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Gearing up for Ramadan

Ramadan is a chance. It's a chance that God gives us every year to step into the right path and make our lives better for ourselves. For this month there are ways you can prepare yourself to take on the challenging journey of one whole month. We have to clear our minds, cleanse our souls and detoxify our bodies.

To get your mind set into the mood of the month of Ramadan, one or two nights is never enough. It all starts from Shab-e-Barat. Once again, this day gives us an opportunity to get ready to face what is coming ahead of us. For this, you will need a strong will, a decisive mind and lots and lots of faith in yourself!

To detoxify our mind and body, a lot of people have a lot of different views on how to go about it.

Clearing your mind, cleansing the soul
To begin, you can always start with praying the five daily prayers. You can start around two weeks before the month begins. This will help you get into the habit of Salat and it will automatically help you wake up in time for Fajr and pray all your other prayers in time. And as always, don't just say it…mean it!

When you are performing Salah, if you don't know what the Surahs and the Dua's mean, read up on them and find out the meanings. This will make praying a lot easier for you. Praying the four rakahs for Tahajjud before Fajr will also help you be in time for Sehri during the month of Ramadhan.

As much as you can, keep Allah in your heart by doing Dhikr e.g.: La ilaaha illallah, Allahu-akbar, Subhan-Allah, Alhamdulillah etc. Reading up on the Prophet (PBUH)'s Hadith (The Prophet (PBUH)'s sayings) will help a lot. Not only will you know more of the rules and regulations but your faith in religion will grow and your will power will be strengthened.

You must abstain your mind from anything that leads to something you might regret later. Tell yourself to give up smoking, tell yourself to give up bad habits, tell yourself to keep your mind clean.

At the end of the day, if you don't listen to anybody else, you are all you have. If you believe in yourself enough, you will be able to do anything! Keeping yourself busy with prayers, recitation of the Qur’an and more religious studying that will help you refrain from anything harmful.

For the more foul-mouthed amongst us, try to refrain from swearing the whole month. Friends can help here by lightly hitting or gently reminding his/her friends each time they swear that they shouldn't do it.

Cleansing your body
Smokers and people who use other intoxicating substances (caffeine addicts apply)… this is for you!

Smoking, as you know, is addictive. Any kind of addiction is frowned upon in our religion, which is reason enough for you to quit smoking. But if that doesn't motivate you enough, the fact that you're not allowed to consume anything before the time of iftar during Ramadan should help you keep away from smoking.

To help yourself, try reducing your cigarette per day count around two weeks before Ramadan. Reduce progressively per two days. This will help you fight the craving for smoking a cigarette while fasting.

As a matter of fact, this applies to any kind of intoxicants. This month is a perfect opportunity to quit and refrain from anything harmful. You just have to have a lot of control over yourself, which leads back to clearing your mind.

If you can go through a whole month without anything addictive, you can go without it for the rest of your life. You get this opportunity once every year. Make use of it. You're the only one who can improve your own life!

Some people prefer 2-3 day water fast where you drink only water and drain out all the intoxicants from your body to be completely clean and ready for the Holy Month.

To prepare your body for Ramadan stifle the urge to munch snacks at odd moments or when you're bored. Drink lots of water, and avoid endless cups of coffee and tea.

Start with a complex carbohydrate breakfast that releases energy slowly and allows you to stay energised through the day. Have a light meal at the end of the day with lots of fruit, vegetables, yoghurt and salad.

Slowly you'll get the hang of fasting and by the time the month arrives you'll be ready and excited to take on the challenge and make full use of the opportunity you will get!

Pregnancy prerogative
Religion says you should fast if you are healthy, but certain pregnancy-related conditions such as raised blood pressure, twins and severe pregnancy sickness can excuse you from fasting. Dr Mizanur Rahman, a physician, says that if you think you can fast and are strong enough to…you can. There's no harm whatsoever in fasting while you're pregnant.

You should not ignore this special concession if you feel that fasting could cause harm to you or your baby. Especially in the early stages of pregnancy, it is common to feel queasy or nauseous. Many pregnant women also experience vomiting, sometimes called morning sickness (though it can happen at any time of day or night).

Other common side effects of early pregnancy are fatigue, constipation, headaches and light-headedness things that are likely to become more pronounced if you aren't eating or drinking for long periods of time.

Whether or not you decide to fast, it is possible that problems such as dizziness, blurred vision and cramping could occur. If you have any of these or other symptoms that concern you speak to your doctor immediately.

If you are breastfeeding, you are not expected to fast during Ramadan. Most Islamic scholars believe that breastfeeding women have special permission not to fast. Breastfeeding might dehydrate the body which may require replenishment.

Iron supplement pills are recommended after the twelfth week, or third month, of pregnancy. Iron supplements help prevent iron deficiency, or anaemia, which is common in pregnancy. You still need iron supplements during Ramadan, but you may prefer to take the pills after iftar.

Eating foods that are rich in iron, such as: meat, poultry, oily fish, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits during iftar will also help in not needing your iron supplements after all!

Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron, so go for fresh fruit, vegetables and juices. Apart from these, there aren't any other special suggestions for pregnant women during Ramadan.

Diabetic’s dilemma
Yes…diabetics may excuse themselves from fasting despite what most people believe. As a matter of fact Dr. Mizanur Rahman thinks it's theoretically forbidden for type I diabetics to fast. He says that diabetic patients must eat every four hours and definitely after insulin intake. Although, of course their religious beliefs should not be hampered, the doctors do have alternatives for patients who want to fast.

