It’s coming up to that time of year when Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, the holiest of months in the Islamic calendar. During this lunar month, which falls between 15th May and 14th June this year, Muslims fast during daylight hours in line with Ramadan rules and rituals.
No food or drink is to be consumed during the day as part of the religious practice, which means that Muslims will wake early for breakfast, also known as Suhoor – which translates as ‘pre-dawn meal’, and not eat again until Iftar, the evening meal.
What is served for Suhoor?
As the days are long – this year will see around 18 hours of daylight in the UK – the meal includes lots of protein and water. This is so that those fasting will have enough energy to last throughout the day, as well as staving off hunger pains for as long as possible. Eggs and egg-based meals are highly popular, while other protein-rich ingredients such as almonds, chickpeas and cheese also feature on the standard Suhoor menu.
However, our bodies require more than just protein in order to fully prepare for a long day of fasting. Fibre is just as important, and a big favourite on the Suhoor menu are bran muffins. Packed full of healthy nutrients, the bran helps to keep the body’s system moving during the fast, ensuring a good diet during the month of Ramadan.
More prevalent in the Middle East, especially in the United Arab Emirates, are fava beans, commonly known as ‘foul’. This super food, packed full of protein and fibre, is a small green bean which turns brown once cooked. It is also very low in fat, which is always a plus when trying to promote a healthy lifestyle.
What is served for Iftar?
Usually, Muslims will gather together for Iftar as they break their fast after sunset, in accordance with Ramadan rules. For the evening meal, the table will be filled with bread, stew and soup as well as a selection of other foods. Fish and meat dishes are popular substantial meals for Iftar, particularly Turkish fish stew and lamb tagine, as they are filling and satisfying, as well as being rich in protein. Of course, traditional rice and curry dishes also feature on many Iftar menus.
Those that follow Ramadan rules by the book will likely break the fast by eating dates followed by fruit or yoghurt, which helps to kick-start the body’s metabolism after a day of fasting.
Other Ramadan rules and traditions
Whilst fasting is the most widely-known tradition that Muslims practice during Ramadan, many other Ramadan rules and practices are also followed. Fasting itself is not just about refraining from food and water, as this represents a period of reflection. In Middle Eastern countries, it is common for businesses such as restaurants and supermarkets to change their opening hours in order to coincide with the fast.
Other traditions include giving to charity, a practice known as Zakat, where Muslims donate a percentage of their annual financial profits. This makes up one of the five obligatory pillars of Islam.
You can learn more about Ramadan rules and rituals here: https://www.muslimaid.org/what-we- do/religious-dues/ramadan/
Once Ramadan is over, Muslims then celebrate Eid-ul- Fitr, which marks the end of the fast and is one of the two key festivals in the Islamic calendar. It can be easy to confuse Ramadan as a celebration when it is, in fact, the period of reflection and a show of faith prior to the celebration that is Eid-ul-Fitr.