Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar is a proud mother of four, a medical Doctor and a humanitarian activist. She is due to complete a Masters degree in Disaster Management and Conflict Resolution at the University of Manchester.

Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar is a proud mother of four, a medical Doctor and a humanitarian activist. She is due to complete a Masters degree in Disaster Management and Conflict Resolution at the University of Manchester.

The excitement, the build up, the preparation and the intention to harness the spiritual boost for this blessed month for Muslims all over the world is part and parcel of Ramadan- this fleeting guest that gives us that warm fuzzy feeling, visiting us year after year- the time between each one becoming seemingly shorter.

How many of us have found that this blessed month flew by so quickly this year? From all the fuss about Muslims having to endure 18+ hour starvation in the media to fatwa’s on making things easier by shortening them, our guest Ramadan has built up a bit of a reputation with the wider community about being arduous and incredibly difficult- an almost self imposed, self harming deed that ‘those Muslims’ put themselves through every year for reasons only generally known to themselves. Could this also be attributed to our lack of educating those around us about how much of a blessing this guest Ramadan really is for us? Not sharing the beauty and positive spirituality with the wider community?

The Share Ramadan initiative came at the absolute right time to dispel these assumptions for at least every participant and their respective social networks. It is a beautiful concept that brings together the community in a way that educates people outside of the Muslim faith by active participation and the actual experience of knowing what it means or feels like not to have at least two of life’s necessities (food or water) for a relatively short period when you compare us to some of our less fortunate communities in under developed parts of the world.

Of course, for Muslims, abstention from food and drink is not the sole focus of Ramadan- more emphasis is placed on positive actions, humble demeanour, charitable efforts and good manners with those around you- friends, family and community.

On reflection of these last few weeks, I look back at how quickly and easily many of us have become used to the Ramadan routine in what have been the longest fasts that most of us have ever lived to experience – the adjusted sleep and work patterns, the late night iftars and prayers and the shorter nights.

I can honestly say that personally they have been one of the easiest Ramadan fasts that I have kept so far in life. My non Muslim colleagues are surprised to hear this when in comparison; we have also fasted when iftar time is barely a late lunch- opening at just over 4pm during the UK winter! The Share Ramadan challenge should be adapted to help more of our colleagues understand fasting better during these months where the days are much shorter- perhaps as a step to understanding why we fast for longer during the summer months for at least the next few years.

The Share Iftar event organised by MEND (Muslims in Engagement & Development), Share Ramadan and the Myriad Foundation at the Sheridan Suite last week was a beautiful example of the community spirit of Islam and how we must all strive to be during this awesome month.

People from all faiths and none came together to break fast after many non Muslims accepted a challenge to experience the fast as it was prescribed for followers of the Islamic faith.

The turnout was heart-warming, the entertainment amusing and the interaction and community spirit- amazing. It was an evening that set the standard of what interfaith events and community cohesion should be about. Our similarities far outweigh our differences- this is a fact that main stream media tend to ignore and instead focus on the fringe minority negative members of the international community that DO NOT represent the rest of us. We will only dispel these stereotypes and prejudices of one another through education and interaction with one another and what better way to do this than to break bread with one another (and a samosa or two!)

As the beautiful month draws to a close, we ponder on how quickly our guest Ramadan has passed by, what important lessons we have taken from this guest and how we will implement the good practice that we have utilised this month over the next 11 months until our guest visits us again if God wills, to impart more precious and beneficial actions. Life is passing us by in a similar fashion…Over in the blink of an eye and with little to show for our humanity and compassion in the urban jungles and hectic lifestyles we lead.

If you didn’t get a chance to Share Ramadan this month with your friends and community- don’t worry- there will be plenty of opportunities to mimic that spirituality throughout the year via projects set up by some of the organisations mentioned above.

Make intention to Share Ramadan next year with your colleagues and see each opportunity as a means to expulsion of misconceptions and misunderstandings around Islam and Muslims. This is the very minimum we should be doing at a grass roots level. We must challenge negativity and stereotypes as a community.

Whilst the wider community will consider the cessation of fasting as respite and a blessing for Muslims, many of us will feel a deep sense of withdrawal and sadness as we feel when a beautiful friend and guest parts company.

May we have the honour of receiving this blessed guest Ramadan and sharing the beauty of this friend with our community again.

