Wigan schoolgirl talks about the challenges and rewards of Ramadan
A teenager is on a mission to help Wiganers learn more about Ramadan and the important symbolism behind the month of fasting.
Jomana Aref, head girl at Hawkley Hall High School, is used to facing question after question from curious school friends who are keen to know more about Ramadan every year. And every time, she is more than eager to explain more about how the holy month is observed.
The 16-year-old from Standish spoke about some of the less commonly known aspects of the month, the challenges it brings, and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way Ramadan is observed.
“It is the most holy event of the Islamic calendar, when the new crescent moon can first be seen,” said Jomana.
“It lasts for a month, and all Muslims across the world fast, meaning they will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
“People who don’t have to fast include children who have not reached puberty, pregnant women and physically or mentally ill people.”
She went on: “I’ve done it for the past four years, and it gets harder every year, I think. As the days go on, the more hours you have to fast.
“It gets harder and everybody gets tired, but it’s all for a good reason. We do it so that we can feel how people who are less fortunate feel.”
On some of the misconceptions about Ramadan, Jomana said: “I think people always think ‘you starve yourself, why?’ They don’t really understand that there’s a meaning behind it.
“We’re not starving ourselves, we are putting ourselves in the shoes of people who are impoverished. We get to feel how they feel.
“After that, we have Eid right away. It lasts up to three days and we celebrate with food and gifts, all that good stuff.”
Jomana also explained how the current Ramadan period, as well as last year’s, have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “Normally before Ramadan, you go to the Mosque and celebrate with your family. But with everywhere being closed, especially last year, it made it really hard because we couldn’t celebrate in the way that we normally do.”
She added: “When you’re at school, everyone always asks questions. They love it. They get shocked when they find out I can’t even drink water, that’s something that everyone asks about. They always want to know more.
“I love educating people in my class about it. I love answering their questions. And my teachers are always interested too, so it’s really nice.”
And it’s not just her own friends that Jomana would love to talk to about Ramadan. She is keen for as many Wiganers as possible to learn more about Ramadan and the borough’s Muslim communities.
“I feel like Islam is growing every day, and there are more and more people in our communities who are Muslim,” she added.
“I think it’s very important to know about Ramadan because it lasts for a whole month. Your friends and neighbours will be doing it. I always feel like people want to know more about it.”
“I would definitely say Ramadan is a month of a learning experience. There’s no way you can do it and not learn something from it.”
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