Remona Aly
Tuesday 26 March 2024 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

Ramadan and the golden essence

Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

Ramadan and the golden essence 


My alarm clock shook the room at 3.30 this morning, leaving me dazed and confused – one eye half open, the other firmly shut in denial. When I finally remembered what year it was, I stumbled to the kitchen for a pre-dawn meal of a bowl of granola and three rounds of water. I was prepping myself to be nil by mouth for the next 14 hours, because of a promise I make every year for 30 days.

It’s now midway through Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and for someone with the grazing power of a herd of buffalo, it’s challenging to say the least. 

But no food and drink during daylight hours is only the baseline. Like an origami flexagon, my life is folded inside out this month: praying in the night instead of sleeping through it, focusing on inner peace instead of thinking ‘dinner please’ – as per Kung Fu Panda – and making space for my spirit and self-refinement to stretch, instead of squeezing it into a busy schedule. 

None of it is easy. When life in general turns inside out and upside down, so much can feel like a test. Trying to survive each day without someone precious by my side, as emptiness creeps in. Having hope slowly crushed under the pestle of pessimism, when I can’t see light in the long road ahead. 

Yet I reflect that each struggle could be soil for growth, in every hurt there can be healing, and each trial can lead to treasure. 

I take into my hungry arms the words of the American Muslim writer, A. Helwa, when she says, “In Arabic, the word fitna, meaning ‘hardship’, stems from the word fatanah, which means ‘to test gold, burn with fire’. Just as gold is heated to extract valuable elements… it is through the fire of our trials that our golden essence is unearthed.”

Through every challenge I’ve met and each sacrifice I’ve made, in Ramadan and beyond, I reckon there lies an opportunity to unearth my golden essence. I just need to keep walking through the heat to move towards something beautiful.

And I am looking forward to moving towards a few delicious treats when the sun goes down tonight.

To listen, click here Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show