Join millions around the world on social media #ShareRamadan

Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar is a proud mother of four, a medical Doctor and a humanitarian activist. She is due to complete a Masters degree in Disaster Management and Conflict Resolution at the University of Manchester. Dr Islam-Zulfiqar has assisted on humanitarian aid convoys to Syria on several occasions since the start of the Civil War, delivering aid to those most in need and treating the injured in Syrian hospitals. She has also volunteered in humanitarian missions to Gaza, Pakistan and Bosnia in the aftermath of the floods there earlier in 2014. She is also a member of the Board of Governors at a school in Trafford Council.

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The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan or the publishers.

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Manchester United and Ramadan

Ghulam Esposito Haydar is a qualified Pharmacist and currently works in the Greater Manchester area

I vividly remember my second eldest brother taking me to the city centre to treat me to a Manchester United jersey. The year was 1994 and United had just won the double with a squad containing Schmeichel, Bruce, Pallister, Parker, Irwin, Giggs, Sharpe, McClair, Ince, Keane, Hughes, Kanchelskis and Cantona. My idol was Cantona. I’d mimic everything he did; the good, the bad and even the ugly. My favourite party piece was stopping in front of the goal, turning my collars up, looking at the keeper and boom, “au revoir!”…GOAL!

My love for football hasn’t waned and I even managed to bag myself a security job at Old Trafford during my university student days. I got to meet many of the players close up and the best bit is that I got paid to watch football games at the Theatre of Dreams.

Now you’re probably wondering where on earth I’m going with this? What has this got to do with Ramadan? Well, let me tell you what I often say to my weekly students at the Manchester New Muslim Network. Ramadan for me is like pre-season training for a footballer. If you’re looking to have a good season as top class professional footballer, you really need to have had a good pre-season behind you. You need to work on your fitness and your touch, so much so that when the season starts in August, you’re off to a flyer and you have the stamina to keep going till May. Ramadan is a bit like this. It’s difficult, just like pre-season training is for a footballer but it prepares you well for the remaining 11 months. If you put the work in now, you’ll be rewarded for it will a stellar year ahead. It trains your mind to be focussed, to remember the important things and it teaches you order, routine and composure. Modern day life is such that we’re often blazing through at a rate of 100mph and we forget the little things that keep us grounded, focussed and most of all happy. Ramadan is a reminder to me that it’s the nurturing of my relationship with my Creator which is going to bring solace to me in this life and the next. It’s an intense training period where for 29 or 30 days, I’m yearning for a closer connection with my Creator constantly remembering Him through my actions. The days are made up of refraining from food, drink and sexual desires and the night is dedicated to extra prayers. Your thoughts are tested, your patience pushed, but in the end, you feel a great sense of accomplishment and feel sorrow that the blessed month of Ramadan has come to an end. The trick now is making Ramadan count by carrying the legacy of Ramadan with you through the remaining 11 months.

Ghulam Esposito Haydar

Ghulam Esposito Haydar is a qualified Pharmacist and currently works in the Greater Manchester area. He has a special interest in Neuropsychiatric disorders having completed undergraduate elective modules in this area as well as completing a master’s thesis on this subject. He is highly active in the Community Outreach and New Muslim Support circles in his city – Manchester. He is one of the founding members of the Myriad Foundation where he is a board member and fulfils the role of head of Public Relations as well as leading on their services, My Hospice Buddy and the Manchester New Muslim Network.

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The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan.

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What does Ramadan mean for me?

Scientific Consultant for a global Biotech Company – working with Research Institutes across the North of England e.g. University of Manchester, CRUK, NHSBT.

Scientific Consultant for a global Biotech Company – working with Research Institutes across the North of England e.g. University of Manchester, CRUK, NHSBT.

I ask myself this question at the beginning of Ramadan each year; every year is different for me with juggling a career that includes a lot of travel and is not 9-5.

With such a busy work schedule I rarely take the time out for myself so I look forward to Ramadan as a time for reflection.

Yes Ramadan does mean abstaining from certain things including food and drink; but for me it is more about allowing myself to think beyond the day to day activities. To think about the less fortunate. It is a time for reflection, solitariness as well as time with family and friends. It is a time to forgive and put the past behind me and look forward to the future.

