Lauren Booth – Heart Soul – Episode 22

Lauren Booth
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AI: Transcript ©
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Welcome to heart and soul with me, Lauren booth, your space to reflect. My guest today is Elizabeth wood. She is a PR and marketing coordinator at Qatar Foundation's pre University office. She is also a life coach for ladies in Qatar and encourages personal development and well being through her sessions. Assalamu alaikum alaikum Salaam, Lauren, nice to see you back again. Today we're going to be talking about this element of how the fasting of Muslims in their own countries, impacts on visitors and on the daily lives of others. What can we take away from this? How can we actually coordinate to all enjoy this month? whether or not we're Muslim, is a very interesting point,

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Lauren, because being from a Western background myself, I often hear comments of my own family, saying, Oh, we really want to visit you but not during Ramadan. So it's it's one of those things that most experts try and avoid. And that's their their prerogative really, because we can appreciate that those who are not fasting or those who do not have Ramadan in their yearly calendar so to speak, we can understand that it might be a bit strenuous. Well, due to the heat, first of all, since it falls in the summer this year, as well as the lack of things to do for visitors. However, it depends on how you look at it really, because there is a lot to do during Ramadan. It's

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just a different style and a different feeling. So there's going to be a lot of hidden blessing in this month. It is a change of the tone of society, and definitely of the amount of traffic for example. So let's look at some elements that we can all enjoy together and benefit from by slowing down. This is a month of slowness and reflection. Oh, absolutely. So some tips for expats, who may not be fasting this year. How about make the most of it by seeking out those beautiful iftaar invitations, I'm pretty sure that most of you know more than a handful of people who are fasting, and who would absolutely love to extend their invitations towards your My advice would be go for it

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and and enjoy the spirituality, enjoy the culture, enjoy the delicious food and see what you can get out of this whole new month. Even if you're not a Muslim, or even if you're not fasting yourself, maybe you can even try fasting just to know what it feels like. Because this is really important, the ideal in a so many faith cultures that this cleansing of the stomach this relaxation of our need to constantly feed ourselves and we are oh let's be honest, we're in a grazing culture at the moment. Never before in history. Has there been so much access to food and so little need of it in wealthy nations where we're overeating. I feel like a snack. I'm walking past somewhere. Well, that

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snack option is gone this month. So let's become perhaps benefit by taking a break from from all of that eating. Absolutely. Not only that, it's it's not just the focus on lack of food and drink throughout the day.

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One of the misconceptions is that, and it's quite sad actually. I've heard non Muslims friends of mine say oh, well, you guys starve yourselves all day long. But then as soon as you know,

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the coolest prayer comes in, you guys have all this lavish food. And it is quite sad because there are families or people that do do that. But this is not the point of Ramadan. In fact, food and drink is the last thing that we should be concentrating on detoxing ourselves. We're also fasting from bad habits

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giving up certain bad habits that we have during the year and such as such as smoking such as backbiting.

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But anything maybe you wake up late for work, maybe there's something in your life, maybe you're rude to your family or you've got an anger problem, all the things that you

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as a person you want to get rid of this month, this is actually what you're fasting from as well. I want to just take us back to that

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Word backbiting,

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tell us Is it correct that if you talk about someone in a negative, unpleasant way, if you're fasting, it can negate the blessings of that fast? Well, absolutely, that's exactly the reason that that's exactly why I said, food and drink is one of the

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last things that we consider when what we should consider when we're fasting because Allah doesn't need us to give up food and drink. Okay, I know that sounds quite surreal, because when someone say it says, I am in a state of fasting, oh, no, sorry, I'm fasting today. The connotation is always food and drink. But there's a lot of other things that go into it. Like, if somebody tries to get into an argument with you this month, and there's plenty of arguments to be found on the roads or, you know, people may be short tempered. May Allah protect us. Somebody is looking for an argument with you and your household. Can you do this for me? Now? Why didn't you do this for me, we actually

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have a special response for this month, and I urge us all Muslim or non Muslim, if you are doing the fast to respond, as Elizabeth is going to remind us now, it's basically the way we respond as a lahoma in the sign means I am Allah, I'm fasting. It's a it's a very basic, da, or we call it supplication, whereby if someone does get under our skin, we literally just reply with a very basic and simple statement, so to speak, and it is I am fasting, I am fasting. So it kind of covers everything, meaning, don't get into an argument with me, I'm not going to respond. You're not going to get under my skin today.

