Muslims Who Fast: Amin, a medical student, shows us food from Somalia

If you’ve missed our mini-series, Muslims Who Fast is about prying into the lives of British Muslims and how they do iftar during Ramadan.

Last week, we spoke to the multi-ethnic Rouf family who very cleverly started their own series,

Come Ramadine With Me.

Amin Habib speaks to us this week about life as a black Muslim, being a student, food from Somalia, and his love of Liverpool’s Muhammed Salah (we didn’t even ask any football questions).

Tell us about yourself I am a medicine student at King’s College London, I live at home in Mile End in Tower Hamlets. I just finished my exams yesterday! Congrats. What’s difficult about being a student and fasting? The most difficult thing is probably that concentration wanes quite frequently.

All students procrastinate when it comes to exams but during Ramadan, you just feel tired (due to lack of sleep). Some people consider not fasting for the sake of studying because it will hurt their cognitive performance.

The way I see it, from an Islamic perspective; in life, everything is decreed, your exam results are decreed. By choosing not to fast, you’re not changing anything. I’d rather fast and try to please God. You also save a lot of time when you’re not eating.

Do you find yourself craving any particular food during Ramadan? I’m always craving pizza and doner kebab. I actually went to order a pizza the other day with doner toppings but when I got the pizza, the guy forgot to put the toppings.

A travesty. Onto the deeper stuff; what’s difficult about being a black Muslim? Do you see any differences during Ramadan? In Ramadan, it’s not as obvious as it may be in other times but during the month people make an extra effort to be pious, to be extra nice.

One thing I do notice is differences in certain practices for example mosques in Tower Hamlets have customs which is different to Somali and Arab culture. In terms of discrimination, I don’t think it happens during Ramadan.

What does Ramadan mean to you?

I look forward to it every year. Everyone looks forward to shedding their sins and doing good deeds. It puts everything else into perspective.

I feel good about fasting. I don’t get it when people say things like ‘poor you’ and ‘not even water?’. I don’t think ‘poor me’. What Ramadan traditions do you have in your household? Oh yeah. Fruit.

Must have fruits on the table. If you don’t have fruits, are you really even fasting? That’s how much of a staple it is. It’s there to refresh. Mango has to be there, watermelon, and papaya but after intense lobbying, we got rid of it (no one likes it except for my mum).

There’s one thing Somalis get teased for as well that’s a staple; it’s having rice, curry sauce, and banana. People can’t comprehend it but when they try it, they like it. It’s amazing.

What does your Ramadan timetable look like?

After iftar, I go to teraweeh at the mosque (the special long prayer, exclusive to the month) and then come home and read, or watch Netflix.

When did you begin fasting? Probably in secondary school. I started doing it only on weekends at first. I also began with half days.

Any fond memories of previous Ramadans?

I was quite a sheltered child so my mum wouldn’t let me go to teraweeh prayers by myself, as it was quite late into the night. When I was 16, that’s when I first began to go to the mosque.

When I wasn’t allowed to go, I always felt like I had a half Ramadan, compared to other people, even though I was fasting the full day, it just didn’t feel complete till I went to teraweeh. It felt great when I was able to start doing that. Source:Metro