It can be very challenging to get the whole family together with busy work schedules for everyone and living in different places. So during Ramadan we all try and make the effort to take time out and eat together. I try and be conscious of the food I eat; I remember when we were younger we did have a lot of fried samosas and other fried foods which is really not great during Ramadan. At Sehri I try to eat slow energy releasing foods like porridge, nuts and dried fruits. And at Iftar I drink plenty of water and dates before I eat anything else. The dates are a great sweet option as its all natural sugars and your body craves sugars and carbohydrates after being starved. It helps me to think about the different food groups that my body needs and prepare meals accordingly.

There are days when fasting is not possible for me due to the travelling so on these days I’m very conscious that I eat what I need to eat in order not to feel unwell and still get through the day. Or mostly I will just drink water and abstain from food. Each day is very different so I decide what is best to do on the day.

The days of fasting are long with it being over the summer months; but going without food and water has many benefits. There are current studies and clinical trials where the data is showing that fasting for 48 and 72 hours have shown to cause regeneration of stem cells in the bone marrow, i.e. stimulate the immune system to develop new cells to fight off infections. One of these studies was carried out on mice and aimed to see whether cycles of fasting could increase the white blood cell counts, as these are depleted during chemotherapy treatment leaving the body vulnerable to infections. The clinical trial in humans is currently being carried out to get conclusive results (carried out by the University of Southern California).

I love to talk about Ramadan and Islam with colleagues and friends from different cultures and religions. It’s very interesting how Muslims from other cultures see through Ramadan but ultimately it’s the unity that it creates. The more I talk about my experiences the more others can see into my world; which is very different to what the media portrays.

It’s great to see Share Ramadan being hugely successful; it is a great opportunity to challenge others to share this month with us and see first-hand what it is all about.

Supa Begum

Scientific Consultant for a global Biotech Company – working with Research Institutes across the North of England e.g. University of Manchester, CRUK, NHSBT. Main research areas include Immunology, Cancer & Stem Cell.

I love hiking; weekends in the countryside are great. I love to travel and experience different cultures and cuisines.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan.

 

 

 

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Louisa Butt is a journalist and graduated in 2012 from the University of Salford with a BA Hons in Journalism and Politics.

Louisa Butt is a journalist and graduated in 2012 from the University of Salford with a BA Hons in Journalism and Politics.

Is it just me or does it feel like Ramadan comes around at just the right time each year?

When you’ve become so rushed off your feet that praying becomes quick five minute tasks squeezed into your day rather than five moments of remembering God; when you’re too exhausted trying to complete the never-ending chores and errands that, by the time you’ve sat down to open the Qur’an or that Islamic book you’ve been meaning to read for months, the words don’t sink in; when you begin to feel like you’re living to work rather than working to live and you are too occupied to focus on your spiritual needs or get a moment to yourself – I’m sure you get the gist as I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

Time is one thing that seems to get shorter every year because as we get older, our responsibilities increase and energy decreases.  Whether you’re a student focussing on your studies, a professional at the peak of your career or a parent with children to look after – each requires hard work, commitment and the majority of your time.

This is what makes the obligatory month of fasting so beautiful and a period that Muslims crave for rather than dread.  I like to see it as a month of “me” time because it takes you back to basics and requires you to perform duties that are beneficial for your mind, body and soul – something that is difficult for many of us to achieve in our day-to-day lives, due to bad diets, lack of physical activity and limited time to carry out religious obligations.  Not only does Ramadan act as a complete and brilliant detox, it recharges your spiritual batteries to keep you going for the rest of the year.

However, Ramadan has come at a more pressing time than ever this year – in a world where cultural and religious sensitivity is at its prime, Islamophobia is a growing problem and the global suffering of Muslims is getting more and more brutal.  This means that many of us spend a lot of effort defending our religion to non-Muslims or are constantly mindful about how we are perceived by them.  This also means that we may feel extra self-conscious whilst fasting this year, not wanting to attract attention, dreading facing those questions from the non-Muslims friends and colleagues we have to answer every year, hoping they won’t think we are strange.

But we can easily use the blessed month of Ramadan to change all of the misconceptions held by non-Muslims and the way we tackle them.  What better way to enlighten those who know little about Islam than inviting them to experience it with us?

Even if it’s just for one day, it is one day of taking everything back to basics, without the judgements, the politics or the defensive armour; a day of sharing an endeavour, providing an insight and helping others understand the beauty of Islam in its simplicity.  Just sharing Ramadan for one day has the capability of effectively changing negative views, in a way that is much more powerful and engaging than reading a book, debating or asking questions.

