Cycling during Ramadan

Muslims like Mayda, from Cycle Sisters, London, have started to fast for the holy month of Ramadan, which this year runs through April into May

Cycling during Ramadan

Ramadan began early this morning, as the faint crescent moon first appeared in the sky. We spoke to Islamic cyclists to find out more about Ramadan and how it affects their cycling

Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and commemorates the holy book the Qur'an being revealed to the prophet Mohammed. Muslims all over the world observe the month by fasting between the hours of sunrise and sunset, when they are not supposed to eat or drink anything, including water.

There are certain exemptions for those who are very young, elderly, pregnant, ill, or when menstruating. Not only do the faithful fast, but they also generally try to abstain from certain other undesirable behaviours, such as lying, swearing or treating others badly. Kindness is also widely encouraged during Ramadan.

Those who break the fast or abstain for various reasons can make up for it by donating the cost of a meal to charity or perhaps a percentage of any wealth they have accumulated to the mosque, which can then be used to buy food for orphans to celebrate the end of Ramadan with the festival of Eid al-Fitr in May. 

Cycling during Ramadan


Khurshid (above), from Birmingham, works in finance and occasionally rides with Cycling UK-affiliated group Sara Park Community Cycle Club. He says that cycling has helped him cope with caring for his parents, who have both suffered from dementia, his father sadly losing his life to the illness just a few weeks ago.

Taking just one hour of exercise a day in his local park on his bike has helped him both physically and mentally to deal with the stresses of this bereavement and he soon hopes to feel confident enough to start commuting to work by bike as well. 

Cycling makes it harder, but ultimately sweeter when you break the fast because you really feel appreciative

Amin, Glasgow cycle commuter

Khurshid explains that it's better not to overdo it if you are cycling during Ramadan, especially if the weather is hot; however, he adds, it's up to the individual to determine how little or how much they are able to do: "Nobody is holding you to account or watching what you do or don't do, it's up to the individual's own self-discipline", he says. 

Of course, Ramadan will be very different again this year with no big groups being able to gather at the mosque each evening to take part in Itfar, the traditional shared meal that breaks the fast after sundown. However, Khurshid, who started taking part in Ramadan around the age of 14, says that lockdown has enabled people more time to plan what they are going to eat each evening.

Feelings of success and happiness

Amin, Glasgow, cycles to work in the city centre, says he's excited to be committing to fasting during the holy month: “I’m looking forward to Ramadan because it is a way of disciplining our spirituality and showing respect to the blessings that we have. It encourages us to be more humble, closer to nature and all other species around us, and to feel each other’s pain - thinking especially about people who are suffering right now.

"When you fast, you feel more appreciative because in order to fast you have to be healthy, not suffering from any illnesses. You value yourself because often, we forget to be grateful for being healthy mentally and physically. It’s also a huge reset every year for Muslim people. It makes you think about your family and to get in contact with them more often.



Amin

"Overall it is the core of my religion as it is only once a year and it is very challenging. If you complete it, it gives you feelings of success and happiness. Everything in this life has challenges and sacrificing eating and drinking, and disrupting your usual routine makes you think more about disciplining your soul and connecting more with God. You think about your mistakes and what you’ve done and how you can be better in the future."

Amin believes Ramadan is not just about self-denial, it's also about doing good and being a better person around others. He adds: "Ramadan is not about you; you can’t fast and not also be doing good, when you fast you have to be spiritually connected and not be hurting anybody - verbally or physically. Ramadan is fasting from bad things, not just fasting from eating and drinking."

Carrying on with normal life

People who are fasting during Ramadan are not expected to live life differently because of it. Amin says: "One of the challenges is to carry on living your life as normal, for example, if you cycle for a while you will need to hydrate. I cycle to work in the centre of Glasgow, but it’s important to keep living your life as normal because your body will adjust to it.

This is especially hard in the heat, but having deep faith and belief will always help you block out the hunger and thirst. When you’re cycling and working hard, you don’t always think of food and drink. 

"It’s not hot in Glasgow, so it’s not as hard as it is in places in Africa and Asia. When you start fasting, you automatically start adapting to being hungry and thirsty. This becomes fuel to make you believe even more in Ramadan. The more hungry and thirsty you are, the more connected you feel.

Cycling makes it harder, but ultimately sweeter when you break the fast because you really feel appreciative when you have Iftar in the evening, which is when you break the fast after sunset with a big meal.”

Cycling UK member Muhammed Islam says: "I work in the police control room in Hertfordshire so cover shift work. I find reducing the intensity but maintaining a sense of routine helps. Instead of cycling a round trip of more than 26 miles for work, I drive in half way and cycle the rest. Mix it about too: some days walk and listen to an audio book and I've even taken up kick scooter riding - very hard work - for shorter distances. All this is far better than completely coming to a halt in the holy month. If training is a part of life, I can increase the intensity just a little but do this on my days off work and a good tip is do these types of cycle rides an hour or two before sunset."

Get in touch

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone taking part in Ramadan this year. Please let us know your tips for carrying on cycling during the holy month.

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