A Spiritual Journey - EID

The holy month of Ramadan comes around every year, bringing with it a whole lot of festivities and celebration. The pious month of fasting, waking up for sehri, and eagerly awaiting iftar demonstrates the power of self-restraint, and reminds one of the many blessings we are showered with every day.

Zakat, charity given to the poor at the end of the holy month, is a major part of Ramadan and Eid. It ensures that aside from all the fervour and celebration of the month, the importance of sacrifice and feeding others in need supersedes our own hunger and desire. Ramadan is also associated with mouth-watering delicacies, such as Haleem and Sheer Khurma, along with preparations for Eid, which marks the last day of the month-long fasting.

Eid is always celebrated with a bang, starting with prayers on the morning of Eid, followed by a fair bit of indulging in delicious offerings. The entire festival is beautifully concocted to bring family and friends together to celebrate this memorable time. This week, as we do every year, we take a closer look at some traditions followed by families in the City of Pearls during Ramadan and on the day of Eid, to better understand the meaning and importance of this month. Here’s what they had to say!

Dr Saleha, Imtiaz, Seemeen, Arshad, Amal, Faraz, and Sadaf Qureshi

The Qureshis are an impressive bunch of achievers, making sure to be the best in their  respective fields. For them, Ramadan is a festival of peace and togetherness, stressing on the importance of family time. Arshad – an orthodontist – explained, “During Ramadan, we try our best to spend time around each other, whether we are at home or out for a meal. Being together with your family is the essence of the festival.”

With so many members in this Hyderabadi family, there is a lot that happens just before and during the festival. “In this holy month we practice the act of fasting, for which we break bread around 7 pm, right after the sun sets. This requires a lot of preparation due to the varieties of food we eat on a daily basis,” Arshad added. Although most find the month to be hectic, Arshad disagreed. “Our routines are not affected much during this month. In fact our evenings are a bit more relaxed.”

Although there are so many favourites of this festival, the part this family loves the most is the food. “The city is lit up throughout the month, and we love to try all the festive specials,” Faraz – the younger son of Imtiaz and Seemeen – and an entrepreneur, revealed. He went on complimenting the food served on the day of Eid, saying, “Everyone loves trying Haleem from various restaurants. But the highlight of the food during this month, for me, is the special spread prepared on Eid. It includes at least four to five different home-made sweets – those are my absolute favourites. ”They conclude by saying that Ramadan is a month of bringing your family closer, as well as a time to cleanse your soul.”

Ayman and Maleeha Ali Khan

The witty Ayman, and her sister Maleeha, believe that they lead a clichéd ‘Irani-tea-after-every-meal’ type of existence. They come from a regular, laid-back Hyderabadi family. Come Ramadan, and the sisters can’t get enough of the festivities, relishing the beautiful atmosphere. “Ramadan is an extremely sacred and beautiful time of year for us. Fasting and performing special prayers are the highlights of our month-long religious journey. It’s more about cleansing the mind, body and soul by abstaining from excesses, rather than simply denying the body food and water,” said Ayman. Their family has made sure that it’s all about the spirit of community and charity – the core essence of the month.

Every Ramadan, sehri and iftar are the two major meals of the day that the family bonds over. They spend the month fasting, praying and overdosing on the delicacies that are cooked up in the kitchen. According to Ayman, what makes everything worth it is perhaps the sense of peace that each Fajr prayer brings, which she described as an unparalleled feeling. “Also, the fragrance of my mother’s Seviyan as they simmer away in the kitchen comes a close second to that,” she added. When the month finally ends and Eid is at their door, it’s a day full of family bonding and indulging in one too many servings of Sheer Khurma, she explains. What’s her other favourite thing about Eid? “Dressing up and visiting relatives is great,” she says. “But of course, receiving Eidi money from the elders makes Eid my favourite day of the year!” And absolutely necessary iftar food? “Dahi Vadey! No iftar is ever complete at our house without this dish!”

Dr Kamal, Farhana, Kamal, and Fatima Lateefunnisa

This hardworking family of three always has their hands full. Liaqat is a dermatologist while his wife Farhana runs Novacare. Fatima is studying law while managing an ethnic designer wear label with her mother called ‘F&F’. Coming from an old and traditional Hyderabadi family, their month of Ramadan is always very eventful. “Ramadan means a period of self-discipline as well as piety and charity,” Liaqat explained. “It brings our attention to those who are without food or water, reminding us that we are blessed and should always think about the less fortunate.” He added that Ramadan is a preparation of life, and being honest, kind and thankful is of utmost importance. When asked about his favourite part of the month, Liaqat immediately claimed that it is iftar. “The entire city is lit up during iftar time; special dishes and snacks are prepared and shared with neighbours and guests. All sorts of delicacies, such as a special Daal, Falooda, fries, fruits, juices, and of course, the much touted Haleem, are ever present.”

