04 Apr 2022
Miss Nuha Yassin
Miss Nuha Yassin is a consultant colorectal surgeon and a College Council member. In this blog Miss Yassin shares her reflections on celebrating Ramadan.
The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The exact dates of when the month begins usually change by around ten days every year as it’s a lunar calendar. It is a blessed month of generosity and there are several greetings to reflect this, including Ramadan Mubarak (blessed) and Ramadan Kareem (generous).
Muslims usually fast during daylight hours, from dawn till dusk/sunset. During this time of year in the UK, it’s around 16 hours of fasting during the day. Fasting Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it’s obligatory for able-bodied healthy adults, but children don’t usually fast until they reach puberty.
Adults who are excused from fasting include those on medications, pregnant women, women during their menstrual period, elderly and frail people, and those who are travelling long distances for whom abstaining from food and drink can cause hardship. They can instead donate to charity and make up the fasting at a later date.
As a Muslim surgeon who partakes in Ramadan, it is part of my duty to ensure my own, my team’s and my patients’ wellbeing, should they also be fasting. Some patients may need to be reminded that they are in fact unwell and should not be fasting whilst undergoing treatments.
The same can be said for the wider surgical team. You could try and swap or change your shifts, where possible, to a time where you are able to eat, drink and have the energy needed to perform your duties. This is not always feasible with rotas and workforce shortages, however, you can always let your colleagues know that you are fasting, so you can get the necessary support if needed. It also allows people to open the conversation and answer questions that colleagues may have. For example, is it OK to eat and drink around a fasting colleague? The answer to that is yes, completely. I wouldn’t expect any of my colleagues to change their habits due to me fasting, which is a personal choice.
Before fasting, you are supposed to have a light meal and plenty to drink, this is known as Suhoor. The second and main meal is when you break your fast, known as Iftar, at sunset. You can eat and drink freely between those times. The rest depends on your frame of mind and physical ability.
The last ten days of Ramadan are the most holy and prayers can continue into the early hours of the morning. The celebration at the end of the month, Eid al-Fitr, is one where families come together, dress up for the occasion, give charity and give presents to children. It’s a wonderful time and usually lasts three days.
However, there’s more to Ramadan than refraining from eating and drinking for a few hours. You are encouraged to give charity, feed the poor, avoid all bad habits and spend time with family. It’s a time of reflection and teaches humility, determination, generosity, gratitude and fortitude.
There are similar health and spiritual practices performed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We’ve all heard of the health benefits of fasting and the various detox practices performed for their perceived wellbeing advantages. From a spiritual and religious point of view, fasting Ramadan is not too dissimilar, for example, to observing Lent for Christian people, fasting on Yom Kippur for Jewish people or the Hindu practice of fasting once or twice a week.
It’s clear to see that these practices have something in common: the strength, patience, resilience and selflessness involved in giving up something you love to better yourself, as well as helping those in need. It reminds me of why I went into surgery and I see these traits in my colleagues when they make sacrifices to put patients’ lives first.
Ramadan Kareem to all.