Nadeem Ahmed, UK
Whenever the month of Ramadan reappears, the concept of the Islamic fast raises several questions within the non-Muslim community. Muslims are often questioned as to why they take on such a demanding challenge. As Muslims, we are aware that fasting is not just the abstinence of food and water from dawn to dusk, it is a form of worship to have your sins forgiven and to increase in spirituality.
However, the best way to understand the purpose of Ramadan is by taking part in it. Thus, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK (AMYA UK) conducted a National Fasting Challenge alongside the Surrey Police Force under the Fasting Collective Initiative in order to educate and inspire non-Muslims about this blessed month. After being educated on the holy month of Ramadan in light of the verse: ‘O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous’ , members of the Surrey Police Force were given guidelines and tips on how to keep the fast.
On the 28th of April 2021, the National Fasting Challenge took place. 72 members of the Surrey Police Force volunteered to take part in this challenge to increase their knowledge and to experience Ramadan first-hand. The whole day was planned out to help those taking part in every way possible. The virtual Suhoor [pre-dawn meal before beginning the fast] was organised to start the fast where the participants would join and were given tips and advice for the day which was ahead of them and were reminded of what to do and what not to do. As Muslims use this month to better themselves in morals and character, this message was also conveyed to the volunteers to show that the Islamic fast is more than just refraining from food and drink.
It is no doubt that the volunteers would have been getting hungry and thirsty as the day progressed. This allowed them to really think about what Muslims go through whenever the month of Ramadan comes around each year and to gain true insight into the Islamic fast. The volunteers were asked to share their experiences during the fast on social media via the hashtag ‘#FastingCollective’.
AMYA UK had organised food parcel collections for all Fasting Collective volunteers consisting of dates, chicken biryani and a traditional dessert. A virtual Iftar [meal after sunset to break the fast] was set up to reflect on the day, to share any thoughts and to discuss their experiences.
By the grace of Allah, the National Fasting Challenge was a great success and was an eye-opening experience for our non-Muslim friends. It was a day of learning, reflection and inspiration. May Allah reward the efforts of all those who took part in this blessed challenge. Ameen.
Comments from the Participants
Lucy Parsons: ‘Nearing the final few minutes of this fasting collective and reflecting on what a happy and supportive day this has been. A 3.30am alarm (a time only normally seen when I’m catching a flight!), some water, 1/2 a cuppa and some porridge. It feels like such a long time ago now and I don’t remember savouring those last bites either!
I wasn’t worried about not eating for the day – it was the thirst that preoccupied me. Normally I happily switch the tap on, letting it run cold, and then refill a bottle multiple times a day, all without much thought. Today I’ve found myself seeing a water bottle and automatically thinking ‘oh, I must fill that’, such is the engrained habit.
Instead, I’ve had time to reflect on those habits; the automatic reach for a snack, the apple (ha… biscuit!) at 11. The pre-dinner munch. And tea. Glorious, wonderful, cups of tea!
I felt quite giddy with joy seeing people’s faces collecting their food parcels. Happy faces, all reflecting on their day and what it’s meant to them. Speaking to Labeed who dropped our food parcels off. The surprise on his face, even though it was partially covered by his mask, when he heard we were fasting too. His eyes creased with a huge smile, wanting to hear more, how we’d found the day. Grateful to see us joining our colleagues this way.
But it’s me who is grateful. The generosity of our Muslim friends, colleagues and community. Kindly sharing their culture with me and us for the day. Looking forward to next year already.’
James Ansell: ‘A very different start to the day today – virtual Suhoor at 4am with colleagues. Hunger & thirst kicking in for sure however I’m doing my best to remain focussed & reflect!’
Jack: ‘Up at 2am, working from 4am Onwards! It is now 14:20pm, and I am quite thirsty after a busy shift. I have taken the time however to reflect on those whose thirst is quenched by their faith. Keep it up! Inspiring :)’
John Davies: ‘Food parcels kindly delivered by the Ahmadiyya Muslim association for all those taking part in Fasting Collective. Thank you. I promise not to tuck in til I’m allowed…but very tempting!!’
‘14hrs into fast. Only a couple of hours to go. This has really opened my eyes to what those partaking in Ramadan go through. How do they maintain this for weeks? Also made me realise how resilient the human body is.’
About the Author: Nadeem Ahmed serves as Assistant to the National President as well as the Press & Media Secretary for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK.
 The Holy Qur’an 2:184