This year Ramadan officially started today, Tuesday 13 April, following the sighting of the new moon. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement and heightened devotion and worship.
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Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar and the holy month of fasting.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
Hampton Park Firefighting and Treasurer Ahmad Jahfar spoke about his experience celebrating Ramadan and what it means to him.
“Ramadan really teaches you about empathy and understanding how people less fortunate than you live,” Ahmad said. “The month is really rewarding as you have the opportunity to reset and reflect.
“Everyone is fasting together; you all go through the same experience and the feeling of coming together to break fast is really humbling.”
Muslims all around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. In the northern hemisphere this is around 16 hours due to daylight saving; for Australia it’s a little shorter.
“Muslims will fast from all food and drink including water from dawn to dusk.. We put in extra effort to do good deeds and by the end of Ramadan, we as Muslims, perform another Pillar of our Faith by giving money to charity (Zakah).”Ahmad said.
“This year in Australia we will be fasting for about 12 hours and for some people that’s really alarming but we’ve been doing it for most of our lives and our bodies are accustom to it.”
Ahmad said that he first started fasting when he was 8 years old.
“I started because my parents did it and its part of my culture,” he said.
“It was exciting to me and my friends when we first started back in Sri Lanka as we use to have competitions to see who could fast the longest.
“When you’re younger you start practising really, maybe just doing 15 days or half the day to build up to the full 30 days. Most people start fasting seriously when they get to their teens.
“All able people take part in fasting, if you are sick or have a certain condition where you can’t fast then you are not required to fast.
Ahmad came to Australia back to 2015 as an international student.
“I have a background in accounting and studied it at university so it’s great to be able to use these skills in my treasurer role at Hampton Park Brigade,” he said.
“I joined the CFA to make friends, give back and get to know the community. .
Celebrating Ramadan does not impact Ahmad’s ability to protect the community.
“For me, nothing changes; its business as usual because of course I’m a firefighter and my job is to protect the community so I wouldn’t do anything that’s going to impact that.
“My brigade is aware that I’m fasting and if I’m not feeling well, just like in any other situation, I wouldn’t turn out.
“And I know that if I am on the fireground, I can break my fast if I need to.
“It’s knowing your own boundaries, if I’m feeling really hungry on the fire ground then it would be acceptable for be to break my fast,” Ahmad added.
“When I turn out I’m there to do my job and will only ever give 100 percent.”
Ahmad is currently the only Muslim member in Hampton Park and says the brigade couldn’t be more supportive.
“Volunteering at CFA and Ramadan work hand in hand, when you do good in Ramadan you are rewarded and volunteering is another way to give back to the community,” he said.
“Everyone has been really supportive and it’s actually not a bad thing that there is no one else fasting in the brigade,” Ahmad said “Hampton Park has a range of cultures within the brigade so it’s great to teach them about my culture and Ramadan and learn about theirs.”
“For me, I think the best thing is when someone is aware Ramadan is coming up and asks me about it,” Ahmad added.
“We don’t have a big Muslim population in Australia so for someone from another culture to check in, ask if you are fasting and how it’s going - I think that’s amazing.”
Ramadan 2021 will run from Tuesday 12 April to Wednesday 12 May, find out more on the Islamic Council of Victoria’s website.