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And I love the repetition of it as well, because actively that slows down the heart. It gives us quality time to consider our own actions, and not to inflate an unnecessary argument. Well, it all comes back to you know, the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Sallam when he said, if you don't have anything good to say, remain silent. So this is even more so necessary to follow in Ramadan, especially when we should be watching what we say, watching how we talk to people, and taking care in general of our

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of our, of our psychology as well.

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In 2008, I was in Gaza for a month. And I didn't know when I arrived that it was the month of Ramadan because I wasn't Muslim. But I soon found out day one, I would go to people's houses on invitation come and meet this family come and see this child. And the first thing the family would say when I walked in is we're so sorry, we don't have anything to offer you at this time. Because it's Ramadan. And I just thought, this is rubbish. This is too difficult. I mean, people are already hungry and thirsty. And now I have to be hungry and thirsty. But my attitude changed. Because I started to try too fast. And as I did that, I thought this is really beautiful, you kind of come

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into a sync with your environment, you're no longer something external forcing your you know, the daily needs on an environment that is changing for a religious reason. We can be at peace with it.

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Yeah, absolutely. And one of the other things that I noticed is that concentration levels seem to increase when you're fasting. That might seem the contrary. Because oftentimes you think, man, I need a coffee, and I need a sandwich or whatever to start my day in order to concentrate. In actual fact, I mean, scientifically they've studied that your brain is that much more in tune with your you know, with your with your body in the way that your body works and your energy. So oftentimes, I found that when my stomach is empty, I can actually concentrate on where if it whether it's writing a blog, or getting something done, simply because there is nothing else to distract me not even

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It's an interesting point. And people have different opinions about that. But the only way you're going to see if it works is if you try it, honestly, it's amazing for memory as well.

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So the way you would try it then is practically you get up before the dawn prayer. And I would recommend my household we have porridge with some honey and some banana and some raisins and a kind of special juice drink with some energy in it and quite a bit of water. And you have that and you make a prayer for the day. And then you can go

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Back to sleep, or you can, if you're Muslim, we do extra prayers. But normally after, so you get some sleep. Yes, so we call the pre dawn meal.

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And when we break our fast we call it after the opening of the fast. So anyone who's interested, who's non Muslim who's interested in in, partaking in this beautiful event, there will definitely be people all around you who will be more than happy to feed you your FTR meal,

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you're probably going to get the invitation before you even ask someone for an invitation as soon as they know that you're fasting. So you don't need to worry about that at all. Just give it a go. And let us you know, be nice to know, maybe for some to get some callers, you know, maybe we can know how did it go. And if you really did increase in reflection or in in concentration that particular day, or you're just so tired, you don't want to do it again, anything is is welcome. Because it's just nice to know.

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Other people who've tried it, do you know, I actually know.

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A man in the north of England who fasted the full 30 days because he lives in a large Muslim population area. And he thought I just want to try this. And his experience was so dynamic. He said he's going to do it again this year. He loved it, he felt so inspired by it. And this difference of day and night and doing different things with our time. I would suggest this. If you're thinking about fasting, first of all, to get some really good Whole Foods, some bananas ready for your soul. And please do feel you can share with your work colleagues, the first thing to do is really get support because you're new to this say, I'm fasting to today. How are you feeling today? Share this

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and just watch the smiles come in and the advice and the invitations? Absolutely. I mean, I remember, before I was a Muslim, I thought it was a crazy idea to fast. But I thought that because all my friends were We were at school at the time. So I thought I will support them. And I'll go along with it too. It was difficult for me. But I noticed that it's mind over matter as well. The accomplishment and the feeling of accomplishment when you do actually eat

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at the breaking of the fast, you start realizing that there's so much more to life as well, because there are people who just cannot do that. That is another really important consideration.