Most diabetic patients who require medication, the advice is that, to take care of yourself, you should not fast. If you are looking for alternatives, you should consult your doctor or a nutritionist.

Those on oral medication may have to both adjust the dosage and change to short acting medication, which can be taken at a time to co-ordinate with the time of the main meal.

Similarly those patients taking insulin will need to change to a twice daily regime of short acting insulin with the larger dose timed before the main evening meal. Particularly with this group of patients regular home measurement of blood sugar is recommended.

If you're among the group of people who are exempted from fasting -- persons travelling and the ill whose illness can be worsened by fasting; menstruating women and women with post-partum bleeding; pregnant and nursing women; people who are not capable of fasting, either due to old age or incurable diseases -- there's still something to be gained.

Feeding those who are fasting on the days one is unable to fast is a religious alternative. Another way to make up for the days of Ramadan that you weren't able to fast is that after Eid is over, you can fast the amount of days that you have missed.

Ramadan…is a chance. Prepare yourself for it. Be ready for it. Take your chance!

By Naziba Basher


Ramadan routine: 4 ways to stay fit

In terms of time management, exercise during Ramadan may seem difficult, but it is actually a great time to try and organise yourself and make it a habit.

After fasting all day, it can be very tempting to dig into your meal as soon as possible but this can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Dieticians suggest breaking the fast gradually, having a drink and a light snack at sunset, and then waiting up to two hours before a full meal.

This is an opportune moment to fit in some exercise. You can also exercise following the Taraweeh prayers, which help to re-energise your body and prepare it for some more strenuous exercise.

Alternatively, although not for the faint hearted, if mornings are the only time you can fit in some exercise, try and eat a very late and well balanced sehri.

The level of exercise you choose to do is ultimately your decision. Some people are able to exercise more than others under fasting conditions. We recommend lower impact exercises.

During Ramadan, when extra prayers are performed, the pressure on your knee joints will be increased. While weight loss (due to reduction in muscle mass) will lessen the aggravation to your joints long term, performing the simple stretches below will help in the short term:

Quadriceps stretch
Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent, and tummy held tight. Take hold of your right foot (on the top where your shoe laces are!) and, keeping your knees together, pull your heel to your bottom. You should feel a stretch on the front of the thigh. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat on the left.

Hamstring stretch
Standing with your feet together, bend at the knee. Extend your right leg, placing your right foot flat in front of you. Lean forwards to feel a stretch in the rear of your left thigh. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the left.

Calf stretch
Face a wall, and raise your hands to place your palms flat against it. Step backwards with your right leg so that you are in a lunge position. Drop your right heel to the floor to feel a stretch in the calf muscle. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the left.

Lower backstretch
Bend your knees and lean forward to wrap your arms around the back of them.

Drop your head bringing your nose to your knees. Round your back so that you can feel a stretch in your spine. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat if necessary.

These few stretches will help you keep fit during the month of Ramadan and will make fasting and praying much easier for you!

By Naziba Basher


Dress up your greens

With the concrete invasion gobbling up the greenery in our cityscape, having a spacious veranda or an individual garden is a luxury in this age of apartment living. It is more important now than ever to incorporate some plants into our home décor, if we want to maintain that link with nature, and to refresh our surroundings. Last week, we talked about the beauty and flexibility of greenery in interior décor. This week, we show you how to display your potted plants.

Choosing good containers is vitally important. A collection of square, round and rectangular containers in different materials is a great starting point. Rough-textured pots in materials such as concrete look wonderful with succulent plants, and suggest a sort of dry, rough landscape. Different materials create different moods. Concrete and metal look urban and edgy, terracotta and ceramic more earthy and calm. Baskets and plastic pot or cane with clay pots have a more traditional look.

There are various types of clay pots available in the market and they come in various shapes and sizes. We select the pots according to the plant size, because some are small at the beginning but they soon grow to a great size. Some plants are man height; they are ideal for large tubs of twelve inches or higher. Ten or eight-inch tubs are perfect for medium size plants, such as aralia, pump, fichus or bamboo plants.

The market has an abundance of decorative clay pots. Some are floral printed, some may be glossy, others may be round, bucket or bowl-shaped. These types of pots are pretty durable, lasting up to thirty years or more.

These days we tend to go for frequent interior makeovers, particularly on festive occasions. Modifying your plant accessories, or changing their layout is a quick and easy way to do so. You can simply change their containers, add plates under the pots, or place the buckets on trays. You don't even have to use actual pots. Ceramic teapots, kettles, serving dishes and other utensils can easily double as quirky plant pots. You can also play with colour, or add stone chips to add an extra design dimension.

The pot is a basic item but there are some more tools and accessories essential for indoor gardening. One of the most important items in your indoor gardening are gloves, especially for handling prickly cacti. It is nice to have a pair specifically for working indoors on your potted plants.

You can use old kitchen spoons and forks for digging in a small pot, but miniature trowels and forks have greater aesthetic appeal. A watering can with a long spout is useful for gardening, but if you have one of those old-fashioned silver mini watering cans or small buckets for your indoor garden, they add an element of fun.

Finally, there are tiny accessories that you can use as a sort of garnishing to top off your plants with. There are many options, such as silver pellets, green moss, white pebbles, dried starfish, dried leaves, black pebbles, crushed shells, dead snails, buttons and stone. Sometimes we use some plastic animal figure, such as birds, butterflies, starfish etc.

In the end, mix and match to create a look that best expresses your personal tastes and your space will always look fresh and pretty.

By Nazneen Haque Mimi
Interior Consultant
For details, contact: journeym@citechco.net
Photos: Tamim Sujat and Journeyman Archive



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