The day of Eid is kicked off by offering prayers of thanks in the morning, wishing relatives and friends with a hug and with everyone’s favourite, Sheer Khurma. “Each house has its own recipe, and we have our special way of making it, too. There is also a breakfast of Seviyan Keema that is prepared specially for Eid.” What really makes Eid special for this family is the voluntary distribution of clothes and food, other than the obligatory zakat and fitra. “We wear new clothes and eat good food together with all our brethren from every strata of society,” Liaqat added. Lunch parties follow where there is an atmosphere of gaiety from one of piety and restraint.

Syed Sarosh, Samea Syed, Azaan Ali, and Zaara Syed

Syed Sarosh, who runs a real estate company, is the head of this family of four, along with his wife Samea Syed. And according to son Azaan, his mother Samea is the reason for the Syed families’ quality of life, energy and happiness. Azaan has finished his education at one of the best universities in the UK, and has now stepped into the family’s real estate business. Meanwhile, his younger sister Zaara is a student and a budding artist. The Syeds use Ramadan to connect with their inner spiritual selves. They describe it as a month of purity and charity. “The month is always keenly awaited in our household. It adds a great festive feel to the entire year,” they say. The kitchen comes to life early in the morning for sehri and by the evening, the whole family keenly awaits the scrumptious iftar.

Aside from all this, preparations are made to provide to the needy on a daily basis as that is one of the most important aspects of the month. “The entire month is dedicated to prayers and fasting and being the best version of yourself,” says Samea. They look forward to the iftar get-togethers for the upbeat atmosphere; but the food is definitely the icing on the cake, they say.

The day of Eid starts with the morning prayers at the mosque, followed by a family lunch which takes place at Samea’s parent’s house – an annual tradition. The evenings are spent visiting friends and relatives, as well as hosting a few. The day ends with dinner at Samea’s grandmothers’ place, which is also a long-standing custom of the family. Of course, we had to ask Samea about the food specialities in their household, to which she replied: “Our household specialities are the Lukhmis and the Haleem, which are prepared almost every day. These dishes have been around for decades, courtesy of Sarosh’s family cook. And of course, on the day of Eid, Sheer Khurma is an absolute must in any Muslim household!”

Mahboob, Saba and Zuwaina Baig

Mahboob Baig is an entrepreneur handling a food franchise, while his wife Saba Khan is a location head of AP and Telangana for affluent credit cards for Axis Bank. This Ramadan is even more special for the happy couple, as they have just welcomed their adorable little baby girl Zuwaina Baig. Saba mentioned that last Eid they gave their family Eidi – usually money given by elders to the younger ones as a reward for successfully fasting during the month – in envelopes which read ‘Congratulations, you are going to be a dada!’ (or whatever their relation would be to the little one), to announce their pregnancy.

The couple is excited to teach the newest member of their family the meaning of this auspicious month. “It is an extremely important month for my family, as it not only is a month of fasting but it truly means abstaining from all needs during the day. Our mind is pulled more in the direction of our creator due to indulging in regular prayers and reciting from the holy book. It gives us great spiritual and physical strength,” explains Saba.

The start of Ramadan brings a major routine change in their lives. “We break our fast post sunset and this is followed by late prayers, called taraweeh, where one goes to the mosque.” Along with all the praying, preparation on the food front during the breaking of fast, iftar is their favourite. While sehri in the morning is the normal home meal, iftar is full of traditional dishes. “Sometimes, due to our professional lives, we tend to get a bit busy and are unable to spend quality time with the family. My personal favourite part of Ramadan is how iftar is a family occasion, with the entire family taking part in the preparation and breaking the fast together,” says Mahboob. When it comes to the D-Day, the couple explains, “Eid is always a day of great enjoyment and happiness, as well as the feeling of fulfilment of having completed the month of fasting. We go for namaz early in the morning, and then we head back home for the traditional breakfast of Khichdi, Kheema and Khatti Dal. Lunch follows, which the rest of our family join us for, including my older sister and in-laws. We then spend the day meeting elders and friends.”

