Ramadan Kareem, Eid Mubarak; how Hotel Chocolat’s staff celebrate Islam’s holy month.

27 Apr 2022

Events

Hotel Chocolat proudly celebrates Ramadan with our Muslim colleagues, and Muslims all over the world.

It’s an observance of great power – with has profound significance in all areas of Muslim life, as we found out when we spoke to some of our Muslim colleagues and asked them to share their personal experiences of Ramadan.

They describe a profound, impactful experience comprising prayer, charity, self-reflection, connection, abstinence, and self-discipline.

While, to non-Muslims, the prospect of fasting may seem daunting, many around the world join their Muslim brothers and sisters in fasting during Ramadan, enjoying the cleansing and purifying benefits of abstinence, and the Iftar that follows.

And when it comes to Eid; a time of togetherness, family, celebration, prayer, charity and gifting, Hotel Chocolat is proud to play a small part; providing many Muslims with gift ideas for their nearest and dearest.

A bespoke Hotel Chocolat ‘Ramadan Kareem’ sleeve.

So, what does Ramadan mean to our colleagues?

Nusrat Tania Rahman, team member at the Manchester Piccadilly store, gives her perspective: ”Ramadan is a month of blessings and peace, where Muslims get together and strive to become the best version of themselves; spiritually, mentally and physically, and care for the less fortunate. We get together with our families and feast at the end of the day and prepare ourselves in the early morning hours for the next day’s fast. {An important part of} Ramadan {is} ‘Zakat’, which {is when} we give charity, help the homeless and people in need.”

Shmaila Nazli, store manager in Bolton, expands on this. “I love that as Muslims we give Zakat: Zakat is an Islamic finance term referring to the obligation that an individual must donate a certain proportion of wealth each year to charitable causes. Zakat is a mandatory process for Muslims and is regarded as a blessing, especially in the month of Ramadan.”

Photo credit: Ashkan Forouzani

“Ramadan is full of blessings and brings friends and families closer.”

Charity, then, is a vital part of Ramadan. Nusrat, like many Muslims, takes a hands-on approach to this. “Ramadan is all about giving back to the community and helping people. My favourite thing about Ramadan is making loads of food and giving it to the less fortunate and homeless in Manchester. Every year, it always feels like a blessing.”

It’s also a time for reflection, prayer and peace.

“Ramadan is close to all Muslim hearts. There are countless things which make the month of Ramadan special.” Shmaila continues, “For me it is the Taraweeh prayers. It brings me so much peace, reading the Quran every day and giving charity to the most needed people around the world. Ramadan is full of blessings and brings friends and families closer.”

Similarly, Andrew Jamal, covering store manager in Milton Keynes, enjoys engaging in charity. He also relishes the opportunity for divine connection and self-improvement. “I love how this month brings me closer to Allah. Whether it’s through Dhikr (remembrance of Allah), re-establishing a connection with the Quran, performing voluntary prayers, giving {to} charity or just spending time at the Mosque, which is known as the house of Allah. It’s also a month where we should do as many good deeds as possible. From a personal standpoint, I use this month to try and get out of bad habits. I use it to become the best version of myself with the hopes of maintaining that, even after Ramadan.”

Qasim Hussain, of our Bolton store, describes Ramadan as a key part of a Muslim’s life. “it occurs for a whole month out of every year. This allows us to test our bodies and our minds while {experiencing} the feelings {of} fasting. I like the challenge of having a different lifestyle to my {usual} one, experiencing life in a clearer and detoxified manner. This allows me to develop myself personally, as Ramadan is a journey of self-improvement, as well as becoming a better Muslim and connecting yourself to God.” 

Photo creadit: Sid Balachandran

Fast friends.

For many non-Muslims, the thought of fasting from sunrise to sundown is almost incomprehensible. Yet it’s a principal tenet of Ramadan. The purpose of fasting is ‘Taqwa’; or getting closer to Allah through discipline and observance. From sunrise to sundown, nothing may pass a fasting Muslim’s lips – even water! Clearly, successfully achieving this, particularly in April as the days get longer, takes considerable self-discipline. It must be difficult, to put it mildly.

“I find fasting easy”, counters Andrew. “Having reverted to Islam in 2013, I thought fasting would be hard but by the will of God, I found it easy.”

For Nusrat, it gets easier over time. “The first few days are always the worst, where you end up {counting} down for iftar time to feast! However as I continue to fast it becomes a lot easier and the body becomes used to the hours of fasting.“

Fasting during Ramadan may be fundamentally about Taqwa, but also has health benefits for observers, as Shmaila divulges. “Many people don’t know this but fasting can regenerate the immune system, cleanses your body of harmful toxins, and boost the cancer curing effects of chemotherapy.“

It’s not all plain-sailing, of course, “I don’t find fasting itself difficult, the only thing I am missing out on is 8hours sleep, as we must be up for 4am, need to eat before sehri close time (which is 4.51am) and pray, read the Quran, then I need to get ready for work and set off.”

For Qasim, preparation helps the fasting process. “What the day brings, and what I had for my breakfast that morning impact the difficulty of my fast. Having work acts as a way for me to be distracted from the hunger I may be feeling; allowing the difficulty to be reduced. Fasting, although very physically challenging, is also mentally straining as you are deprived {of} some of the nutrients and hydration you usually receive, causing difficulty focusing at times, and occasionally resulting in exhaustion.”  

