By Dr Khurram Sadiq

It was the March of 1992, the Holy Month of Ramadan and the World Cup Cricket 1992 in Australia. I was in my pre-med, vouching for a Pakistani team lead by the current Prime Minister and ex-cricketer Imran Khan; the Pakistani team was at the bottom half of the table, however with the spirit of Ramadan, we were still awaiting a miracle.

We all got a perfect excuse to be awake till the ‘Suhoor,’ the small meal before the morning prayers just before dawn. It’s a meal that prepares us for the big day ahead, without food or water. The whole family wakes up in the morning, helping each other prepare the perfect meal and then praying together before retiring to bed for few hours, eventually waking to face the day.

It was just as much a test for us as much as for the Pakistani team, half of whom observed fast whilst playing the matches.

The general impression is that fasting is challenging. I have been keeping fast since I was ten years of age; my first memory of my fast was a scorching day in my native town in Pakistan, the temperature reaching almost 48C, but the motivation and the spirit intact to take me through the day.

The spirit of Ramadan is impressive; it helps us to endure the temptation of food, a conscious effort to shut ourselves from temptation, at the same time going through the normality of the day without getting impatient or grumpy.

In the UK, my colleagues have been very kind and accommodating; they are conscious of tempting me with the food at lunchtime; I have told them that they need not worry, as part of the Spirit of Ramadan makes me more introspective and less likely to be tempted.

I feel that I am more focused on Ramadan towards my work as I do not have to worry about tea or lunch. I can work effectively in a continuum.

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar but the most Auspicious month for Muslims globally. It’s the most charitable month of the year where Muslims pay the Islamic tax called Zakat (2.5%) to help those who need it and make charitable and generous donations. According to the statistics, Muslims in the UK donated a jaw-dropping £150 million in 2020 to different charities.

Muslims become more punctual in their prayers in Ramadan; it brings discipline to our lives and set a precedent for the rest of the year.

I grew listening that fasting is cruel, but do we know that most religions of the world support fasting in some form or shape.

Intermittent fasting has become a vogue, a new way of keeping fit and investing in longevity. In 2016, Yoshinori Oshumi, a Japanese cell biologist, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. His most promising work was about ‘Autophagy.’ latest evidence base suggests that 12–24 hours fast triggers autophagy, which has a neuroprotective effect; hence science cordially supports Ramadan.

Many of us Pakistanis believe that it was the spirit of Ramadan and prayers of millions of Muslims that helped us win the Cricket world cup in 1992 against all odds. I still can’t forget the day, 25th of March, when Wasim Akram’s two miracle deliveries paved the way to an eternal victory against England in Australia. We had a feast that day at the Iftar (breaking the fast) time. My family invited other families to celebrate Ramadan. My father gave us the surprise at the Iftar by telling us that we will be celebrating Eid(festival to honour the end of Ramadan) in our native village, and all of our cousins are travelling to be together at Eid. I will be sharing a blog soon about the celebration of Eid.

The Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan for up to 30 days, and we honour it; we follow discipline, use integrity and inclusion, feel empathetic towards those who struggle to feed themselves and share the pain.

We pray, stay awake to thank God for all the miracles of life, still going through the routines and practice patience and endurance that helps in building resilience. We feel sad as we approach the end of Ramadan, honouring its departure and awaiting for it the following year with open arms.

Happy Ramadan and Eid Mubarak to all.

Southern Health provide community, specialist mental health and learning disability services for people across the south of England.