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8 min read
Monday, March 25, 2024
at 2:54 PM ADT
Posted by
Carla Adams
Sr. Advisory, Communications and Public Engagement

Observing Ramadan: personal perspectives from Nova Scotia Health students

Two Nova Scotia Health employees who observe Ramadan

Aya Moawad and Nigar Zindandi are both student interns with One Person One Record’s education and learning team.

Aya, a dual Canadian and Egyptian citizen, holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and entomology and a medical laboratory assistant diploma from CBBC Career College. She is currently finalizing a diploma in Full-Stack Development from McMaster University.

Born and raised in India, Nigar holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing. She arrived in Nova Scotia as an international student in August 2022 to pursue a post-bachelor's major in healthcare management at Cape Breton University. She’s looking forward to graduation this summer. 

We asked Aya and Nigar to share their personal experiences and perspectives on Ramadan, which is observed by many staff and physicians at Nova Scotia Health.

What does Ramadan mean to you personally? 

Aya: For me, Ramadan is more than just fasting; it's a time for inner reflection, prayer, and reconnecting with my faith. It's a joyous period when I decorate my home with beautiful Ramadan decorations, welcoming this holy month with an open heart.

Nigar: Ramadan resonates deeply with me, intertwining spiritual intimacy and familial connections nurtured by the invaluable teachings of my mother. From childhood, her stories about the essence of Ramadan and the significance of fasting have left an indelible mark on my soul. Despite my youthful eagerness for full-day fasts, my mother's wisdom guided me to start with half-days, assuring me that they would add up. This memory encapsulates Ramadan for me: a journey of faith rather than flawless adherence. I recall standing beside her during prayers, mimicking her movements, feeling not just close to her but also to Allah. After prayers, she would regale us with tales of devotion, emphasizing the power of prayer and spiritual connection. These moments are the essence of Ramadan for me.

How do you prepare for Ramadan?

Aya: I prepare by getting my home ready with lights and decorations that symbolize the brightness and hope Ramadan brings. It's also when I plan for Iftar gatherings, inviting friends, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to share in our traditional dishes and desserts.

Nigar: Preparing for Ramadan involves fostering a steadfast mindset for a spiritually enriching month, a lesson learned from my mother. Together, we would gather all the necessities, bonding through preparation and cooking. While separated from my family now, the memories we shared remain cherished, guiding me through each Ramadan.

What is the significance of fasting during Ramadan? 

Aya: Fasting from dawn till sunset is not merely about abstaining from food and drink; it's a spiritual discipline that teaches me self-control, empathy for those less fortunate, and gratitude for the blessings I have. It's a time to purify my soul and focus on good deeds.

Nigar: Fasting during Ramadan holds a profound significance, encompassing spiritual elevation and physical purification. My mother always stressed that fasting nurtures not only the body but also the mind and soul. For me, Ramadan offers mental nourishment and a profound sense of peace through prayer. Personally, I tend to overthink and have anxiety, personally Ramadan have been instrumental in mental relaxation.

How do you balance work or daily responsibilities with fasting? 

Aya: Balancing work and fasting can be challenging, especially when maintaining energy levels and focus. I find that patience, planning my day wisely, and staying spiritually connected help me manage my responsibilities effectively during Ramadan.

Nigar: Balancing work or daily responsibilities with fasting is challenging but manageable. Amidst the tasks and chores, I try to take moments to rejuvenate. Adjusting work hours and breaks for prayers is not easy while working and studying, and I do not perfect practice while I do my best to remember Allah's kindness and generosity.

What are some common traditions or practices during Ramadan? 

Aya: Beyond fasting, I engage in nightly prayers called Tarawih at the mosque, read the Quran, and make an extra effort to reach out and help those in need. Sharing meals during Iftar is another beautiful tradition, bringing people together in a moment of joy and gratitude.

Nigar: Ramadan traditions, from fasting to breaking fast with dates and water, weave a rich tapestry of spiritual practices. However, separated from my family, I miss the joy of celebrating each day of Ramadan together. Ramadan is not the same without celebrating each day of observance with family, but it stills something that bonds us together even from afar.

How does your workplace accommodate your fasting during Ramadan?

Aya: My workplace is still learning about Ramadan. When colleagues ask, I happily explain the significance of fasting and how they can support me during this time, such as understanding my changed schedule or energy levels.

Nigar: Working and studying during Ramadan is extremely difficult and challenging. I'm fortunate to have a supportive workplace that accommodates my fasting during Ramadan. Flexibility for breaks and prayer time acknowledges the challenges of fasting while working.

What role does community play during Ramadan? 

Aya: Community is everything during Ramadan. It's a time when bonds are strengthened through shared prayers and meals. The sense of belonging and unity is incredibly uplifting, reminding me that we're all part of a larger, caring family.

Nigar: Community solidarity thrives during Ramadan, offering support, companionship, and shared worship. Whether through communal iftars or acts of charity, the communal spirit fosters unity and belonging. I found difficulty finding those support and community during my first year in Canada as an international student, but fortunate to connect with few that share the same Ramadan joy and celebrations.

Are there any misconceptions about Ramadan that you’d like to address? 

Aya: One common misconception is that fasting is harmful to your health, which isn't true for healthy individuals. Another is that it's disrespectful to eat in front of someone who is fasting. I believe it's a personal journey and respect for each person's choice and circumstances. I started fasting at a young age, learning the values of patience, compassion, and gratitude. Although I face challenges, like maintaining calm and kindness throughout the day, the benefits far outweigh these. It's a time for self-improvement and deepening my faith.

Nigar: Ramadan extends beyond mere fasting; it's about spiritual reflection, discipline, and compassion. Dispelling misconceptions reveals Ramadan as a beacon of empathy, transcending barriers and fostering unity among diverse communities. It's not about perfection but about striving and strengthening bonds with loved ones. I also feel people see those practicing Ramadan that it needs to be perfect or follow a certain mandatory ritual, but I have come to realize it is different for everyone; there is no perfection in it and nor does Allah require perfection.


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