Whether you choose to share Ramadan with a non-Muslim or not, do make a pledge during the thirty days to bring everything back to basics and educate those around you, not only though your actions and good deeds, but through altering your approach on how you challenge these misconceptions.  Let’s use Ramadan to have these discussions, spread awareness of the core foundations of our faith and create an atmosphere of positivity between us and those who are unaware of what makes us so proud to be Muslim.

Ramadan Mubarak to you all!

Louisa Butt is a journalist and graduated in 2012 from the University of Salford with a BA Hons in Journalism and Politics.  She is currently the editor of Speaker, a local bilingual newspaper based in Manchester, which highlights issues in the interest of North West’s diverse community.

Prior to graduating, Louisa has been a radio presenter and the host of many community events.  She writes about various topics but her main interest is in current affairs and politics.

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The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan.

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Thanks to Khadijah

I’m Howard, an ageing Christian priest, recently retired, whose lived and worked in Oldham most of his life

I’m Howard, an ageing Christian priest, recently retired, whose lived and worked in Oldham most of his life

Let me introduce myself. I’m Howard, an ageing Christian priest, recently retired, whose lived and worked in Oldham most of his life, got to know a lot of people, including some local Muslims and done interesting stuff with them.

I have a local Muslim friend who just loves food. I can’t imagine him not eating. I won’t reveal his name. The clue might be that his wife has just given birth to a baby boy. I say no more.  He’s a mischief-maker, but he’s also a good and holy man.  And for sure, he’ll be observing Ramadan this month as he should.

I have to admit that I love food as well. Where I’m living, I’m just round the corner from the chippy. I spend my days dreaming of rag pudding, chips and peas with gravy. When I am on my own I have no doubt I’d be going round there every night, always asking for the same thing! I’m saved from that by my wife who makes sure I eat more healthily. But could I match my Muslim friend and observe the fast for a month? I doubt it!

When I come to think about it, I realise that the first Muslim friend I made in Oldham-back in the 1980s-was Khadijah, a young woman, recently arrived in town, who was working at the local playgroup. At that time her English and her knowledge of the Oldham scene weren’t great, so I was able to help her along. We got on well and talked about our religious faiths. We even got together to put on an interfaith event for parents and children. What I remember is that we had singing and plenty of food!  And I remember even more that she used to invite my wife and I along for a good curry whenever ‘Eid’ appeared on the calendar. As a matter of fact, she’s done that now and again ever since. I must make sure that it happens this year!

And I have to confess, no that’s wrong, I’m proud to announce, that on one or two occasions Khadijah persuaded me to attempt to fast during Ramadan and for a number of days I succeeded. And I happily acknowledge that this did me good, both physically and spiritually! But I must say two other things. First, I succeeded in the middle of winter when the hours of daylight were at their shortest and this is in the North of England! And, second, I haven’t kept it up. I’ve fasted the odd day since, but the truth is that for a year or two I haven’t fasted at all in the holy month of Ramadan, even for one single day.

But this year I’m certainly up for it at least for one single day! After all, this is going to be in the middle of summer, which should help!  And, to be serious for a moment, I know that it is definitely good for my soul, indeed for all our souls!

What does the Qur’an ask of people? That they should be ‘…giving food upon a day of hunger to an orphan near of kin or a needy person in misery’…(Sura XC  The Land) : so I take it that having in mind the needs of others is part of what Ramadan is all about. And no question doing that and acting upon it is something I ought to be getting on with.

So bring on that day! The day when I stop thinking about myself and think about the needs of others and do something about them!  I look forward to it. The day when I am sharing Ramadan, sharing it with Muslim friends and being reminded by them of some of the things that are most important in life.

Howard Sutcliffe

The photograph shows myself and three friends-Mufti Helal, Fazal Rahim, and Shamim Miah. It was taken by a fourth friend,  Father Phil Sumner, very recently. We were having a day together in the Lake District. We were there as members of the InterFaith Forum, enjoying each other’s company, and I have been a member of the Forum from its very beginning after the Riots of 2001.058

I’m an Oldham born person who went to university but was happy to come back up North and live my life in my home town. I first came back as a history teacher (at Blue Coat).  Since 1980 I‘ve been a Christian parish priest in Hathershaw and, more recently, in Saddleworth.  In between I was a community worker in Werneth and Freehold and had a short spell working with Voluntary Action Oldham. I also had eight years in the 1990s as a local (Labour) Councillor. I am happily married to Truda: we have two sets of twins and one in the middle! And by now at least nine grandchildren.