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The fact of fasting, to feel what hunger feels like we don't experience hunger Thanks be to God. It's not one of the tests that we usually have in this society, and to feel it and go. This is what a vast number, millions, perhaps billions of people on this planet feel every day. And this thirst. There are people who experience that as the norm throughout their lives. And this is a way of softening our hearts and putting compassion back in and gratitude because that's a big word, isn't it in the month of Ramadan gratitude? Yes, we often say in all of our prayers, Alhamdulillah which means praise and thanks be to God. Simply because like Lauren said, we are not used to feeling

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hunger, we probably never have felt real hunger. And let's be honest, when we are fasting, we do know that a certain time that hunger will be diminished. Now,

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that doesn't happen for the people who are going hungry and other places in the world. So it's only a small indication or very small exercise of knowing what it feels like to be hungry or thirsty. So you'll never really or ham the law that we're we're blessed with them with with food and drink, but we'll never really feel what those people feel when my stomach starts grumbling only occasionally because actually the the spiritual elements kick in and you don't bother about bite your stomach. You can quiet in it, do you not I say haspin Allah, no matter what he'll and I just tell my stomach a lie sufficient for me. Don't Don't mess about this month. Okay? Allah is enough. Belief is enough.

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And then my stomach goes up and it goes quiet. Again, it's mind over matter, isn't it because I've noticed that outside of Ramadan. If any of you have tried fasting for

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just for health reasons or for making up a fast that you missed, it seems so much harder than in the actual month of Ramadan. We'll be back with more tips on fasting after this short break.

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I always

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knew that this was going to be a step that I would take. At first, I was a little hesitant because I knew things were going to change. But then I decided it was the right decision to make. So on the first of January 2004, my journey began. And I finally decided to put on the hijab. Every girl who puts on the hijab is faced with some sort of obstacle. For some, it's their families not wanting them to wear it. Others have self esteem issues with the others face doubts about it. The challenge I face was one that many others have also faced, studying and going to a high school with hardly any Muslims and where you're the first Muslim people have met was no easy task. as teenagers fitting in

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is the most fundamental thing in high school. Having no friends in high school is something every teenager tries to avoid. So I tried to be like them, whatever the latest trend was, I went along with it. Not just that, but I needed to keep up with the latest beauty standards. Looking in the mirror for me was an exercise to try and pinpoint all the things wrong with me, and that I needed to change. My self esteem became dependent on the makeup, I will. On top of this, there was no way I could hide the fact that I was not like the other kids at school. I was embarrassed. And I would often ask myself why I needed to be so different. So I went about my high school life struggling

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with my identity, trying to answer the question of who I was really, the truth is, I felt extremely lonely.

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Looking back the reasoning why I was so embarrassed of who I was, was because I had yet not fully understood the hijab. I thought hijab was purely about modesty. I thought the hijab was there just to protect women from the gaze of men. But unfortunately, that was a very shallow and two dimensional understanding of the hijab. It was not until I got to uni and started to take learning about my religion seriously that something happened. I fell in love. I fell in love with the hijab because I came to understand that it was not simply a piece of fabric draped over my body to conceal beauty, and preserve modesty. It was a physical manifestation of my submission and connection with

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my Lord, and external representation of my intimate spirituality. When I learnt the rationale for the hijab presented in the end, I was blown away. Not only did it shatter my shallow understanding of the hijab, you prove to me God had validated my beauty. Therefore, I need to make the most of the opportunities and blessings I've been gifted with. Knowing this has actually pushed me to constantly improve myself and show my actions and character are in line with the teachings of Islam. But we need to understand that by wearing the hijab, I'm not declaring I am Islam. Rather, I am a Muslim, meaning I'm someone who is trying to follow this religion who accepts it as the truth sees beauty in

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it, and hopes to beautify myself with it. Ultimately, no one is perfect. As humans, we're susceptible to making mistakes. The hijab doesn't make you a more perfect or righteous human being. Rather, it's a constant reminder to keep striving and excel in your personal and spiritual development. Remember, no matter how dark the world gets, be like that star that stands out and shines the way for others to see.

