It’s almost that time of year again. The time when we hound all our Muslim friends for “Sallah meat”. This is the time of year when Muslims build stronger relationships with Allah through fasting, selfless actions, and prayer. It’s the month of Ramadan.
Every year, Muslims around the world anticipate the sighting of the new crescent moon. This signifies the official first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most sacred month in Islamic culture. This year, Ramadan is predicted to begin on Thursday, March 23, and end on Friday, April 21, with Eid al-Fitr celebrations.
The start of Ramadan fluctuates each year because the lunar Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon. The beginning and end of Ramadan are determined by a moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arabia. It begins the day after the committee spots the new crescent moon.
With less than a day to the tentative start of Ramadan, I wanted to get into the head of my friend Fareedah Abdulsalam. You may know her on Instagram as “Reeds”. If you do, then you know all the amazing things she does with food, especially our local Nigerian cuisine. A quick scroll through her social media accounts reveals “regular” meals presented in aesthetically pleasing ways. Through Bloome Living, she has built a community of people — the majority being the younger generation — who enjoy “nourishing, wholesome, and healthy Nigerian meals”.
I know Fareedah as a devoted Muslim who doesn’t joke about fasting. I also know her as an amazing food and lifestyle creator who would want to be well-prepared for Ramadan. How can she achieve the best of both worlds this Ramadan period? Let’s find out!
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Let’s talk about “Bloome Living”. What is it and what are you trying to achieve? What’s the end goal?
I founded Bloome Living with the goal of sharing. I wanted to create a space where food lovers, particularly young Nigerians, would find inspiration and recipes for easy, healthy meals. A space that would enable them to maintain a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing much of the Nigerian cuisine they are accustomed to.
Although it started out as a personal project and an avenue for me to share the meals I made, Bloome Living has blossomed into a community where health food lovers and those aspiring to eat healthier are able to connect, learn, and share their experiences. The end goal is to empower as many people as possible to see that healthy eating can be simple and achievable.
What does Ramadan mean to you?
Ramadan holds a special place in my heart. It signifies a moment to pause and reflect and allows me to reaffirm my faith and strengthen my relationship with God. As a child, I looked forward to the food spread, the long night prayers, the Islamic TV shows, eating with friends and family, and picking out new outfits with my siblings in anticipation of the celebration at the end of Ramadan. As an adult, Ramadan has come to represent so much more. The month is filled with blessings and spiritual growth. Plus, opportunities to have my prayers answered.
What’s your earliest memory of the Ramadan fast?
My earliest memory of the Ramadan fast was when I was about 5 or 6 years old. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the significance of the fast, but I was excited to be a part of the special occasion. I remember my family gathering around to eat at unusual times, and the food spread was always so abundant.
One day, I decided to hold my hunger till 7 p.m., which was the time to break the fast. To my surprise, I received some wonderful gifts for my efforts, including ice cream, groundnuts, and a wristwatch. I felt like a star that day, and it was a memory that stuck with me for a long time.
As a child, Ramadan was a special time for me and my siblings because it meant extra food and fruits on the dining table, late-night prayers and lectures, and going from house to house to share food.
Can you walk me through your preparations? You have them lined up, I’m sure!
Preparing for Ramadan is a very important and exciting process for me. There are three main areas that I focus on: food, prayers, and goals.
With regards to food, I devise a meal plan to help me decide what to eat for sahur and iftar. I try to choose foods that help me sustain my energy throughout the day. I grocery shop and meal prep accordingly, at least every two weeks. This helps me cut back on time spent deciding what to eat or preparing food when I’m tired from work or fasting throughout the day. I even have an ebook for Ramadan with a meal plan for 30 days, recipes, a grocery list, and healthy tips to make sure you have an enjoyable Ramadan.
In terms of prayer, I like to make a prayer list so that I can put in all my requests and not forget any while praying. I set up personal prayer requests for different aspects of my life and also set up another list for my friends and family. That’s another beautiful thing about Ramadan: you get to share your prayer requests with friends, and we can come together to pray and support one another.
Lastly, I set goals for things I’d like to achieve during Ramadan. These include things I want to do each day, like reading parts of the Qur’an, giving to charity, and doing kind deeds for others throughout the month. Ramadan is an excellent reminder for me to stay on the right path, but it’s imperative to maintain good habits after Ramadan.
What’s the best thing about the Ramadan period? And the worst?
The most special thing about Ramadan for me is the sense of community and togetherness among Muslims. It’s a time when we all come together to break our fasts, pray together, and share in the spirit of Ramadan. The love, the synergy, the food, and the prayers all contribute to a truly wholesome and enriching experience.
I love everything about Ramadan, even the challenge of staying hungry all day. It’s a test of our resilience and discipline, and I think that’s a beautiful lesson to learn. However, I do have a concern about how some people react to Muslims who are observing Ramadan. Sometimes, we are jeered or made fun of for trying to fulfil our religious obligations. The reactions, the unending questions, and the comments about starvation can be hurtful and uncomfortable. I believe that it’s important to respect people’s religious beliefs and practices, especially during this holy month.
Any tips to get through Ramadan? Especially for first-timers out there.
My biggest tip for anyone going through Ramadan for the first time is to plan, prepare, and journal. Planning ahead will help you set goals, choose activities to do, and stay motivated and excited for each day of fasting and prayer. Preparing your meals, outfits, and living spaces will help you stay organized, and focused on your spiritual journey. Journaling your experiences and reflections will help you track your progress and stay on track.
It is important to remember that you do not need to put yourself under unnecessary pressure during this time. Focus on quality participation rather than quantity. Pace yourself and do what you can in good faith. If you struggle with reading Arabic, find a reciter whose style you enjoy and listen along while you learn the translation. If this is your first time observing the fast, consider joining a community or finding a fasting buddy. Having someone to support you and cheer you on when things get difficult can make all the difference.