Wilmlsow firefighter celebrates Ramadan

Firefighter Usman Akhtar and his colleague at Wilmlsow Fire StationWilmslow firefighter Usman Akhtar will be celebrating the holy month of Ramadan and is sharing the reasons behind Ramadan and why as a Muslim he fasts during this time. He also wants to encourage people from the Muslim community to become a firefighter.

On the 6th May, Usman and the Muslim community will start fasting. This means they refrain from eating or drinking between sunset and sundown for 30 days.

The reason fasting is important for Muslims is because it is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed by Allah (God) to Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan is also one of the five pillars of Islam. In the Arabic language, fasting is known as Sawm. Muslims arise early in the morning during Ramadan to have a pre-dawn breakfast meal, known as Suhoor. At the end of the day, the fast is completed by taking the Iftar meal, which usually includes dates, fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner.

After the end of Ramadan, a very festive and joyous holiday is celebrated by Muslims, known as Eid al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast. On the day of the Eid, Muslims attend special congregational prayers in the morning, wearing their nicest clothes.

After the completion of prayers and a special sermon, Muslims rise to greet and hug one another, saying "Eid Mubarak," which means "Holiday Blessings."

Firefighter Usman said: “As you know the day to day life on a fire station can be hectic at times, especially when you have activities or training booked in your diary. I have great support  from my watch manager so there is a degree of flexibility in my day to day role to perform my daily prayer called salat, which I do five times a day. We have a multi faith room at Wilmslow Fire Station, which is available to anyone from any faith or religious background to use.

“With regard to any training that requires me to use a lot of energy, whether it’s cutting up cars for road traffic collision training or putting ladders up then this is usually done in the mornings where my energy levels are much stronger. In the afternoon we tend to perform community visits and administration duties, which definitely helps me during this time.”

“Attending fires and emergency calls are at the core of what the Service does and could happen at any time. I would never allow my faith to compromise mine or any other person’s safety so priority must always be given to saving life. There is no compromise on this issue. It means during an emergency situation a Muslim firefighter has to break their fast.

“Also at the more physically demanding or longer incidents, it is actually permitted for me to break my fast. If I feel my body is going into a state of dehydration, then it is actually a sin for me to carry on fasting and the fast would actually be invalid. It is better for me to break my fast, to take the water in and then make up the fast at a later date.”

Usman has some advice for anyone looking to apply for a job as a firefighter from the Muslim community.

He said: “Why not. I’ve been a firefighter at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service for nine years and it is a fantastic opportunity to work for a brilliant Service that is accommodating in helping me to practise my religion and it is a role that I am fulfilled with. The best thing about it has to be working as part of a team. Whether it is attending operational incident or carrying out safe and well visits,

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Firefighter Usman Akhtar and his colleague at Wilmlsow Fire Station