by: Ekky Imanjaya
PhD Candidate in Film Studies at University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Vice Chairperson of Pengajian Al-Hijrah, Bristol, UK
Imagine this: you wake up around 2am to eat Sahur and perform Subuh prayer around 2.40am, then, after few hours of sleeping, early in the morning you do your daily job (as a student or worker, or do domestic jobs) while fasting.
After doing many things, you realize that it is already 8.30pm but the sun still shines so bright. Maghrib is still an hour away. Later, by watching the apps, your reminder tell you that it is already Maghrib and you break your fast.
In about 2 hours, an hour before midnight, you perform Isya prayer and Tarawih at home—because the mosque is too faraway and it is past midnight by the time you finish the prayers—and you only few hours to sleep, or stay awake to do the next sahur.
That is typical routine during Ramadan in the UK during summertime. It is very challenging and different with Indonesia, where most of the people on do the fasting and most of public spaces are full of Ramadan spirit, such as religious songs and Islamic TV programs.
Muslims in the UK have to fast for about 18,5 hours, from Subuh (around 2.40 am) to Maghrib (about 9.25pm)—of course the schedule may vary in different places- and we only have 5 hours to eat and drink, or only 2,5 hours after we perform Tarawih in Masjid, before we start to fast again.
There is no adzan except if we install the apps for praying schedule. One needs effort to go to nearest masjid for Tarawih prayer especially for children who will go to school early in the morning, except if he or she owns car or live nearby. Also, if a group of people wants to have social Iftar, one must plan it carefully, usually in a friend’s house, and difficult to have it at malls or restaurants since most of them are closed.
For the first week, if we don’t plan the schedule properly, not only hunger and thirst, we can also get sleepy due to the lack of sleep. And, during summer, naturally there are many people with “minimalist” style of dressing.
Of course, if you have a group of Muslims, such as Pengajian Al-Hijrah Bristol or Islamic Society in most campuses, things will get easier because we have companion to fast and experience Ramadan together.
Ramadan in the UK is quite challenging, but it is still doable with full spirit, and worth it.
As I’m mentioned, in UK, we can’t hear any adzan, and less people will ask us to do social iftar in malls or do ngabuburit since most shops and malls are closed, actually. On the other hand, we can explore different kind of experience: A very British Ramadan.
If we break our fast in the Mosque, we can interact with other Muslims from other countries and cultural backgrounds. Usually, most of Masjid, and some of Islamic Societies in campuses, provide ta’jil for tens or even hundreds of people. And, we can of course taste the food from different countries, but mostly Biryani Rice and Nan bread and chicken or lamb curry.
One of the British experience of Ramadan can be found at Ihsan Mosque in Norwich. Most of the jamaah are white and English Muslims and some Moroccans. Once we hear the Adzan prayer, nobody touches the food or drink until it finishes.