Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: religion and belief

Why Ramadan is my favourite month

King’s College London staff member (Sustainability Projects Assistant) and former KCLSU VP Welfare & Community 2020/21, Tasnia Yasmin, shares what the Islamic holy month of Ramadan means to her.


Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari 1898)

Every year I think the ‘not even water?!’ joke is outdated, but every year I get asked the same thing.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (we follow the lunar calendar which means Ramadan goes back 10 days every year) and is a month in which Muslims abstain from food and water and bad habits. From sunrise to sunset, we do not consume anything and engage in spiritual enlightenment.

sunrise is at 5am now so not as bad.

Spiritual enlightenment:

I saw something on Instagram recently about how sometimes an automatic reaction to someone asking about why we fast is to talk about food and the health benefits. There’s an abundance of research showing how intermittent fasting is beneficial, but that is not the reason Muslims fast.

We don't fast because of medical benefits- cellular repair or lowering rick of diabetes. We fast to please Khaliq. Let us not secularize our fasts. There is no freedom or liberty of the body, because our body is rooted Divine ownership. Bringing utility-driven models to our fasts only limits the horizons for our fasts. We imitate the unseen, the unveiled. Our amana, and Khilafa, surpass the secular limitations on worship and ritual.

translations – Khaliq (creator), Amana (fulfilling/upholding trust), Khalifah (leader).

There is really no other feeling that you get until the Holy month of Ramadan is here – when you dedicate all your time and attention on God; to thank him for what he has provided, to ask to get closer to Him and to pray for the less fortunate and the oppressed. It is a spiritual cleansing of the soul and a month where you dedicate your time and energy to bettering yourself and engaging in good habits.

Narrated By Abu Huraira : The Prophet said, “Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven; and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1901)

Oh sadness! Depart from my heart for the grace of God has arrived! Oh heart! You should depart too for the Beloved has departed! - Mawlana Rumi.

Rumi has become completely secularized in the West, most of his poetry of love and devotion is about God and our relationship with Him.

Every Muslim is on their own journey through this Holy month. Many use it as a time of spiritual recharge, building habits that they can incorporate throughout the year, re-incorporating practices which they may have stopped. We do engage with these acts throughout the year, but the soul yearns for Ramadan – a special month where your good deeds are multiplied and where you are shown the mercy of God. What is brilliant about Ramadan is that no matter where your imaan is, as long as you talk to Allah and engage with him during this blessed month, He will give. Poor, rich, ‘Ramadan Muslim’ or a Muslim who engages with regular acts of ibadaah – we are all the same under the eyes of God. Ramadan equips me with the tools to continue sustain these habits, to become a better Muslims and to refresh my mind, body and soul.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah 4240).

The enormity of my sins vs His Mercy.. My Lord, my sins are enormous, but a little of Your forgiveness is greater than all of them. O Allah, so erase with a little of Your forgiveness the enormity of my sins.

Charity:

When Maghrib hits, silence is met in households whilst everyone gulps down their water and stuffs dates in their mouth. But this month reminds us about the rest of the Ummah who are unable to be met with a fabulous spread of food and an array of choice. Muslims across the world are suffering because of the environmental crisis, war, Islamophobia and much more. In the UK alone, the cost of living crisis in the UK has meant that an estimated 50% of UK Muslim’s are living in poverty. One act of worship which is heightened in Ramadan is charity – giving to the less fortunate and those who need it most (one platform alone saw over £10 million in donations across the last 10 nights of Ramadan). Here is a list of food banks  and mosques to donate to and a charity initiative I’m working on (completing a school that we have built in Gambia – we raised over £60,000 over the last 2 years, mostly in Ramadan!).

Muhammad, upon him be peace, said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased).” (Riyad as-Salihin 1383).

And of course, to celebrate the end of Ramadan we have Eid-al-Fitr; it is a day of joy, happiness, getting together with family and friends and celebrating the month.

Over 100,000 Muslims praying the Eid prayer in one of the most holy sites in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestine.

To those who are celebrating, may Allah accept ours fasts, our good deeds and our charity. Ramadan Mubarak!

You can view the Ramadan timetable for this year here.

Key terminology

  • Ramadan Kareem/Ramadan Mubarak – how to wish someone a blessed Ramadan.
  • Fajr – the first prayer of the day (out if 5) just before sunrise – Muslims will wake up to eat their morning meal before this prayer.
  • Maghrib – the 4th prayer of the day at sunset and when Muslims break their fast.
  • Suhoor – the morning meal before Fajr.
  • Iftaar – the meal where you break your fast.
  • Ummah – the collective Muslim community.
  • Imaan – faith.
  • Ibaadah – worship.
  • Eid Mubarak – how to wish someone a happy Eid.

New Dharmic Prayer Room at King’s

Former KCLSU Activities and Development Vice President (2019/20) and current final year BSc. International Management student, Nakul Patwa, pens a blog about the opening of the new Dharmic Prayer Room at King’s, and what it means to him and other Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist students.


I remember vividly my first day at King’s College London and, like everyone else, I was very excited, a little overwhelmed, and still getting familiar with the ins and outs of the enormous institution. It was only by chance that I came across the Chaplaincy at the Strand Campus. Tucked away under a staircase, it was almost as if it was a world of its own. Little did I know then that this space would become an inspiration for what I was going to achieve at King’s. I would later go there to meet fellow international students, over the “international lunches”, have numerous enriching conversations with the Chaplain, meet some of my closest friends – it almost became a sanctuary of sorts for me, as it did for so many students during their time at King’s.

picture showing the new dharmic prayer room

The new Dharmic Prayer Room which has recently opened at Guy’s Campus

My experiences with the chaplaincy inspired me to champion the cause of this institution that was a cornerstone of the essence of King’s. I wanted to give back in a way that would allow many more students like me to engage with the chaplaincy – that is where the idea for a Dharmic Prayer Room for students following Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist faiths was born. I felt the need for a dedicated space because of my conversations with student groups and hearing the challenges they faced while practicing their faiths.

