As the month of Ramadan begins, Muslims across Bristol and all over the world prepare themselves for a month like no other. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and is regarded as a very special month as the Quran (Holy Book) was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him) during Ramadan.
There follows a great deal of excitement with this year’s Ramadan taking place after the lifting of Covid restrictions in the UK. For many communities, this Ramadan will be the first time in two years that they are mixing with other households and performing their prayers outside of their homes.
When I was young, Ramadan was all about food, fasting – not eating or drinking during the hours of daylight and Iftar (the breaking of the fast after sunset, often with delicious food). Now that I am older, Ramadan for me means a welcome break from the humdrum of life: a chance to reflect, break bad habits, renew my spiritual connection and bask in the blessings of the month. Ramadan is not an individual experience, rather it is about shared experience with others, Muslim and Non-Muslims.
For years now, Muslim communities all over the world have been inviting folks from all walks of life to break their fast with them. We have seen the success of the Bristol Grand Iftar, established in 2017, which brings thousands of people from diverse backgrounds to collectively share the breaking of fast together. Due to the pandemic, the Grand Iftar was cancelled in 2020 and then hosted online last year. We are very pleased that it will returning in person, this Ramadan.
At my own institution, the University of Bristol, we launched our own celebration of Ramadan in 2020 with our Ramadan Kareem 2020: Celebrate and Learn event which was a huge success. This has now led to a yearly celebration, last year we held a Virtual Iftar 2021 – come dine with us! And this year we are hosting an open Iftar on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th April 7:30 pm in the Wills Memorial building for our Muslim and Non-Muslim students and staff at the University.
Muslims are always sad when Ramadan ends as it is such an important month to open our hearts and come together in shared unity and solidarity with friends, family and neighbours. Perhaps that is also why the month ends with a joyous celebration of Eid Ul Fitr, which lasts for three days.