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Observing Ramadan as a British Soldier

Lance Corporal Nile Janjua, of Stafford-based 22 Signal Regiment, serves with pride as a British Muslim soldier observing Ramadan. He explains how he celebrates Ramadan, which for him is a time to show discipline, respect and selfless commitment.

“I am always excited for the month of Ramadan, as this month holds great importance for Muslims,” says LCpl Nile, (28), an Information Services Engineer. “Being able to meet my obligations throughout the month, whilst maintaining my duties is quite fulfilling.”

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is possibly best known as a time when those who observe the month do not eat or drink during daylight hours. However, this is only one part or what is, to Muslims, considered to be the most important month.

During this month, there is an increased focus on spirituality through prayer and LCpl Nile, who has served for six years, is able to meet that obligation at work. He says: “My current work environment is an inclusive one, and my experiences during the month of Ramadan, all the way from Basic Training, have been positive ones.

“When I was in training, I was provided with meals for Ramadan, which are taken before first light (Suhoor meal) and then at sunset (Iftar meal). My chain of command understands the importance and significance of Ramadan for me by providing flexibility at work. For example, there are times when my working hours are varied which is very helpful for me,” he says.

Nutrition

LCpl Nile says: “Although I am exempt from physical training whilst fasting, it is important to maintain fitness levels therefore I find myself undertaking workouts in the evening either just before or after the sunset meal. For me, that means eating all the right foods and keeping away from junk food.”

There is support available about health and nutrition from the Army Physical Training instructors which is an excellent way to learn about what meals to take in order to provide appropriate fuel for your body during approximately 17hrs of abstaining from food and drink.

“It is a tradition from the days of the Prophet Muhammad to break your fast with dates,” says LCpl Nile. “There are many varieties available, but my personal favourite is the Medjool variety. I also prefer water. There is something quite special about a cool glass of water following a day’s fasting. I don’t have a specific favourite food; however, I prefer lamb and fish over chicken. I also like vegetables.”

Core values

LCpl Nile continues, “There is an increased focus on prayer as well as charity. It’s a way to recognise the lives of those who are less and offers opportunities to be more selfless. This year, along with my friends, I will be arranging meals for those who are less fortunate.

“It is also a time to be aware of how you conduct yourself and how you interact with others. It is a challenge to present yourself to others in a professional manner and stay humble during the fast. In fact, Ramadan for me is a time to show Courage, Discipline, Respect, Integrity, Loyalty and Selfless Commitment which are the Army’s own core values.

“My colleagues understand the importance Ramadan holds for me. They tend to look after me as I do for them whenever needed. They appreciate my efforts in terms of fasting. I do get a lot of questions asked about Ramadan and Muslim faith during this month, which provides me with an opportunity to tell them about my religion.

“Ultimately, having a better understanding about each other is an important way to learn more about your comrades,” he says.

After Ramadan, I will look out for opportunities to support my comrades as they have supported me during this special month." LCpl Nile Janjua

As a member of the Royal Corps of Signals, LCpl Nile and his colleagues maintain and repair the Army’s battlefield communication networks and information systems. He says: “I have always been interested in computing and technology from an early age. My family fondly referred to me as a future engineer form a young age.”

As for all faith communities, Mosques have been shut for most of the period that the pandemic has been with us. “It was quite strange not being able to pray alongside others as people were encouraged to pray at home,” says LCpl Nile.

“However, with the easing of restrictions, Muslims can now attend prayers but only in a Covid-safe way. Amongst others, this includes wearing a mask whilst indoors, taking your own prayer mats with you and ensuring that you are only inside the Mosque for the minimum time necessary.

“This has been quite a sad time as going to the Mosque is also a social occasion therefore the restrictions have had a far-reaching impact.”

Eid al-Fitr

This year Eid will be different. LCpl Nile explains: “I am hopeful that it will be a little better than last year when we were unable to celebrate at all. During any other year, Eid prayer services in some parts of the country are held in open spaces where there are also various stalls set up.

“We would be able to socialise with family and friends, which sadly will still not be possible this year.  But I will still celebrate as much as I can within the guidelines in place. I will still be going to my local Mosque for the special Eid service, following which we as a family are going to prepare a get-together based on what is allowed in order to have a bit of a feast 

“As part of my charitable contributions this year, I am planning on ensuring that others less fortunate can also celebrate.”

LCpl Nile also served with the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) for a short time. He says: “This was an opportunity to be part of an important team that sustains the Army regardless of any given situation. My time with the RLC resulted me in gaining valuable skills and qualifications including a variety of driving licences.

“My most exciting time here was qualifying as Petroleum Operator. Being given the opportunity to drive around fuel tankers at such an early stage of my Army career is something that not many people get to do.”