Bilz; “What Ramadan means to me.”
Today, Tuesday 15 May, is the start of the holy month of Ramadan which is followed by Muslims worldwide. 17 year old Billal (Bilz) Shah, from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, is a first year student at RNC (Royal National College for the Blind). As RNC is a residential college, Bilz will be observing Ramadan away from his home and away from his family for the first time.
Bilz says “In the past my family have done everything for me and the thought of doing Ramadan without them has been scary but the staff at RNC have been really supportive with helping me to prepare meals and adjust my timetable and things so I am getting the time I need.” Bilz is a student on the NVQ Sport and Recreation programme and has been excused from sports and physical exercise as he is not allowed to consume water during daylight hours and there is a danger of him becoming dehydrated. However, he will be able to continue with the theory side of his course and training clients in the student gym to ensure that he does not fall behind with his programme.
For the holy month of Ramadan Muslims are not allowed to consume food or drink between sunrise and sunset. The month of fasting also includes ‘sins of the tongue’ so this includes a ban on lying, swearing and gossiping. Bilz explains “I am going to sacrifice myself from food for the month so I can’t eat or drink during daylight hours, not even water. It can be difficult and at times I do feel weak but I know I’m doing it for a good purpose, to put myself in the shoes of people who are poor. Ramadan makes me think about the things I have in life like food, shelter, family and friends and makes me more grateful for them.”
In the past Bilz was the only Muslim in school observing Ramadan and would find it difficult “I had no friends at school who were Muslim so they were always asking me questions about it and it did make me feel a bit uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how people at College would react but it’s been really good, there are other Muslim students here so we can chat about things and that’s been really useful, especially as my family aren’t here.”
Fasting for the month of Ramadan is only required for those who are medically fit and have reached an age of maturity. Young children, those who are ill or pregnant are excluded from fasting. Bilz explains that Ramadan is about more than just not eating “It’s about increasing your spirituality and stopping yourself from doing things helps teach you self-control. During Ramadan you’re encouraged to do more good deeds and helping others, it’s about making yourself a better person.”
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Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC