For the past few years Ramadan in the UK has been in the summer – among the Muslim community there is a running joke that it’s not really Ramadan unless it lands during heat wave. Although in recent days that seems unlikely for this year.
Fasting in the summer means you can’t drink water in the scorching heat, which can be difficult – but even when the weather has been good since the start of Ramadan, there are other challenges people face which could make the task difficult.
MyLondon spoke to Shoeb Haider, the head chef at Ritu, an Indian restaurant in St John’s Wood. Shoeb, who left India about 14 years ago, explained how the month of Ramadan affects his routine and the importance of willpower during fasting.
READ MORE: ‘I fast all day at my job from 9am to 5pm, then stay up all night for charity during Ramadan’
The chef works about 12-15 hours a day, which includes an hour’s commute to and from work. During Ramadan, he wakes up around 4:30 a.m. to start his day and ends up sleeping around 1 a.m.
The father-of-two said: “I’ve been fasting since I was a kid so I don’t remember ever leaving fasting, it’s hard and challenging but if you have the willpower you can do anything. In the kitchen, if you have been fasting for so many years, it becomes a habit. You are thirsty, but if you have a strong will and faith in Allah, it also helps us to understand the importance of food and water.
“You realize the importance of food and water as a gift from God, being a chef that I can relate to because we have so much wasted food, so this month makes us realize and remembering all the poor who do not receive food. It is very good for us and our body, it makes us fit, our soul is relieved by fasting and prayer.
“In this fast-paced world, we end up neglecting Allah, so this month helps us to be in touch with God, to do all the good things that God wants us to do, to help others as much as you can.”
Shoeb’s day starts with Suhoor at dawn where he keeps his meal light and will have dates, water, snacks or biscuits – he will then pray and play with his six and three year old children, before go to drop them off at school.
Then he gets to work around 10:30 a.m., he says: “Fasting does not stop my work, being from India I know how difficult it is to fast in summer, here the climate is good so you can do everything and your family If you have a child, he is motivated by seeing that his father fasts and works, he does not neglect work, he always fasts.
“This is what Allah wants, Allah wants you to work and fast, and then only you know the importance of fasting.
“I work in an Indian restaurant so during my break I pray and in the evening I finish my work then I open my fast if I don’t have time. I pray all my namaaz/Salah at home if I don’t have not prayed in the I always try to do other acts of worship too, but it’s not always possible when you’re tired – but I try my best.
As a chef, during the fast, Shoeb will taste the food he cooks in the evening after iftar to find out if there is anything missing to improve the next day.
Once he gets home around 10:30 p.m., he will have a real Iftar meal which includes pulses, fruits and cereals, then he will discuss with his wife: “I sleep around 1 a.m., then I wake up around 4:30 a.m. so only sleep about four hours a night.
“It’s only a matter of a month and we have 11 months where the routine is better, only this month is for Allah, for God, that’s how I encourage my children, maybe not now but the children will remember their father and mother used to fast and do so much work, and maybe be inspired.”
You can visit Ritu restaurant and try their Iftar menu this month at 1 Blenheim Terrace, London NW8 0EH.
Now that you’re here, let me introduce myself.
I’m the Race and Diversity correspondent for MyLondon, and I enjoy writing about stories related to ethnic minorities.
The stories I’m most proud of are those where I can gain insight into the experiences of individuals, like this powerful independent woman who fled Eritrea and ended up opening her own salon in Brixton.
I also enjoy supporting ethnic minority businesses and learning about the experiences and inspirations of the owners behind their menus, for example the story of this Chinese bakery.
My own interests and experiences also feed into my stories so readers can get a glimpse of my South Asian heritage, as you can see in this story about Karak Chai that I’m still so passionate about!
Although I was born and raised in London, I would say I am very connected to my own culture as a British Pakistani who is fluent in Urdu.
This year I became a finalist in the British Muslim Awards in the Media Achiever of the Year category – and I hope to make a difference every year with my work.
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