I’ve got to know a lot of people, and done a lot of interesting and rewarding things with them from running a Sunday League football team to visiting Aushwitz and Srebrenica.  I send my best wishes to those who may be reading this. I think Share Ramadan is a great idea and I hope it takes off!

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan.

 

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23 year old Trainee Solicitor at Lloyds Solicitors in Longsight

23 year old Trainee Solicitor at Lloyds Solicitors in Longsight

Ramadan has a lot to do with the heart and as little as possible to do with food or water, no seriously, it’s true. As God said in the Glorious Quran:

“Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (Q 2:183)

Starting with a reference to the source, to the texts that command, guide and inspire us every day, especially so in the blessed month is pivotal. Because today in a world devoted to its appetite for excessive consumption, quick fixes and instant gratification, the crux of the underlying purpose of Ramadan has taken a back seat. And it’s this issue we need to address this Ramadan, on a personal and societal level – starting with the purification of our hearts.

Although abstinence from food and hunger is a part of fasting, it shouldn’t however be the end product. In fact the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated that “Many receive nothing from the fast except hunger and thirst.” [Hadith]. A hunger which many of us ironically quench by indulging in gluttonous behaviours – adding little if any at all in the way of personal development of the heart.

Fasting, for the sake of God has been given a status to which there is no equivalent.

Abu Umamah reported: “I came to the Messenger of Allah (saw) and said: ‘Order me to do a deed that will allow me to enter Paradise.’ He said: ‘Stick to fasting, as there is no equivalent to it.’ Then I came to him again and he said: ‘Stick to fasting.”‘ [Imam Ahmad, Imam Nasa’i, and Imam Hakim].

Why is fasting given such a high status, the obvious and most accurate answer is that fasting, is something that is dear to the Creator, in fact fasting is an act that if done solely for His sake, God Himself will reward the fasting person for it.

But looking a little deeper than most of us tend to do today, fasting concerns not just your stomach or your throat. It concerns your entire being, your mouth, heart and eyes. Since taqwa (God consciousness)  – the primary purpose we are trying to achieve is found in the heart, it is only fitting to draw from it that the heart should be a focal point during the blessed month.

You see once there is taqwa or greater discipline in the heart all else fits into place. Lowering of the gaze, abstaining from the prohibited, giving charity and being kind all stem from the heart; and it’s consciousness of its Creator. It’s not the easiest muscle to tame, but we have a month in which distractions are minimal to work on it – the benefits however are priceless. For this reason it is fundamental that the concept of the heart and not the stomach being the organ we are trying to control, strengthen, remedy and permeate to the core of our understanding.

Sharing is one of the best medicines for the heart – it opens up the little we have of our lives to others, even if for a brief moment. What better way is there to work on your heart than sharing this blessed month, a month that means so much to you with other people who may never have witnessed the blessings this month has to offer.

With this is mind, we must not forget that we are not only trying to better ourselves but also our communities. In times of increasing tensions it only seems fitting to explore different ways of challenging the phobias associated with the Muslim community. Like most phobias, the fear is derived of the unknown – sharing Ramadan is the best way to tackle misconceptions head on. As it not only involves the act of engaging and informing those members of the community that aren’t of your faith (or no faith) but it gives them a practical insight. Ever heard of the phrase “Walk a mile in my shoe”?

Well Share Ramadan gives them just that opportunity, in fact it gives them several miles, well hours or to be exact 19 hours – which is the roughly the number of hours this years’ fasts are expected to be.

So this Ramadan , why not challenge a friend or colleague who is not of the Muslim faith (or no faith) to participate in this noble cause, and potentially raise money for a cause of their choice.

Ali R Ilyas

Ali R Ilyas is a 23 year old Trainee Solicitor at Lloyds Solicitors in Longsight, Manchester, a city in which he was born and studied Law. His interest in human rights activism, specifically in women’s rights led him to become a Director of the emerging Luna Women’s Foundation, which has a specific aim to target gender inequality; be it at home or work. Apart from being involved in several community organisations and his political role as the Chair of his local Labour Party, Ali enjoys writing creative stories, articles, poetry and performing spoken word poetry.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this blog are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Share Ramadan or the publishers.

