Fasting & Fighting COVID-19: A Look into Muslim Doctors’ Ramadan

At the start of Ramadan, during the daily government briefing on coronavirus, the UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said, “This Ramadan, many Muslims who serve their country in the NHS.. will not be sharing the joy of this month as they normally do… I know how important the daily iftar is, how important communal prayers are at night, and how important the `Eid festival is. Thank you for your service and your citizenship.”

With over 26,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK, one of the worst in Europe, we are all grateful to those serving on the frontline. Amongst this group are NHS staff, of whom, according to the 2019 NHS Workforce Statistics publication, 42,202 are Muslim.

Different doctors work in different areas and have different experiences. Some are exposed to the most severe cases in person and others provide services remotely via phone and video calls. Some wear full PPE, others just face masks with their scrubs. We reached out to some doctors, asking them to share how it is like fasting during Ramadan in a pandemic

Dr Kiran Rahim
Dr Kiran Rahim

“This Ramadan is going to be incredibly testing for doctors everywhere. Fasting in PPE and standing for hours is something that we are not used to. It’s going to test our faith and some of us will choose not to fast. Some of us are self-isolating.

“Usually after a hard day work, we can go home and be comforted by our families. For some of us, that won’t happen. We won’t have the comfort of family, the comfort of communal prayer, the comfort of loved ones to lean on this year. And probably not the comfort of `Eid as a joyous celebration. It’s going to be tough for all of us, but we are all in this together.”

Dr. Kiran Rahim

“I’m doing a lot of patient consultations on video and telephone, so am not planning to use PPE this week. I personally find no significant difference between working in Ramadan and working at other times, perhaps just feeling more tired but strangely feeling much more organised as a result of incorporating extra diligence in my day to day life!”

Dr. Waqar Shah

Dr. Irfan Halim
Dr. Irfan Halim

“It’s hell! Death and disease. We don’t think about food, days and nights blend into one. Clocks cease to exist and our faith in God keeps us ticking along.”

Dr. Irfan Halim

Dr Omar Hussain
Dr Omar Hussain

“Working in Ramadan during the frontline is a mixed feeling. During the coronavirus outbreak, there is an increased comradely which is great but there is an increased fear amongst staff also. “Donning” and wearing PPE is very tough. The plastic suits make you heat up and the masks make your mouth dry. Wearing for some time also gives you a headache.  

“This is why most British Board of Imams and Scholars have said it’s not compulsory to fast if you fee you can not function normally. I’ve had one day of fasting and being on the frontline, it was difficult. But in a way, I’ve learnt to switch everything else off and so when I am treating my patients, they have my complete focus. Actually I’ve found it harder to fast today when I’m not working.”

Dr. Omar Hussain

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About Farrukh Younus
Farrukh I Younus has a background in mobile phone strategy across Europe and Asia, and has visited China on more than 25 occasions. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the EU in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences. He currently runs a video platform, Implausibleblog, delivering lifestyle content via social media; where his focus is on understanding consumer behaviour with regards to digital content and digital advertising. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.