody would think I was driving a JCB, and beeped again. She ever so politely stuck her finger up at me. That was it. I slammed on the brakes and got out, and although I held off the expletives, I made it perfectly clear what I thought of her. 
I hated myself the moment I got back in the car. I wasn’t a good example to my son who was in the car with me, and I had basically lowered myself to her level. I had lost the ability to control my own actions and I felt disappointed. I hope that Allah will forgive (inşallah). 
I have spent so much time running around today. Both my son and I had doctor appointments before lunch, then it was a rush back to work so my husband could meet with a builder at the new house. A couple of hours later and there I did two school runs as my son had football, then back home to wash, prepare tea etc. Basically, today was just like any other busy day, but today I learnt something. As long as we have faith, we will always have tomorrow. We need to learn to slow down. We need to learn to embrace every moment. Cherish the moments that you spend with loved ones- the moments you sit and cuddle, the times you sit and laugh. Dream big and aim high. The ironing pile will grow again and again, but memories are made in a moment, and if you don’t capture them, they are gone forever. 
Speaking of capturing moments, let me leave you with this little gem. I bet the person that stocked this display had wished they had slowed down and thought twice about their actions….