As Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan and soon, Eid, it is interesting to learn about how different cultures around the world experience the same celebration with their unique cultural touch 😊 Each and every part of the world has their differences in celebrating these blessed occasions, but with the same beautiful purpose – to bring ourselves closer to God.
In this part of our Ramadan Around The World series, our contributor Rebecca, a Canadian Muslim shares her inspiring journey during Ramadan and experience as a mother, wife and as a new Muslim in Canada ❤️ Read on to find out more.
1. How is Ramadan like in Canada?
I converted to Islam in 2014, so my very first Ramadan was in the middle of the summer. The hours were long then, and still in 2019 we fast from about 3:30 AM to 8:30 PM. It can be a major struggle, particularly for those who have regular work hours, as you don’t get much sleep at night either! Because Canada is predominantly non-Muslim, there isn’t much of a festive atmosphere unless you are at the masjid in the evenings. It’s business-as-usual for most of us, going about our normal days.
2. What’s your biggest challenge or struggle during Ramadan and how do you overcome it?
My biggest struggle these past few years is that I have not been able to fast due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and now another pregnancy. I have to find ways to make the month spiritually beneficial, all while taking care of my toddler son, working, etc. It can be a challenge being a mother in Ramadan – you simply don’t have as much time, and can’t go to the mosque for taraweeh, either. This year I made a goal to go on a “Negativity Fast,” where I avoid complaints and negative thoughts/behaviours, and that has been really great, alhumdullilah.
3. What are the timings for sahur and iftar like especially in summer VS winter? How does this affect your fast?
My husband wakes up for suhoor at 3 AM! He isn’t able to eat until about 8:30 PM – which is a very long day. Ramadan will be such a different experience here in the winter, I’m sure – short days and very cold weather. Alhumdullilah, everyone seems to be able to manage their fasts, even in the middle of summer. It’s extra important to hydrate well at night and eat healthy meals to get you through the long days.
4. What are some of the activities locals in Canada do during Ramadan?
Almost every mosque in my city offers free iftar daily. There are also so many mosques and organizations that do community outreach during Ramadan – organizing interfaith iftars, meals for the homeless, events for converts, etc. There are also different bazaars where local businesses get together to sell clothing, Ramadan/Eid decor, and food. And, of course, there are special spiritual gatherings during the month where scholars and community leaders speak.
5. Are there many non-Muslims where you are? Do they understand fasting and what are their reactions to it?
Most people in my city and country are not Muslim. In the larger cities, where the population is multicultural, many of them know about Ramadan. They all think it must be so difficult and always ask: “not even water?!”
6. What does Ramadan mean to you and how do you take care of yourself during this month?
Ramadan is a time to recharge. It’s a time to break bad habits we have picked up throughout the year and improve our character; a time to escape from the chaos of this world and immerse ourselves in gratitude to our Creator. Even when we can’t fast, we are given this month to reconnect. I try to focus on my spiritual self during Ramadan and not give in to the material world.
7. How do you reconnect with your faith and God during this month?
My goal every day of the year is to practice absolute gratitude to my Creator, but during Ramadan I also constantly remind myself to banish negativity and any toxic behaviour from my life. When I can’t abstain from food and water, I try to abstain from temptations of the dunya, and this helps me to connect to Allah. My husband and I spend more time discussing our faith and doing activities as a family that centre around togetherness. I also listen to more lectures on Youtube and podcasts (being able to listen instead of reading is a lifesaver as a mother!) and of course read and study more Quran.
8. What tips would you give to someone who’s visiting Canada during Ramadan?
I would say to visit many different mosques and experience the diversity of Canadian Muslims! As for fasting – it will be difficult, but Allah makes it easy for you when you have the best intentions. It always helps to take an afternoon nap, as well.
9. What unique dishes do locals or your family eat for sahur and iftar? What restaurants for iftar would you recommend to visitors who visit Canada?
We eat very normal “Canadian food” – which is actually a mix of food from around the world. I always rotate between meat, fish and vegetarian/vegan. We eat healthily year-round but make sure to eat extra well during Ramadan to fuel our bodies. A few examples of meals: coconut lentil curry, roasted chicken and vegetables, honey-soy salmon bowls with quinoa, beef stew, pasta, lots of big salads… Before our main meal, we break our fast with dates, milk and fruit. For suhoor, it’s usually eggs, oatmeal with seeds (like hemp, chia), and fruit. We don’t eat many desserts, but I did do some cookie baking and decorating this year!