 

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Rev. Philip T. Sumner

Rev. Philip T. Sumner

Each year, for the last ten years, I have chosen to fast for one day during the month of Ramadan. But why would I, a Christian priest, choose to do such a thing? Traditionally, fasting has been given great importance by the major faiths of the world, and Christianity is one of those faiths. However, relatively few Christians, these days, would observe a fast that lasts most of the day. Even on what Roman Catholics, like me, would call “fast days”, the Church law would still allow us to eat one main meal and two collations (light meals). Many might think this laughable as a fast! But, if the Church law does not require too much of Roman Catholics, more demanding fasts are part of our tradition and are still encouraged.

In a country where consumption is such a major dynamic and obesity rates have increased from 5% to 16% in the last 30 years, it is surely necessary to signpost a different way. To quote the Christian scripture, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is important to stress, however, that fasting, in the religious sense, is not another type of diet but rather a deliberate opening of ourselves to a different, life-giving dynamic. It takes us, at least for a while, out of the cycle of consumption and invites us rather to focus on the presence of God in life.

But, why would I, a Christian, share in a specifically Muslim fast? It is about understanding. It’s a common complaint that politicians don’t really understand what it’s like for us because they haven’t had to walk in our shoes. It was with some interest, then, that, a few years ago, I read about Barak Obama before he became the President of the USA. As part of his campaign, he decided to spend a day “in the shoes” of a home care worker from Alameda. The care worker, Pauline Beck, was at first understandably cynical about the whole exercise, and, to make matters worse, she was a supporter of Obama’s then rival, Hilary Clinton. Obama arrived at Pauline’s home, with reporters in tow, just in time for breakfast. She then took him to meet her 82 year old charge, John Thornton and explained her duties. Obama diligently set about mopping floors, preparing food and doing the laundry. A year later, Mr. Thornton is reported to have quipped that Pauline “was working the Hell out of him”. For her part, Pauline was impressed with the way Obama related to Mr. Thornton saying, “He made it his business to understand”.

While experiments of this nature are always limited, there is still the potential for genuine understanding. It’s the same for a Christian, or anyone else, sharing in at least some of the Muslim fast. Yes, getting up in the morning before the sun rises to eat a breakfast that one hopes will give sufficient energy for most of the day, is itself a shock to the system. Then, during the course of the day, one realises very quickly the number of internal and external messages we receive to make us long for a snack and question our sanity in agreeing to such an exercise. But, to stick with the fast until sunset certainly gives one a glimpse of what it’s like for those who have to fast every day for a month.

A few years ago, a non-Muslim senior Oldham police officer agreed to do the fast for one day along with several of his work colleagues. He spoke of understanding, for the first time, what it was like, during the month of Ramadan, for the Muslim police officers under his command. But I have also found that Muslim neighbours and friends are so appreciative of the fact that non-Muslims might be bothered to engage in such an exercise. It has clearly come across to them as a genuine attempt to extend a hand of friendship and they have warmly grasped that hand.

When I first started to share in the Ramadan fast, back in 2005, it was just after the earthquake in Kashmir. There was that extra sense, then, of associating ourselves with those who were suffering. It was a poignant recognition that life could not just go on as usual for everyone else in the world. This year, images of the massive destruction that has taken place in Nepal, and reports of the resulting thousands of deaths, have entered our living rooms through the Media. Once more an earthquake provides the backdrop for the Ramadan fast and, perhaps, the motivation for more people in this country to opt out, for a while, from the cycle of consumption to make ourselves more aware of others in need.

Rev. Philip T. Sumner

Photography Courtesy of Oldham Chronicle

Phil Sumner is currently the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s with St. Patrick’s, Oldham.

He was Chair of the National Conference of Priests of England and Wales from 1997-2000.

He was the first Chair of the Oldham Inter Faith Forum. He is now Project Manager, in a voluntary capacity, for the Inter Faith Development Project in Oldham. From 2010 – 2015, he was Chair of Oldham Race Equality Partnership.

He is a member of Oldham’s Safer and Stronger Communities Partnership Board and a member of the Oldham Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector Partnership.

He gained his Masters and Licence in Canon Law from Ottawa University and serves as an Ecclesiastical Judge in the Salford Diocesan Matrimonial Tribunal. He is also one of a team of Presenters for the BBC Radio 4 “Daily Service”.

