Hello my name is Hafsa
There is a notion in Islam which states that actions are based on your intentions and rewarded as such. As the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) stated:“the reward of deeds depends on his intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention” (Umar bin Al-Katthab).
This has an influence on how I work, as not only do I help those I work with to the best of my ability, but I do so knowing that I am strengthening my faith.
A key part and one of the five pillars of my faith is participating in the month of Ramadan. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, Ramadan is a time of self-improvement and reflection while refraining from anger and being compassionate and charitable.
There are people who fast daily, not by choice but because they have no other option. This month serves as a firm reminder of this, allowing us to gain understanding and empathy for the less fortunate. It’s common for Muslims to come together to break fast (iftaar) and host meals for others, creating a real sense of togetherness and community spirit.
Fasting at work brings its own challenges. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and things get that little bit trickier.
My family are shielding at the moment, so to protect them while I work I have moved out from the family home. This means, as everyone across the UK is experiencing, social gatherings and visiting others isn’t possible, and our iftaar meals are no longer a social affair. This has its impacts both culturally and emotionally.
Despite this huge change in my regular Ramadan routine, I have felt that community spirit within the work place. After explaining Ramadan and what it involves, my colleagues have been so accommodating with swapping shifts, adjusting break times and even bringing in various food and items to help. It’s definitely made a huge difference to the Ramadan experience I thought I would be having amidst the pandemic, and as Ramadan comes to an end I can say it has been a positive one given the circumstances.
At times like this I’m reminded of my childhood, a big part of it revolved around being a carer for a close family member with longstanding mental health problems. This is now something I am happy to openly discuss, yet when younger I didn’t often disclose it to even my closest of friends.
A common experience for those from an ethnic minority background growing up in westernised society is feeling out of place or not quite fitting in. A real loss of cultural identity was something I know I felt growing up as a British Pakistani Muslim, but sadly even more so when considering my relatives’ condition. I don’t remember being taught about mental health problems, either through mainstream education or in any cultural / religious settings. When considering physical health, an illness was diagnosed and an appropriate treatment was available. For mental health problems, things weren’t as clear and I remember how people weren’t encouraged to openly discuss this.
Looking back it’s hard to say whether this was a true reflection of my experience or memories of heightened emotions, but I am happy to say that as a mental health nurse, I can see things are changing.
There is more support and services available for both patients and carers. I also feel mental health is becoming more recognised within the Pakistani and Muslim community. A local Islamic education centre has now introduced regular mental health workshops available to everyone and facilitated by professionals, something I would never have imagined happening growing up. Mental health doesn’t appear to be as much of a taboo subject anymore, and though it seems we still have a long way to go, things appear to be heading in the right direction.
Thank you for reading and have a good weekend,