The last ten days, and Hannah’s story – to work when fasting

Today is the first day of the most blessed time of the year for Muslims. The last ten days of Ramadan.

This last third of the month is when Muslims try to perfect their fasting by delving deeper into the heart or soul-layers with the likes of generosity, forgiveness and prayer.

It is believed that it was sometime during these ten days that the Prophet Muhammad first received the revelation of the Quran.

Over the next few days I’ll be recounting some of the stories of the women I met at the Clongriffin gathering on Saturday night. Tonight it’s Hannah’s story.

Hannah is introduced to me as being ‘Libyan’ but she was born and bred in Ireland and has only been to Libya on holidays. She’s a young woman and she tells me that this is her first time working during Ramadan. She is finding it exhausting.

For Muslims working in Ireland during Ramadan the ease, or not, of their experience is often dependent on the level of understanding of their workmates and employers. Hannah is lucky.

“I’m just very tired” she says. Time to break the fast is around 9.30 so after eating and praying it’s already late. Then it’s up out of bed before three, more prayers and food, back to sleep by four, up for work a few hours later. At weekends she tries to attend the Taraweeh prayers which go on until after midnight.

“People at work think I’m brave” she says. “And they are always asking “how are you feeling today?” They are starting to understand it. I’ve told my boss and she has let me go home early to do some work from home.”

Although she hasn’t had any negative response she says that sometimes she gets the impression that some people think “why are you starving yourself?” or “there is no meaning behind it”. “But” she says “it is a spiritual thing”.

“My mother makes the best food” she tells me, smiling, when I ask about breaking the fast. “There might be stuffed peppers called Mashi or Dolma, potatoes stuffed with meat (mbaten), a soup called sharba. There is also dates, milk, fruit salad, toast, juice. By two spoonfuls you’d be too full”.

It’s a very different experience for Hannah this year and she is finding Ramadan tiring. She tells me that she does know people who don’t fast because they’re working. “It’s a personal thing” she explains. “It’s between them and god.”

I think it’s kind of appropriate that I, as a non-Muslim, am exempt from fasting during at least some of these more important days. But part of me feels regret too. And I’m even a tiny bit envious of those who are.

Shayk Umar from Al Mustafa Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown posted this story on his Facebook account today:

“A Shaykh was asked about another person’s character. The Shaykh replied “I have not yet completely purified my own character from its evil characteristics, then how can I spend this time focusing on other peoples characters??” Friends the last 10 days of Ramadan have begun. This is the time to seclude yourself from the world and focus on purifying your lower self and cleaning your heart. Let us all focus on ourselves and get rid of our own evil characteristics.”

5 thoughts on “The last ten days, and Hannah’s story – to work when fasting

  1. Colette, I’m enjoying your experiences and writing of them! Having been in Abu Dhabi last year during Ramadan, it’s more interesting… So much easier for people who live in countries where dawn and dusk aren’t so far apart during this fasting season. Also the employers in Abu Dhabi would be more understanding. Because it was the hottest time, many people had a siesta during the middle of the day – again, this reduced the tiredness associated. Well done on your efforts!

    • Thanks Pauline! I had no idea you were reading them so lovely to hear from you. Yes – I remember your panic last year when you realised your holiday was falling on Ramadan. Am I right in thinking the swimming pool was closed? And something about the restaurant in the hotel you originally booked for?

  2. Salaam Colette, Grace again. Sorry I have not been commenting but trust me I have been reading your posts on my phone (hard to comment from my phone).
    So true about the last 10 days. We look forward to Ramadan all year (even with its “tests”) but it seems to go quickly after the first week or so and its sad when its coming to an end.
    I am so immensely happy and proud of you for still keeping your fasts. I dont blame you not wanting to make up the ones you had to miss.
    What are your plans on Eid day? Do you know where you will be?
    All the best and love from London xx

    • Thanks Grace! No plans yet for Eid but I know there are barbecues and bouncy castles planned at the Clonskeagh mosque so might pop down to take a look. You will surely meet up with family? Gifts of money exchanged? Or presents? Also I might be going to an all-night itikaf (if that is how to word it) at the mosque in Blanchardstown over the next week so am looking forward to that. And funnily, in the meantime, I am actually missing fasting!! 🙂 – Colette

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