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Ramadan In Auckland: A Russian-Muslim Revert Finds Her Home Away From Home In New Zealand

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Ili  •  May 22, 2020

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As we near the the end of Ramadan, we're here to bring you another story from our Ramadan Around The World series! This time around, we'll be taking you to New Zealand where Russian-Muslim revert, Veronika, tells us all about her fasting experience in Auckland, challenges she face during the holy month and more 😊 Read on to read all about her story.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name’s Veronika Edali, a 25-year-old Russian small-town girl residing in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2010, I hopped on a plane to travel across the oceans holding a one-way ticket in my hand in pursuit of a better life and a brighter future. I was only 15 years-old when moved to another country all by myself - true story! I’m happy to let you know that I managed to find my forever-home away from home. Since the moment I stepped off that plane, I’ve been chasing my dreams and my version of true happiness. I have graduated from film school, married my high-school sweetheart, found Islam, stepped into motherhood and became a full-time entrepreneur along the way!  Almost 3 years ago, I quit my first and only 9-5 job to work for my dreams. Since then I successfully started and built two service-lead businesses on a micro-budget. Currently, I’m focusing on growing my activewear and lifestyle brand Fit Generation Apparel as well as creating content and building my personal brand in hopes to empower content creators and entrepreneurs to pursue their passion, take action and start working for their dreams.
How is Ramadan like in your country? Any unique customs and traditions practised locally during the fasting month?
I reverted to Islam back in 2013 when I was 18 years old. Ramadan 2020 is my 8th one. Alhamdulillah. Celebrating the holy month of Ramadan in New Zealand is all I know. New Zealand is a diverse, but western country, therefore Muslim people are a minority. However, Auckland has a large Muslim community and a lot of suburbs have their own masjids.   When I think about Ramadan in New Zealand, I see mosques full of people attending tarawih prayers, Muslims nationwide visiting close friends and family for Iftar and Eid Prayers at Eden Park followed by a market event full of delicious food and sweets. This sense of community, support and love within our ummah that you can’t help, but feel deep on your bones during the month of Ramadan always puts a big smile on my face and fills me up with gratitude for the best decision of my life. 
What are the timings for suhoor and iftar like year-round? Does it vary much between seasons?
Throughout my journey as a revert to Islam, I’ve only fasted through spring, winter and autumn of the Southern Hemisphere. The longest fast for me was only 12 hours, which is not very long if you compare it to other countries like Iceland, where fasts can last close to 22 hours. We usually wake up at 5 am for suhoor, start fasting at 5.30 am and we break our fast at 5.30 pm. The weather is very cool right now as we are approaching winter, therefore we don’t get too hot or very thirsty throughout our fast. This will change as Ramadan shifts towards summer for us in a few years time.
How do the different seasons affect fasting?
I can only imagine how it would be like to fast during summer, but it will definitely be harder due to Auckland’s humidity that this city is notorious for. A lot of people take some time off and take it easy as they go through Ramadan in the heat of summer. Naps, staying indoors and air-conditioning help to make fasting during the summer months bearable.  I can also imagine how hard it would be for families with small children since toddlers have so much energy! My son is one year old and I’m constantly running after him, getting hungrier and thirstier by the minute. 
What’s a typical day like for you in Ramadan?
I’m a stay-at-home working mother, who has scheduling freedom since I run my own business. I’m so grateful for it! I get to organise my work around my life and not the other way around. I’m able to make every prayer on time and choose to allocate as much time for spiritual learning as I need to. I would never take this freedom for granted. Most days, I hang out with my son, work when he naps, cook and bake for iftar and spend much needed time with my family.
What’s your biggest challenge/struggle during Ramadan and how do you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me would be not being able to fast due to pregnancy/breastfeeding. When I’m unable to fast for whatever reason, I don’t feel as connected as I’d like to be. Therefore, whenever I don’t fast I try to get an extra prayer in, listen to Quran and be mindful to nurture that spiritual connection that any Muslim can relate to during the month of Ramadan.
This year, Ramadan is celebrated under special circumstances such as mosque closures and stay-at-home measures. How has it affected the Ramadan activities in Auckland?
 A lot of people are very sad that they are unable to attend the mosque or visit friends and extended family for iftar. Just like anywhere in the world, New Zealanders are deeply affected by the pandemic.  Staying connected on social media helps, especially for reverts who often celebrate Ramadan on their own and this year they don’t get to go to the masjid and connect with their Muslim community. Since it’s a very trying and uncertain time for so many people, I like to use my social media presence to encourage people to focus on the positive side of things and appreciate the precious moments they get to spend with their close family as well as practice mindfulness and gratitude for everything we have and are still able to do despite the restrictions. 
How are you spending your Ramadan differently this year?
Since I’m a stay-at-home working mum, my daily Ramadan routine hasn’t changed all that much, I definitely bake more this year just because I got better at it over time. All jokes aside, Ramadan 2020 has pushed me to be more grateful for all the blessing we have in our day to day life, especially our health. I strive to be better, more productive, more mindful and make every single day count! Alhamdulillah.
What are some of the things you miss most about Ramadan from before the Coronavirus outbreak?
 I believe that a lot of people will relate to my answer! I miss connecting with the Muslim community. Ramadan brings ummah together and due to the coronavirus outbreak, we are unable to attend mosques and pray in congregation.  That’s why I’m very grateful for my online community! I’m talking to sisters from all over the world every single day. This is how I manage to connect to the ummah this Ramadan. We are in it together, we’ll get through and come out stronger on the other side. Insha’Allah.
Do you have any tips or words of encouragement for Muslims celebrating Ramadan while coping with the current pandemic?
Try not to focus on the things you don’t have and can’t do this Ramadan, focus on practising gratitude and count your blessings instead. Allah is the greatest of planners and we should never forget that. We are going through this pandemic for a reason and we should always look at the bright side of things and find blessings in it. Enjoy the time you have with your family, fast together, eat together, pray together, be together. Take it one day at a time and make every single one of them count. Interested to read more about Ramadan in other countries? Check out our Ramadan Around The World section 😊