Ramadan 2023 – Behind the Burendoer.

Sobia Malik, 37, Senior Consultant Business Analyst at Burendo, lives in the UK with her family and has taken part in Ramadan since she was 11 years old. Here she gives us an insight into her life and work during this special time.

22nd March 2023.

Today marks the start of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. Ramadan officially begins when the month of Shaban, the eighth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, ends. As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, Ramadan rotates by approximately ten days each year.

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and worship, as well as the most well-known action – fasting from sunrise to sunset.

I often get asked – Why do Muslims stop eating during Ramadan? No water either? How do you do it? Why do you do it?

The reality is that there’s more to Ramadan than refraining from eating and drinking – I find that’s actually the easiest part! There’s a bigger goal to refine and refresh ourselves, both physically and mentally – a way of recharging our spiritual batteries once a year.

During Ramadan, a typical day for me starts at 3.15am. My husband and I get up and prepare for a light pre-dawn meal known as ‘suhoor’, perhaps porridge or some brown bread, eggs, avocado and a drink of yoghurt. Once suhoor is prepared I’ll wake up the children and we’ll have suhoor together.

A time for reflection.

Ramadan is the most important month in the Islamic calendar, and something I’ve observed since I was very young. It’s a time for quiet reflection and self-discipline so, after eating ‘suhoor’, I often use the time to pray and read the Quran. Ramadan also encourages us to act with generosity and charity and, like many others, I donate a portion of my total annual savings & gold to charity during this month.

Work is a 30-minute drive away from my home, however, at Burendo, they’re quite flexible with work patterns, so people can start at different times or work remotely, which makes a massive difference during Ramadan.

I like to put up decorations around the house to help the children learn and understand the importance of the month, and to instil love in their hearts for the blessed month and our faith.

The working day.

Once at work, whether in the office or working remotely, it’s pretty much business as usual without eating or drinking of course. Around 5% of permanent Burendoers take part in Ramadan, the others are always observant of our culture and respectful of our fasting, so the atmosphere is supportive. I know some colleagues felt conscious of tempting me if they happened to bring in treats to the workplace, but they needn’t have worried — during Ramadan, I’m actually more introspective and less likely to be tempted by these things!

Depending on meetings, I’ll grab 15 minutes to go to the prayer room for afternoon prayers. I try to stay mindful of my own energy levels and even though I’m generally a calm person, I make an effort to exercise even more patience during these weeks. Certainly, after 3pm, concentration levels can fluctuate so it’s probably better to wait until the next morning and tackle complex business analysis with a fresh mind.

During Ramadan, I tend to start work at around 10 am and finish around 6.30pm giving myself some time for rest between suhoor and work. Usually, I’d finish work at 5 pm and then go to the gym or swimming. These activities tend to dwindle during Ramadan, in fact, I find exercise can be a challenge so I just stick to light walks instead!

Breaking the fast – Iftar.

Once the sun sets, evenings are a very social time, with restaurants booked out far in advance and incredible feasts to break the fast. However, I do prefer cooking at home and starting to prepare the evening meal once I finish work, ensuring all courses are ready in time for Iftar.  We’re often invited to our family and friends’ houses to break the fast with our loved ones. Ramadan 2020 & 2021 were a very different experience for Muslims across the world, as communities adapted to changing & challenging circumstances during the global pandemic, visiting families wasn’t an option, and was very sadly missed.

Nourishing the body and mind.

Until Eid, though, I try not to indulge too much. I look forward to embracing Ramadan and enjoying the chance to break with routine and totally overhaul my body and soul. If I’m at home early, I take the time to meditate and spend quality time with my children. At about 6.28pm, it’s ‘iftar’ and we break our fast with dates and a light meal, some samosas or a fruit salad, my girls (aged 12 & 15) will put together a beautiful platter of dates, fruit, nuts and some munchies every day to snack on throughout the evening. As a family, we normally choose to eat very healthily and moderately throughout Ramadan.

We then pray as a family before our dinner — last night, this was chicken steak with vegetables and rice which I had prepared. For night prayers, my husband and son go to our local mosque that invites different reciters, people with beautiful voices who recite the Quran out loud. It’s always a moving and meditative way to spend a few hours.

My husband and son are back from the mosque about 9.30pm, and then as a family, it’s time to get some rest in readiness for the next day. We all tend to get to bed for about 10pm and sleep deeply.