LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18: Tourists take photographs near the Houses of Parliament on April 18, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
In modern multicultural Britain, among its large Muslim community, a host of beautiful traditions have emerged during Islam’s holiest month that are helping to create what you might call a Great British Ramadan. Here are our five favourites.
1. OPEN IFTARS
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07: Muslim men break fast with Iftar at the East London Mosque on the last day of Ramadan on August 7, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Whether you are heading to Britain’s stunning first purpose-built mosque in Woking or attending the internationally famous Ramadan Tent, Ramadan in Britain is all about open iftars. These British traditions truly embody the spirit of Ramadan by bringing together all sections of society for charity and social reasons. Muslims, non-Muslims and the homeless are all invited to break their fast in mosques and pop-up tents up and down the country. These often have guest speakers and create an atmosphere where people who might not normally sit together for a meal actually do exactly that. Almost every major town in Britain will have a mosque or organisation doing this, so find one near you and enjoy the joys of breaking your fast with strangers.
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Muslim men eat during Iftar, the evening meal in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the London Muslim Centre on August 18, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
2. CELEBRITY RECITERS
Ramadan is the halal equivalent of a month-long festival of melodies in the UK, and Brits are being increasingly spoiled by the sheer number of world-class Quran reciters who take up residency at major mosques up and down the country to lead the late-night terawih prayers. Some of the names already confirmed for this month include the melodious Bangladeshi reciter Imam Abu Tayeb and Shaykh Saud Nafi Al Enezi, a Hifz teacher from Medina’s Masjid al-Nabawi. If you live in one of the major UK cities, look up who will be leading the terawih prayers at your main mosque. No doubt standing behind one of these celebrity reciters will make the lengthy salah that much more bearable!
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Muslims pray at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden on September 10, 2010 south of London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
3. NOCTURNAL BAZAARS
Almost everyone in the UK will tell you that, despite fasting all month, many of us tend to actually put on weight rather than lose it! And one of the biggest reasons for this phenomenon is the fantastic nocturnal Ramadan bazaars that pop up in and around most major British mosques. These great post-terawih events create a wonderful evening atmosphere for worshippers to socialise and relax as they tuck into gourmet burgers and gluten-free cakes washed down with masala chai. What makes the food even more appealing is that the vendors usually send all profits to charitable causes, so it would be criminal not to have that cream cake, right?
4. INTERNATIONAL IFTARS
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: A general view of Brick Lane, which is synonymous with curry restaurants, on March 16, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
The other culprit for the gain in ‘Ramadan weight’ is, of course, the stunningly international nature of halal food on offer in Britain’s biggest cities. Take London, for example. This former capital of a global empire that ruled numerous Muslim countries is now home to millions of Muslims from those countries, and they have all brought their delicious cuisines over with them. Even cuisines that don’t hail from Muslim countries, like Mexican and Thai, are increasingly available in halal versions to cater to the huge Muslim populations in the capital and other cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff. All of which means that breaking your fast isn’t about where to eat for most Muslims in the UK, but what to eat. Will it be Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian or Lebanese tonight?
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 26: Noodles sit in containers at an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Camberwell on April 26, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
5. RAMADAN SPECIALS
From special dhikrs (remembrance prayers), to charity walks, to spiritual treks, to charity nasheed concerts to feeding the homeless, Britain in Ramadan is all about the exciting events on offer that promote the essence of this holy month. Joining any of these hundreds of events will ensure that you not only find it easier to get through a tough month of abstinence but also give back and make new like-minded friends. So get out there and join in!
Tharik Hussain is a freelance travel writer, journalist and award-winning broadcaster who specialises in Muslim heritage and Muslim travel.
(Writing by Tharik Hussain; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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