Muslims Who Fast: Qais, who is supposed to be doing his GCSEs this week, enjoys a stress-free Ramadan

This is Qais, who would’ve been doing his GCSEs had there not been a pandemic (Picture: Qais Hussain)

Our series Muslims Who Fast has explored the lives of Muslims spending Ramadan in an unprecedented time.

All our lives have changed under the pandemic, especially for Muslims who normally spend the holy month in mosques, doing charity work, and generally socialising.

For young people, particularly, the coronavirus outbreak throws their future plans into disarray.

Qais Hussain is one such student who was supposed to be doing his GCSEs this month.

Instead he finds himself making the most of Ramadan at home and enjoying a stress-free, revision-free time.

But it’s not just all fun and games for Qais. The 16-year-old is using the downtime to brush up on his history knowledge so he can become a teacher in the future.

Let’s find out more about Qais and see what he’s had to eat for iftar.

Qais with one of his three sisters (Picture: Qais Hussain)

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a 16-year-old student from sunny Bradford. I live at home with my mum, dad and my three beautiful sisters. 

In the future, I aspire to be a history teacher. I would like to have a job where I help people or shape their lives – and being a teacher does both of that. 

Qais says that while lockdown has felt like prison for some, to him it’s felt free (Picture: Qais Hussain)

I was supposed to do my GCSEs this year, but they got cancelled! So, I have been working for a mental health organisation called KCKD.

KCKD is all about teenage mental health. It provides support for teenagers and parents under stress through life challenges, major exams and generally throughout life. 

What are you having for iftar today? 

Today we’re having roast chicken, with delicious meat steaks and homemade chicken parmesan. My sister Aliza made banoffee pie.  

The family enjoyed a roast chicken (Picture: Qais Hussain)
And chicken parmesan (Picture: Qais Hussain)

What has Ramadan under lockdown been like for you?

Ramadan under lockdown has been very different from what I imagined. The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise in other ways too. This year, I wasn’t planning on participating in Ramadan due to my exams.

But I have been able to fast and participate in the religious customs I wanted to. Having the freedom to connect with my family and God alike feels wonderful.

Ironically, everybody feels trapped in lockdown however I feel free.

I have been able to breathe – I don’t have stress and I get to focus on myself. This past year has just been exams, exams, exams but finally, I get to discover and explore who I am as a person.

Apart from doing a bit of schoolwork (despite it being frivolous as exams are cancelled), I also help my little sister with her schoolwork.   

What does Ramadan mean to you?

Ramadan means a lot to me, apart from being an important custom in my religion. It always gives me the opportunity to reflect on who I am and what I want to be. 

A banoffee pie for dessert (Picture: Qais Hussain)

What do you miss or crave when you fast?

I miss iced coffee and chewing gum. I probably have about three chewing gum packets a day. 

But I hate the fact that I don’t have as much energy. I love reading non-fiction books, but it requires a lot of energy and concentration – two things that I lack during Ramadan.

Qais loves his iced coffees (Picture: Qais Hussain)

Do you and your family have any traditions or rituals for the month?

We try to pray as much as we can together, after iftar we watch a movie together and we have a dedicated time just for family and relaxing.  

Between 6-7:30 pm is our quality family time. We all take a break from our work, we get away from our screens, and we either play a game, talk, or pray. 

My sister Ayra and I also play a game of basketball sometimes. It usually leaves me pretty thirsty.

Any particularly fond memories of previous Ramadan celebrations?

I have loads of fond memories.

But one thing I am missing is time I would usually spend with my Dadi (grandma). I used to love that every day in Ramadan that I would go to her house, we would pray and we would share brilliant stories. 

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