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Ramadan in Iraq

Hadeel Al-Tak is the head of Islamic Relief’s Gender and Family department in Iraq. In this, the first of our Ramadan diaries from around the globe, she explains what the holy month is like in one of the world’s most dangerous cities.

“With the dawn of the first day of Ramadan, you feel that something has changed inside you. Something has captured your heart and filled it with complete serenity. You collect your soul and prepare to fast during the days and pray during the nights, in the hope of atoning for your sins.

“Before Ramadan comes people spend so much time getting ready; markets are busy and the cost of food increases as everyone wants to indulge their family during this noble month.

“Baghdad, where I live, is trying to recover from a tragedy and mend its wounds. The people who live here hope that they will wake each morning during Ramadan to the sound of birds and the smell of flowers and not to the explosions that have racked this city for so many years.

“Baghdad’s mosques wait in anticipation of the faithful and their prayers, and the breakfast tables are spread full of food for the poor and hungry. It is common for people to knock on our door in the morning to ask for food or drink, and we give whatever we can.

“When I break my fast in the evening and put the first morsel of food in my mouth, I always remember those who have been hungry for so many days and nights, those who have no water to quench their thirst, while I am safe and well.

“I work with the most vulnerable people in society; widows, orphans, the sick, the elderly and those who have no-one to turn to but God. These are the people we provide Ramadan food parcels for. The children are so excited to see what is inside their parcel when it arrives. This year it contains meat, sugar, lentils and oil.

“But I know that people do not need or want to rely on this aid forever. I run a project that aims to empower widows by helping them to start their own small businesses. These women work so hard to meet the needs of their children and to ensure that they can provide them with the joys of Ramadan. I have noticed how they gradually become more confident and happy as their wages have increased, enabling them to prepare early for Ramadan this year.

“During this month I remember God’s blessings for us as He enables me and my colleagues to carry on assisting those in need, and the strength He gives me that allows me to carry on when I remember the tragic scenes I have witnessed in Baghdad, Fallujah and Erbil.

“During the year, the fortunate wait for Ramadan to pay their zakat, while the less fortunate wait to receive this charity. At Islamic Relief we use this month to build a bridge between the two, and to ease the suffering of those in need, whoever and wherever they may be.”

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