Ramadan reflections from the judiciary

Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram, Tribunal Judge Thaira Bibi and Magistrate Ibrahim share their thoughts and experiences of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.

What Ramadan means to me

The holy month of Ramadan for Muslims started last weekend. It marks the month in which the first words of the holy book, the Quran, were revealed to the prophet Mohammed. For many, it is marked by fasting with no food or water before the hours of sunrise to sunset which translates from about 4.30am to past 8.00pm. Some Muslims, though, including children are exempt and others choose to profess their faith in their own way. That said, it is one of the five core pillars of Islam and is a time for heightened reflection and prayer.

Irrespective of our own faith or no faith, we can all share in that reflection on hardship, hunger and suffering wherever it lies. We might pause and ask what difference we can personally make in our local communities as well as across the world.

For me, it is also a time to consciously focus on my charitable giving, another of the core pillars of the faith. Eid which marks the end of the month, requires all Muslims to donate to feed the poor. Charity is not for one day though and compassion and generosity should be lived through our daily actions. I will be involved again in a food kitchen for the less fortunate in west London. Faith should not divide us but be a glue that brings us together, albeit from different directions. Unity through peace is at the heart of Islam and for me, it is a faith that must be lived through my actions. The Quran emphasises self-discipline through restraint of anger, acts of compassion and acts of charity. Ramadan also provides another opportunity to step back and reflect on what is really important in life and to seek forgiveness. Writing this piece has caused me to stop and reflect again on the significance of the holy month. We should all do that ….. stop and think about what really matters.

Happy Ramadan to you all.

Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram

Sitting in court during Ramadan – my reflections

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The exact dates of Ramadan change every year. This is because Islam uses a calendar based on the lunar cycle.

Ramadan remembers the month the Quran (the Muslim holy book) was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Fasting is between dawn and sunset, during this period Muslims are not allowed to eat nor drink. Fasting is considered to teach self-discipline and reminds us of the suffering of those less fortunate than us.

During Ramadan, it is common to have one meal (known as the suhoor), just before dawn and another (known as the iftar), directly after sunset.  I will wake up at around 4:00am and have a small breakfast or a snack, pray and then go back to bed. On a normal day, when I am sitting, I like to have a cup of coffee/tea prior to sitting. In the lead up to Ramadan, I reduce my caffeine and food intake and do practice fasts to help with the transition. I have been fasting since childhood and find that I can adapt to the routine within a couple of days.

I usually spend the first couple of weeks of Ramadan working, and will have short breaks during the day to pray. I will also ensure that any parties to the proceedings are given sufficient breaks to enable them to participate fairly. During Ramadan, I avoid going to the lunchroom and use this time effectively to work.  After work, I will rest for a few hours before the fast opening time and this enables me to catch up on sleep. I will then open my fast at around 7:45pm, it is customary to open the fast by eating a date and have some fruits, which is then followed by a meal with family and friends.

The Equal Treatment Bench Book provides Judges and court users with useful guidance for all parties observing the Ramadan fast and appearing before the Tribunal, such as ensuring adequate breaks during proceedings and taking time off to celebrate the end of Ramadan known as ‘Eid ul-Fitr’. These equally apply to all court users, but it is also important to remember that it applies equally to all sitting Judges, Court Clerks, Tribunal Caseworkers, Administrative colleagues and Interpreters who are also observing fasting during Ramadan. This might for example include ensuring that some adjustments where requested and/or necessary, so that work can be carried out without it impeding or making observation of fasting more difficult and onerous than it should be, and making such provisions would also be consistent with, and encompass the spirit and the aims set out in the Equal Treatment Bench Book in relation to equality and awareness towards those who are fasting in Ramadan.

I usually take annual leave for the last week of Ramadan as I consider this to be a time of reflection, prayer, charity and carrying out good deeds. I often cook for my family and neighbours.

I would like to wish everyone Ramadan Mubarak!

Thaira Bibi, Tribunal Judge at Taylor House

Why Ramadan is special to me

Ramadan is finally here and it’s that time in the year that Muslims look forward to very much.

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and commemorates the period in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). During this month, Muslims who are able to fast will do so from sunrise to sunset. This culminates in ‘iftar’ which marks the breaking of the fast at the end of the day. Ramadan has many purposes behind it from exercising self-discipline to reminding oneself of the suffering of the poor. The central aim is to develop ‘taqwa’, consciousness of God.

I always see Ramadan as that special time when we can enter into a holy quarantine in order to better ourselves as human beings and servants of the Almighty. It is a time to reflect on our aspirations and endeavours, to renew our sense of faith and refocus on our ultimate goal. I feel blessed to be part of such a close-knit community and I very much look forward to experiencing the blessings of Ramadan.

This Ramadan, I will only be sitting once during the holy month, just before Eid. As it is towards the end of Ramadan and by then, my body will have become completely accustomed to fasting, the sitting should not be an issue for me. In fact, fasting this year has been relatively easier due to this unusually cold weather that we’re currently experiencing. I look forward to that sitting towards the end of Ramadan as it will enable me to meet my colleagues again and reflect on everything that we’ve achieved so far, both in and outside of Ramadan.

I wish you all a blessed month, Ramadan Kareem!

Magistrate Ibrahim