The Door of Light, by Huda Al Mazroua
UAL Chelsea MA Fine Art student Huda Al Mazroua reflects on her experience of Ramadan at this time:
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with faith, prayer, charity, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Two billion people celebrate Ramadan as one of the most valuable spiritual practices to empower a human in overcoming our self and transcending our ego. It helps restore justice and peace in the world.
Fasting in Islam means abstaining from food, drink, and sinful acts from sunrise to sunset. It is to instil piety and increase discipline to enable us to stay away from prohibited acts during the year. It is also an opportunity to understand how the poor experience starvation; we are encouraged to give and to become more generous and selfless.
Ramadan is full of blessings and virtues due to many spiritual and physical reasons. It teaches self-discipline and self-control, which is a goal for all education institutions. In Ramadan, it is like my soul is full of energy, creative power and eureka moments. On the other hand, the time limit might affect my production.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the mosques are closed due to government-imposed social distancing, which is essential for keeping ourselves and family safe. However, the majority of Muslims are missing gathering for iftar parties in mosques and in homes; during Ramadan, Muslims usually invite each other to share food together at sunset, the end of the day’s fast. We all are missing our relatives and friends.
Research has shown that fasting can have many health benefits. For example, during fasting you eat fewer meals which means you take fewer calories; this facilitates weight loss, which can be helpful for those who are overweight. Fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, and can also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Thankfully, UAL offers support to Muslim students and workers at this time; however, more support may be required for those who have multiple roles. Muslims do get tired in Ramadan because of thirst and hunger. It can also be difficult to manage time, as Ramadan is full of worship, prayer, and reading the Quran.
For example, as a mother, I have responsibility for my three kids: I am the chef, the teacher, and the cleaner. At the same time, I am a student, a researcher, and an artist. At home in Saudi, we prepare food at night and eat before sunrise, then sleep during the day to minimise the long fasting day, but I have to wake up early as usual, to be active in online lectures, and in order to honour my teaching commitments at Princess Nourah University College of Art & Design, which supports me to the end.
In Mecca, the Ka’bah is the focus for followers of Islam, a quarter of the world’s population, and they turn to face it in prayer five times a day all around the world. I am inspired by the Ka’bah to create a new and unique form of art. My ideas are highlighted in my blog where I will be glad to be visited and happy to answer any questions.
With thanks to Huda for sharing her experience and artwork. If you have any reflections of your own on Ramadan, or fasts and festivals in other faiths, and would like to share them here, please contact the chaplains.