MY Ramadan experience this year was different because, for the first time, I spent it in Britain, away from my family.
I did wonder how I would survive on my own as a Muslim in a foreign land. I’ve heard people complain how one month is way too long, how the weather’s hot, or how lonely it gets with no family to fast with.
Would fasting be easy in a non-Muslim country? Would I lack the motivation and support I usually get from other Muslims back home?
I started with a simple challenge. I decided to travel around Britain. Some people said I didn’t have to fast because I was a musaffir (traveller) and could shelve fasting to another time. Others said it would be difficult to pray and eat halal food if I travelled or stayed with a non-Muslim.
On the first week of Ramadan, I travelled with my non-Muslim friend to visit other non-Muslims.
Before we started, my friend surprised me by saying he would fast too. I tried to dissuade him, saying it took me years to practise it and that fasting could be tough on the stomach if one fasts without following certain rules.
He insisted and wanted to prove he was as strong as the Muslims. After 19 hours, we broke fast together.
I thanked him for respecting me and my religion. The lesson learnt was that life must go on because you are actually stronger than you think.
Some time later, I slept over at my friend’s house. He is a Christian and lives with his family. We cooked dinner together.
He showed his thoughtfulness by buying halal chicken and his aunt ensured I had drinks and food for my buka puasa and sahur. They provided me a place to pray because I had brought my praying mat with me. I still recall his aunt asking me to include her in my prayers!
These kind gestures made me realise we may have different religions, but our hearts are the same. I may not be poor, but on that particular day, I was very “rich” because a Christian family provided me food, shelter and a place to pray for one night in the holy month of Ramadan.
A week before Raya, I sent a non-Muslim friend and her family to the airport. Since it was a night flight, I had to break fast in the tube on the way home.
Before bidding each other goodbye, her mum asked if I had food for buka puasa. Despite telling her I’d buy a snack later, she handed me a bag of chocolates so I had something to eat on the train. I was very touched.
My experiences during Ramadan made me realise that God sent down His religion not just to guide society but to guide us as individuals.
I learnt that I didn’t need other Muslims around me to practise my religion. I only needed my faith in God. I also know that God will judge my deeds as an individual, not as someone who is part of a group.
Being a Muslim does not stop you from mixing with people of different races and religions. All that is required is tolerance.
I also believe that Islam is not just for Muslims but for all humanity. If you respect others, others will respect you in return.
If Muslims deserve to be in your prayers, then non-Muslims deserve the same. God created us and loves us regardless of our beliefs.
To those who touched my heart during my Ramadan in Britain, you know who you are. Always remember that you are in my prayers.
Have a good Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and may God bless us all with peace and happiness.
FARIS ISKANDAR ABDUL RAHMAN