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Welcome back to heart and soul with me, Lauren booth today, my guest is Elizabeth wood. And we are talking about fasting, whether you're Muslim or non Muslim, some of those tips and some of the understandings that we can have, I was honored to be with the Palestinian Olympic team during the London Olympics, and they were fasting. And one day, when I met up with them, they said, We don't want to be necessarily in the high street because there's so much that is difficult for us to look at when we're trying to be in a spiritual zone. Can we go somewhere green? I said to them, no problem. Let's go to Hyde Park. They made a mistake. It was a hot summer day. And in Hyde Park of

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courses, women in bikinis, and these lovely young men and women spent the time looking at their feet. And I just had so much respect for this capacity to try to focus on what was not lustful in a very difficult different situation to what they used to. Yeah, it's, I mean, we can even relate to that not necessarily.

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Ladies and bikinis in Hyde Park, but for us, we can say okay, if we're used to going home after work and watching series after series, drive

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After drama, if it's if that's become a habit in our lives,

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we can think about what can we do this month to be slightly more spiritual? Whether it be reading more Quran, or if you're not a Muslim, why don't why not reading something intellectual? changing up the daily routine of filling our brains with the same type of information like drama or even social media, social media has become an addiction for for all of us, and we're all guilty of it. So maybe that can be one of our goals. Do you know what I don't know what I tried to do? I try to totally stop Twitter, and Facebook for the entire month. And you know, what's depressing is how difficult that is. But the time that it clears for other occupations, this idea that we have to be occupied

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with fun entertainment all the time, fills our brain a bit, doesn't it? We're with noise. Absolutely. Not only our brain, our hearts as well, because

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I don't know about about the listeners. But for me when I'm inundated with Facebook posts, and, and Snapchat is a new one that is slowly taking, because we need that as well, right? It's it's quite frustrating. And sometimes you'll notice that it dampens your energy. And sometimes we don't notice until it's too late or until we have a detox. So lots of Westerners and non Muslims, they do have this beautiful detox program that they do throughout the year to get away from certain things and overstimulate you know, stimulus. Wherever you're starting from today in your fast if it's your first one ever, if it's your 30th Ramadan, look at your daily habits and really try to maximise on

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the spiritual benefit. The tips we've got today are if for example, we like binge watching our soaps. Is that hour and a half really best filled with other people's imaginary issues? How about we fill it even with? If you really want to watch something if we want to watch something on TV or TED talks or spiritual TED talks? How about filling it? We haven't spoken about good deeds and helping others. Absolutely. As you know, Qatar is a hub for helping so many people who are less fortunate you might have seen

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on your daily route to work or home from work lots of laborers who are suffering in the heat. And

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thank God that we don't have to suffer what they do. It's a very small gesture if you get them a bottle of water or perhaps put together a mini parcel or picnic or what have you. Just to make their day that much. You know that much better? Doesn't have to be laborers. It could be your neighbors it could be I mean Be creative people you know there are so many good deeds to be found.

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All year round but Ramadan Why don't we make a start this Ramadan, then let's make a new start. Let's be the people that spread joy and help to one another. We ask Allah to bless our fasting to bless the visitors to Qatar to bless those who are welcoming and those who receive the welcome and to unite us all together in a Great Society of goodness. We'll be back tomorrow with more hunting. So the producer for this series is a hab a chef Assalamu alaikum

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