Hassan Munawar, Kulsum Hassan, Romana Hassan, and Zara

Preschool teacher and mother of 11-year-old Zara, Romana has her plate quite full. But when Ramadan comes around, however busy she is, her focus is entirely shifted to the festival and its meaning. “We believe that fasting strengthens one’s relationship with God. Prayers, charity, and generosity make the month even more special,” she explained. “The month is full of blessings and mercy that is showered on us. One feels a stronger urge to indulge in prayers, getting the habit of tasbeeh, making sure to maintain the right intentions. Offering prayers regularly and reading and reciting the Holy Book are all important parts of this month.” She strives to instil the importance of abstinence and charity in her young one. Spending so much time with your loved ones, praying and eating together brings the family closer, making their bond stronger each day of the month.

“Ramadan feels incomplete without family gatherings, and also all the iftar treats such as Samosa, Dahi Vada, Dal, and Pakoras!”

Talking about Eid, Romana stressed the prayer aspect, stating, “We offer Eid prayers in the morning at our house, in which we thank God for granting us the strength to be able to fast through the month.” Other things that the family looks forward to are the festivities that follow. “My daughter especially gets the most excited for Eid. She wakes up early, prays, happily dolls up and rushes to her grandparents to ask for Eidi,” she laughs. “My mother makes the best Sheer Khurma and we have our family get-together at home.” And what’s her favourite food during Ramadan? “The list is endless, but I enjoy Haleem and Dahi Vadey the most!”

Sumbul, Zoya and Zoheb Alladin

Sumbul Siddiqui is a counselling psychologist and a social worker who runs an NGO called Khalid Educational Society, which works towards educating and imparting emotional and social skills to underprivileged children. Most importantly, though, she’s the mother of two: Zoya and Zoheb. Together they’re a close-knit family that grasps the opportunity to grow closer in the holy month of Ramadan. “Ramadan is a very pious month for us since it’s the time when the first revelation of the Holy Book took place.” But Sumbul makes sure to recognise the importance of charity and abstinence this month as well, adding, “Not only does the month signify prayers and fasting, but also doing good deeds and charity. When you experience hunger and thirst, you not only learn self restraint, but also sympathise more with those who have little to eat every day. This teaches you to be more kind and charitable. When you give to the poor and needy, you are also making yourself happy. For me, zakat is a very important part of Ramadan. This also translates into more gratitude in our hearts for the abundant blessings we have.” Aside from that, the family’s most cherished Ramadan moments consist of having friends and family join them for iftar and Eid shopping. Sumbul went on to say, “Like every true Hyderabadi, a trip to Charminar at night to soak in the sights and sounds of the colourfully lit Laad Bazaar is a must!”

Moving on to the best part of every festival, when it comes to food, Sumbul goes all out this month. “I love to cook, and so of course, there is the ubiquitous Hyderabadi Gosht ki Biryani on the table. Then there are Shikampurs, Pasinde Ke Kebab, Sheermal, Lucknowi style Murgh Korma, Baghaare Baigan, and the list goes on! My parents come from Lucknow so there are a lot of Avadhi flavours in my cooking as well. My mom also prepares her much awaited Lucknowi Seviyan, which we all love!”

Amina, Zafar, Omer, Ruba, and Arhaan Javeed

The Javeed family eagerly awaits Ramadan every year, as they believe the fasting aspect of the festival is an excellent feeling of soul cleansing and rejuvenation. Zafar Javeed – a prominent educationalist who runs several professional institutions associated with the banking sector while also dabbling in politics – says that Ramadan is a month of piety, soul cleansing and fasting. According to Omer Javeed, Zafar’s younger son, “The month of Ramadan changes our schedules completely. We end up sleeping in till later in the morning due to the special prayers that we spend the night completing.”

Towards the end of the month, preparations for Eid begin. It is also an important time as the nights are spent praying, thanking God for all the blessings showered on them and asking for forgiveness at this holy time. Omer explains that the day of Eid is spent mainly meeting the elders in the family to seek their blessings, and feasting with relatives and friends. “The day of Eid feels truly special, as it is the culmination of the month-long fasting period. Special dishes are prepared to honour the commitment and drive shown by people during the past month.” Dishes like Sheer Khurma and other savouries are relished, as is the feeling of cleansing both soul and body.