My city has a large Muslim population, so we have a lot of halal restaurants. Mostly Indian, Lebanese and some north African. I love a North African restaurant called “La Khaïma Cuisine Nomade,” as well as an organic cafe-restaurant called Cafe Floraison, which is run by a beautiful Muslim community here. We also have tons of great vegan restaurants in Montreal, where you don’t have to worry about whether the meat is halal! My favourite is called Aux Vivres.
10. How do you celebrate Eid in Canada?
It’s so different depending on where you live (it’s a huge country!) and what your family is like. For us, we don’t have much family around, and most of our family is not Muslim, so we usually celebrate in a small way. Last year we went to the previously mentioned Cafe Floraison – they have special iftars every night, but also a big Eid brunch with wonderful food and entertainment. This year we will go to the mosque for Eid prayer and then attend brunch. Then, likely, we will spend the rest of the day together at the park, just enjoying ‘family time.’ Because my son is 2 now, we may get him a gift to mark the occasion, but my husband and I don’t exchange gifts.
In other communities, there are huge Eid festivals. Many people here have large families and do parties and gatherings. Canada is filled with a very diverse population of Muslims, who bring some traditions from their home countries and blend them into Canadian life.
In all honesty, Eid can be difficult as a convert because I am navigating new territory. Growing up without this holiday means I don’t have traditions – I have to make my own. However, it gives my husband and I the opportunity to choose exactly how we want our little family to celebrate.
11. When did you convert to Islam and how long have you been fasting for?
I converted in 2014, right before Ramadan began. I had been seriously looking into Islam for about a year, and I wanted to fast. This desire led me to finally admit to myself that I did believe, and I did want to become a Muslim. It was a difficult and scary decision to make, and I was truly thrown head-first into things with the beginning of Ramadan. I fasted in 2014 and 2015, and the following years until now I have been unable to fast due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. This will be my last pregnancy, so when I am done breastfeeding my youngest son, I will be ready to fast for the rest of my life inshallah!
12. What challenges did you face getting used to Ramadan at first?
My first Ramadan was difficult. I was living alone, as my husband was away in the United States. I had no Muslim friends and no connection to the Muslim community in my city. I worked full-time and would wake up for suhoor, go back to sleep, go to work, come home and nap, and then break my fast alone. I struggled to go to taraweeh because it was so late in the evening and I was getting so little sleep. But my new commitment to Islam kept me strong, and I managed to fast every day. It got easier as the days passed and my body adjusted. Alhumdullilah I was invited by a sister I met at jummah prayer to an Eid party hosted by a beautiful Indonesian family, so I did not have to spend Eid alone.
13. Where did you draw your support/encouragement when you began your revert journey?
I have always found the most comfort and support in the online community. There, I was able to connect with others who dealt with the same issues as me, and even just watch YouTube videos of other reverts sharing their experiences. My husband was always there for me as a support, but oddly enough, at the beginning of my journey I found it awkward and uncomfortable to discuss my faith. I was so used to a non-religious life. It took time for me to open up that part of my heart.
Shortly after converting, I also made a good friend who is Muslim. We are still friends today, and our sons were born 10 days apart. She has always been a supportive resource for me, and since her family lives in another city, we have been able to celebrate together a lot over the years.
My non-Muslim friends were also an incredible support to me when I converted. Even while I was fasting, they were extremely respectful, helpful and loving.
14. How has Ramadan changed/improved for you over the years?
Ramadan changed a lot when I had my son in late 2016, because I was no longer able to attend taraweeh or dedicate as much time to prayer and reading. But his presence has also made the month much more fun, as I get to teach him about our deen.
Although I have been unable to fast the past few years, the longer I am Muslim the more comfortable and confident I am in my religion, and this makes connecting to Allah easier. I look forward to being able to fast again to strengthen my spirituality even further during this month.
And that wraps up Rebecca’s inspiring story as a revert, mother, and her experience celebrating Ramadan and Eid in Canada ❤️