It was one of the first things I wanted to achieve when I was elected as the Vice President of King’s College London Students’ Union. Having garnered widespread support of the student body and various student groups, I was optimistic that this was something that would provide a safe space for students whose faiths have not historically been equally represented. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has brought about, I am delighted to have achieved this for King’s. I believe that this project will add more value to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion projects for the institution as well as the King’s Vision 2029.

I believe that this project is a milestone, not only in the illustrious history of King’s, but also in the history of UK universities. It is an important step towards honouring and fostering the diversity of our membership. I am extremely proud that I could turn my dream into reality, and my hope is that more institutions across the UK would take a cue from King’s to establish spaces that would enable their population to express themselves in a manner that enhances their vibrant ecologies.

picture of Nakul Patwa

Nakul Patwa, former KCLSU Activities and Development Vice President (2019/20) and current King’s student.

‘Yes, not even water!’

Jayada Begum, Programme Officer from King’s Business School, pens a blog about the meaning of Ramadan and shares personal reflections on the Holy Month.

 

‘Deeper meanings’

With the month of Ramadan under full swing, and approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world currently fasting, this holy month comes with its fair share of questions and annual chuckles.  Muslims around the world are always asked by their non-fasting colleagues ‘What! not even water?’.  Yes, that’s right! Not even water! The look of shock and awe on their faces when they learn of this, is rather entertaining.

So, you may be wondering, what exactly is Ramadan and why is it important to your Muslim colleagues? Is it just a month where Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from dawn till sunset? The answer is ‘no’, it is much more than that.

There is a much deeper meaning than merely staying hungry.  In this act of fasting, Muslims from all over the world, from all ethnicities and financial backgrounds, leave aside their most basic needs and turn their attention to God, acknowledging that none besides Him can provide.  It is the time when the rich feel the pangs of hunger and thirst of the poor, and thus sympathise with millions of unfortunate people and increase their charity giving and their expression of gratitude to their Lord.

Fasting is truly an effective means for the purification of the soul, for strengthening one’s morality, self-control and deepening one’s consciousness of God. God states in the Quran:

“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God”. (Quran, 2:183).

The fact that fasting is a means to moral elevation is evident because God not only forbids his believers from eating, drinking and abstaining from other desires from dawn to sunset, but also exhorts the faithful to refrain from foul acts such as backbiting, indulging in foul speech, telling lies etc. It is almost like an annual training programme to refresh our mind, body and soul, where fasting provides us with discipline and training, to keep away from the many things that tarnish good conduct.  This inevitably allows us to strengthen our character and connection with God, and act upon His guidance.

The month of Ramadan is permeated with piety and devotion to God.  Muslims disconnect from worldly pleasures and exert their energy and focus on their prayers and increase their good deeds and charity. I personally devote this month to intense supplication and recitation of the Quran and reflect on the purpose of this life and our existence.

‘Man says, What? Once I am dead, will I be brought back to life? But does man not remember that We created him when he was nothing before? (Quran, 19:66-67).

‘The similitude of the life of this world is like this: rain that We send down from the sky is absorbed by the plants of the earth, from which humans and animals eat.  But when the earth has taken on its finest appearance, and adorns itself, and its people think they have power over it, then our commanded comes to it by night or by day, and We reduce it to stubble, as if it had not flourished just the day before.  This is the way We explain the revelations for those who reflect’. (Quran, 10:24).

‘A night better than a thousand months’

During this month, there is a night which is said to be ‘better than a thousand months’ and this night is called Laylatul Qadr (Night of Power), and it occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan. This night commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad and is a night of great importance; where Muslims dedicate the entire night to prayer and seek repentance of their sins.

Every year, in order to attain a spiritual epitome during these days, I usually travel to Makkah and Madinah or Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to spend these blessed days in devotion and away from the hustle of daily life. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this will not be possible this year. Below are a few pictures from my previous travels:

Ramadan in Masjid al-Haram in Makkah (Saudi Arabia) 2018

The Kaaba (House of God) is the first place of worship dedicated to the one God, built by Abraham and his son Ishmael.  Muslims all around the world, face towards its direction when praying.

Ramadan in Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah (Saudi Arabia) 2018

The mosque was established by Prophet Muhammad, and is also his final resting place.

 

Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Masjid in Jerusalem 2019

Third holiest site in Islam and the place from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven during the Night Journey mentioned in the Quran.

Breaking of the Fast

In this special month, you will see the Muslim community burst into life.  The month brings forth beautiful moments, where Muslim homes are filled with a beautiful atmosphere of thankfulness, love and compassion, with families, friends and neighbours coming together to break their fast with dates and water in unison.  Below are a few images of the iftar meals that I have made and enjoyed with my family:


For those of you who are observing the fasts this month, I want to wish you a blessed Ramadan! May all your fasts and prayers be accepted! And for those of you who are not fasting, I would like to invite you to perhaps try fasting for a day and tell us all about your experiences!

Whilst writing this, it has highlighted the importance of promoting good communal understanding and sharing respective experiences.  Thus, if anyone is interested in learning more about the Islamic faith, please feel free to click on this linked PDF to access the translation of the Quran.

Ramadan Mubarak Everyone!

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