Observing Ramadan in Scotland: Alisha’s story
Last updated: 27/04/2023
Alisha is a Muslim single parent and lives in Dundee with her son, who is 7 and at primary school, and her daughter, who is 2 and stays at home with her. She recently separated from her husband.
Can you tell me about Ramadan?
Ramadan a very special month for a lot of Muslims. This year it began on the 22nd of March and with the first sighting of the moon. Every year it moves forward by 10 or 11 days in a 33-year cycle. During Ramadan, we fast for 29-30 days. It can be quite challenging, but over the course of the month, you do adapt. It was quite hard for me for the first couple of days. Being in temporary accommodation has made it difficult so I have missed one or two days, but I do try to be consistent.
Muslims pray more during Ramadan. You read and recite the Quran. Observing Ramadan is about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and thinking about those that are less fortunate. There is a tradition of sharing food with others, caring for others, giving charity, and we are rewarded for these good deeds.
Can you talk me through a typical day during Ramadan?
During Ramadan, I wake up around three in the morning. I usually pray and then have something to eat (this is called Suhoor) and then I go back to sleep and the fast opens at 3.33 am. As the days get longer during Ramadan, the fasts also get longer by two minutes every day. When we began Ramadan, the fast would last until the early evening, but as we are now near the end of Ramadan the fast breaks at 8.30pm. When the sun goes down, we break our fast, which is called ‘Iftar’. The first thing we eat or drink is water and dates or fruit. My kids join in with Iftar.
What happens at the end of Ramadan?
Eid marks the end of Ramadan. It’s not a fixed date, unlike Christmas, and it depends on which Mosque you follow, and in which region you live, when it begins. Ramadan is between 29 and 30 days long. When Eid comes, we will celebrate with my mum. Some people exchange presents. We give the children money. We have a big meal with traditional food. Some people go out. In Dundee there is ‘Eid in the Park’ – there are stalls and it’s open to everybody and it’s really good.
What is it like being a Muslim and a single parent in Scotland?
In some ways I find it hard to be a Muslim in this society because there are some things we can’t do that are against our religion or against our culture. My son goes to Mosque and he often wants to go out and play with his friends at night but it’s hard because I don’t want him to go out and get into trouble. I suppose it’s more cultural rather than religious. When I was young I did practically everything that I shouldn’t have done – I rebelled. But now I’ve got my own children, I don’t do the things that I used to do. I’m a practising Muslim now, my son goes to Mosque and my daughter will go to Mosque when she’s old enough. I don’t want my children to be the way that I was, but perhaps that’s more of a cultural thing. When you become a parent, you just change. I want my kids to do well in life – I never got an Islamic education so it’s important for my kids to have this.
Being a single parent is difficult, I’m not going to lie, and with two kids it’s even harder. In the Muslim culture it is quite hard to be a single parent as there can be a lot of judgement.
Do you think there is more awareness of Ramadan and Eid in Scotland today?
In Dundee I think there is less awareness of Ramadan and Eid than there is in Glasgow. In Glasgow I saw a Ramadan calendar, even in Morrisons, and you can buy Halal meat in Glasgow in the main supermarkets and it’s not expensive. In Dundee it’s harder as you have to go to a specialist shop, and it can cost so much more.
I got a message from my worker at OPFS last Eid saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ and it was so nice that she thought of me and remembered, it meant such a lot to me. What was also really nice was that my son, who is the only Muslim child in his class at the primary school he goes to, was asked to speak to his class about Islam and he could share the curriculum that he’s following at the Madrasah, which is a school for children connected to the Mosque.
At the big Mosque in Dundee they open their doors for people to break their fast together and to share Iftar. People come from different countries around the world – some of them are students, others have settled here or are just travelling through. It’s so nice to see!