In February of 2006 he was the Individual and “Overall” winner of Oldham’s first, and only, Diversity and Equality awards and, in September 2006, he was named in a British national newspaper as amongst the top fifty British “campaigners, thinkers and givers transforming our world” (The Independent Newspaper’s “Good list”, 1st September 2006). He has lectured for UNESCO on “Intercultural mediation processes” in Barcelona in 2006 and (Feb. 2008) in Brazil at the World Conference on the Development of Cities.

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Keep Calm, It’s Ramadan

Dr Siema Iqbal was born in Manchester. She studied Medicine at the University of Manchester has worked as a doctor for and trained to become a GP in the North West. Currently a partner and trainer at a North Manchester GP Practice, choosing to give back to the community she grew up in and previously presenting on her own live TV medical series on DM Digital. Dr Iqbal also regularly does charity work to raise money for charities both in the UK and abroad and does regular work with ethnic communities to promote health and well-being. In 2014 she also launched her business Doctor Aesthetics whilst continuing to be a busy mum to 2 boys.

Dr Siema Iqbal.

A time for reflection, simplicity, unity and a ‘cleansing of the soul and mind’.

As a working mum with 2 young children I always look forward to Ramadan with a sense of excitement and apprehension. Will I have the patience to get through my working day? Will I have time to do the extra prayers? What meals will make it easier at Suhur? …The list goes on. Yet, each year I find I have the strength to keep my fasts and not need the copious amounts of tea I normally would drink throughout the day or snacks I think I can’t live without. Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy but it’s also not as difficult as you imagine it to be. Then suddenly in the blink of an eye I find the month has passed and Eid is upon us.

However, whilst sitting down at Eid dinner and staring at the unnecessarily large amounts of food that have been prepared each year I also feel a sense of sadness in the joviality of the moment. I am blessed enough to have food to eat. Yet, there are millions of people throughout the world who have no idea when their next meal will be. During Ramadan, I found I appreciated what I normally took for granted every day. It didn’t need to be fancy food, just a simple glass of water or piece of fruit but it tasted divine after a day of fasting. As days and weeks passed post Ramadan and life became hectic again, I realised I missed the serenity and peace the blessed month of Ramadan brought with it. It almost sounds ironic, how can one of the most difficult months of the year in terms of discipline create a sense of calmness and well being? How do I explain or share that feeling with my non- Muslim friends and colleagues who cannot understand why I haven’t shrivelled up in a corner in the heat when I cannot drink, why would I fast (despite it being an obligation) and more than that, why do I generally feel at peace?

And then I heard of the Share Ramadan campaign launched last year by three friends in Oldham. It’s probably normal custom for many to do Iftar (opening fasts) with Muslim families and friends throughout Ramadan, however with Share Ramadan the idea is to ask non-Muslim friends, neighbours, colleagues to fast for a day, invite them to your house for a meal then upload a picture on twitter with the #ShareRamadan.

I’m intrigued. Will my non-Muslim friends be willing to experience a snapshot of what I do during fasting? Will it help them to understand how I feel when I fast? It’s not always easy, there are moments of hunger and impatience. Will they be more tolerant and understanding towards me when I do have days of feeling tired and grumpy? It’s true that Ramadan isn’t just about ‘giving up food and water between sunrise and sunset’ but also just as importantly it’s about reflection, restraint, worship and charity. Will they feel the empathy I feel towards other less fortunate?

There’s only one way to find out. In the current climate of Islamophobia becoming involved in a campaign like this and inviting my non-Muslim friends to be a part of the most important month of the year, to experience and share what Islam teaches first hand, and share the feeling of opening a fast together is exciting.
Enough of the negativity – I want to share the positivity of Islam. I want to #ShareRamadan.
Visit www.shareramadan.com

Launch event Tuesday 12th May 2015 @ Eastern Pavillion, Featherstall Road, Oldham, OL9 6HL

Dr Siema Iqbal was born in Manchester. She studied Medicine at the University of Manchester has worked as a doctor for and trained to become a GP in the North West. Currently a partner and trainer at a North Manchester GP Practice, choosing to give back to the community she grew up in and previously presenting on her own live TV medical series on DM Digital. Dr Iqbal also regularly does charity work to raise money for charities both in the UK and abroad and does regular work with ethnic communities to promote health and well-being. In 2014 she also launched her business Doctor Aesthetics whilst continuing to be a busy mum to 2 boys.

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