Bushra Azam on doctors fasting over Ramadan

This year the holy month of Ramadan starts on the 11 August. It’s a challenging time of the year for many Muslims, particularly doctors in the NHS. I have been fasting for many years since a young age, but the fast became very challenging when I started my career as a doctor and the challenge does not get any easier. Being a full time doctor and a mother of a 5 year old, I have to manage my responsibilities as well as my religious obligations. Almighty God tells us in the Quran “On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear “ [Quran 2:286]. This is indeed very true. Even though the Ramadan will be during the peak of summer, where the average fast will be at least 15 hours, I believe that God will make it easy for me.

For me Ramadan brings the challenge of dedication, discipline, and self regulation which helps me deal with other challenges that I face throughout the year. My usual routine during this month is to ensure that I commence the fast with a wholesome, but not excessive pre dawn meal. This will help supply me with the energy to last the day. After which I take some rest before commencing my working day.

During the day, I prioritise my workload so that I can be productive. I aim to complete all my essential duties before fatigue begins to have effect. I try to keep my mind off food, as the human inclination for food is still strong. By midday I begin to experience hunger, but I use my will power to suppress this (although that is never easy). However, a busy working day does have one big advantage: it helps the time go quickly. When I am on call, I will almost certainly be opening my fast at work. For this I usually take some home cooked food with me as this is better than eating out or buying something processed from a supermarket.

On those days when I come home on time there may still be a few hours before the fast ends for the day. During this time, I will do my prayers, do some paper work, and prepare the evening meal. When I open my fast, I don’t devour my food but I pray instead before sitting down with my family to eat.

To us Muslims the month of Ramadan is very important. It may seem like a colossal task, but by adhering to self discipline, prayer, and firm belief in The Almighty, the whole month becomes very bearable. To know that I am doing this for my Lord, and he will reward me, makes the whole experience a lovely month.

The fast is also made easier with support from my family and my non-Muslim colleagues and working team. Their sensitivity and respect for the month of Ramadan helps me deal with the challenges I experience during Ramadan.

No doubt, Ramadan is a challenge, but it has it rewards and bounties. Its hardship will me make me a better person and ultimately a better doctor.

Bushra Azam is a CT3 trainee in the North Essex Partnership NHS Trust. She did her basic medical training at Khyber Medical College, Pakistan. She aims to promote the awareness of mental health problems and remove the stigma associated with it.