Galway man discusses the month of Ramadan

Fanous Ramadan, commonly known as the Ramadan Lantern. Photo via Wikipedia.

Fanous Ramadan, commonly known as the Ramadan Lantern. Photo via Wikipedia.

This week marks the end of the month of fasting for Muslims all over the globe, and for over 2,200 Muslims in Galway, Ramadan began on Monday 6 June.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and during this month, Muslims refrain from eating food, drinking liquids, smoking, and sexual contact from sunrise to sunset.

“I just think of it as a normal day because I don’t see any difference after doing it all these years. Ramadan is very easy,” says Muhammad Farouq, owner of the High Café, a Moroccan café on High Street.

One would imagine working in the kitchen, preparing delicious food all day would be difficult, but Mr Farouq, who is originally from Morocco, says it’s something he gets used to and, in fact, something he enjoys.

“It’s a long day and when you’re working it is hard, but only for the first three days and after that your body just knows when it’s going to get food,” he says.

Ramadan is a time for the Islamic faith to cleanse the soul, focus their attention to God and to practice restraint and selflessness – many Muslims donate to charity during this time.

“The good thing about it is it can make a human a bit weak – you don’t eat all day; you get soft; you get this feeling for poor people as well. It’s about the feeling of charity, community and helping people,” Mr Farouq explains.

As the Islamic calendar is dependent on the moon rather than the sun, Ramadan does not occur on the same dates every year. It also varies from country to country.

The fast commences with the sighting of the new moon, and astronomical calculations, and ends with the next new moon. This year in Ireland, Ramadan was from 6 June until 5 July.

Mr Farouq explains that the fasting begins just after 3am and doesn’t end until after the sun sets at 10pm. This is a long day of fasting, with a mere five hours in which food can be consumed.

However, as the Islamic calendar runs differently to the everyday calendar, it is only every 33 years that Ramadan starts in the summer. For the next three years or so, the month of fasting will fall during the summer months.

All adult Muslims fast for the month, but there are a number of reasons people are excused from the fast; ill, pregnant, breast-feeding, travelling, menstruating or diabetic Muslims are excused but they can choose to fast for a month later in the year.

Children are not expected to fast for 30 days, but they are encouraged to fast on special days during Ramadan.

“I started when I was in my childhood with three days, four days, and your father and mother encourage you,” says Mr Farouq, who explained that children are not expected to do a 30-day fast all at once. His wife, who is Irish, also started Ramadan in this way.

The High Café has a number of regular Muslim customers, and there are some who will meet there for Iftar, the meal after sunset.

“This is our third Ramadan here [in the café]. The first two years went perfectly. We offer regular Muslim customers – who come to break their fast in here – soup and dates with no charge, and after that they can order any meal they want themselves,” Mr Farouq explains, emphasising that this month is all about community and helping others.

He also explains that this month is good for your health; “I think our bodies need a break for one month. Think got [your body] as an engine – it does deserve a break. So for one month you treat it differently and you look after it.”

One of the biggest days in the Islamic calendar is Ein al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. There are approximately 2,200 Muslims in Galway City and County and on 5 July this year, they will gather in the mosque, wearing new clothes and bearing gifts to celebrate the feast of breaking the fast. Fasting is not permitted on this day of celebration.

To those who are not accustomed to Ramadan, this sounds like a difficult month, but Mr Farouq says; “it’s all in your head. If you want to do something, you do it.”

This article was originally published in the Connacht Tribune in 2014. Dates have been changed to make it relevant to this year’s Ramadan.

Written by Jessica Thompson