Photo credit: Rauf Alvi

Iftar tactics

Either through abstinence from, or breaking the fast with, food plays a pivotal role during the Holy Month of Islam.

Understandably, fasting Muslims arrive at Iftar ready to feast. Iftar is the moment of breaking the fast at sundown. While it’s certainly an opportunity to indulge in delicious food with fellow worshippers, the body must be eased into eating after so long going without.

“I look forward to water and fruits,” reveals Shmaila. “As your body needs something light before you start on heav{ier} meals.”

Andrew agrees, and has a particular soft spot for dates, “I first tried dates during my first Ramadan (as I reverted the night before the first day of Ramadan). The bigger the date, the better!“

It’s a special daily ritual, as Nusrat agrees, “every day we tend to eat something new and big to enjoy each day, yesterday my family made a roast dinner which I really enjoyed.“

Family, tradition and togetherness are integral to Ramadan. For Shmaila, it’s an opportunity to celebrate her heritage. “My favourite iftar food would have to be my mum’s lamb rice and keema with naan. As my ethnic background is Pakistani, most of our Ramadan and Eid recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. The flavours, homemade spices and the taste is always amazing and one to experience.”

“Because of the efforts of fasting, receiving the {Iftar} meal every day is very rewarding”, continues Qasim. “{Fasting} causes your palette to be fresh, allowing every flavour to be at its peak. Coming from a Pakistani household, traditional dishes which include a variety of meats and chicken are always my favourite, especially lamb with brown rice or kebabs. As you are usually eating a heavy meal it is good to have nutrition within your food each day, ensuring you are having food which is rich in fibre and necessary vitamins; this includes all your greens, and traditionally watermelon.”

Night of Power

The observance of Ramadan intensifies during the final ten days, around, as Shmaila reveals, the ‘night of power’.

Laylat-al-Qadr is otherwise known as the Night of Power and is considered to be the Islamic calendar’s Holiest eve. During this night, Angel Jibril revealed the Holy Qur’an’s first verses to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This night falls within Ramadan’s final 10 days, and although the exact date is uncertain, it is commonly thought of as the Holy Month’s 27th day.

During this period, charity and acts of giving step up as Muslims approach Eid.

Photo credit: Mayank Baranwal

All roads lead to Eid.

Every year, Ramadan culminates in the Eid-al-Fitr celebration. It’s common to give the salutation ‘Eid Mubarak’ to Muslims as they celebrate the culmination of Ramadan.

“Eid al Fitr is a 3-day festival,” adds Shmaila, “it’s all about giving and exchanging gifts, helping the poor and sharing your Eid food with neighbours, friends, and family, as well as the poor.”

Like many Muslims, Andrew finds it an intensely profound experience. “We start by attending Eid prayers, which for me, can be emotional because we’re leaving the month of Ramadan. As a human, we are weak and will likely fall back into those bad habits we gave up during Ramadan, so it can be quite emotional when you really want to stay on that path of goodness; you don’t want those bad habits to come back.”

For Qasim, Eid begins with praying at the mosque. “This is where {we} greet family and the local community. Gathering for prayer, especially in Eid, allows for a connection in the community with a common ground.”

After prayers, Shmaila connects with the important people in her life. “We do video calls with family abroad: Pakistan, Canada and Dubai, and wish them all Eid Mubarak. Then we’ll call family and friends in the UK, wish them Eid Mubarak, and ask them to come over for the Eid Feast.”

Photo credit: Louis Hansel

New clothes, new beginnings.

“We will have new clothes, fresh for the day, and are likely to visit family members celebrating,” Qasim continues. Nusrat’s story is similar. “Eid al-Fitr is the celebration my family and I count down for; we have a party with all our family and friends and get each other gifts, dressing up in our favourite new attire and enjoying different ranges of food!”

Prayer and fresh garments are a definite theme for Shmaila, too. “As a family we take part in special morning prayers, my dad and brother will wear new clothes and go to the mosque and pray and me and my mum wear new clothes and pray at home.”

A bespoke Eid sleeve for Hotel Chocolat

Eid: better together.

After a month of fasting, Iftar and Suhoor (pre-sunrise prayers and food), cuisine is predictably high on the agenda at Eid.

“Traditionally we open our fast with a date and water, my favourites such as chicken pillaw rice with tandoori chicken and samosa,” explains Nusrat. “We have a lot of south Asian cuisine, for example lamb chop curry and naan bread or butter chicken and mango lassi. For dessert, we have a traditional dish called mishti, and ice cream or baklava.”

Community and the kitchen go hand in hand for Qasim and his family. “There is a large range of food when {we meet with} family, as everyone has cooked something to share. We tend to gather at my grandma’s house and enjoy the company of the family. Usually within the community we will gift foods to our neighbours, including them in the celebration, and are likely to receive food from the neighbours who are also celebrating.”

In Andrew’s words; “Amazing food, great company and good times!”

Shmaila’s story is similar: “We cook lots of authentic Pakistani dishes, all fresh at home. We have luxury dates, Asian sweets, and chocolates.” That Hotel Chocolat staff discount put to good use, then.

Searching for the perfect Eid gift? We’ve got you covered.