Experiencing Ramadan as a blind Australian

28 April 2021

For Hannen Abdallah, Ramadan is a special time spent with family and eating great food.

“Ramadan is something I can celebrate despite having a vision condition,” the 39-year-old said

“I can fast like everyone else does. It doesn’t stop me because I can’t see.”

Hannen has been celebrating Ramadan and fasting each year since she was seven. Her parents passed down the tradition to their daughters after arriving in Australia from Lebanon.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at three years old, Hannen found her family was a huge comfort to her. That’s why Ramadan holds a special place.

Most will know Ramadan as a time where people fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining completely from food, drink and smoking over those 11 hours or so. The fast is broken at nightfall with a big feast surrounded by family and friends.

The fasting over 30 days is a way for Muslims to show greater self-discipline, to renew their focus on spirituality and have compassion for those less fortunate.

For Hannen, the most common question she gets from friends is how she manages to go without any food for 11 hours. “I find because I work full time the day goes fast,” she said. “You get used to it, if you’ve done it all your life.” When Ramadan finishes after 30 days, (this year it finishes on May 12), Hannen will be excitedly catching up with her large extended family.

“I’m out there mixing and celebrating with everyone,” she said.

“The people are the highlight.” Of course, with so much celebrating, it’s easy to get carried away.

“Everyone brings sweets, you have to be careful… there’s too much to choose from,” she laughs.

More than 500,000 Muslims in Australia will be marking their holiest month, among them lots of people with a vision condition.

Vision Australia hosts an Arabic speaking social group for people who are blind or have low vision. The group meets over the phone every Thursday at 1pm. Read more about the Telelink program here.


The following images show The Lakemba Ramadan Food Festival, where many Muslims break their fast in Sydney. Unfortunately, the festival has been cancelled this year due to COVID concerns. (Photo: City of Canterbury) 

Food being served from a banquet

 

Man wearing traditional costume smiling and cooking food on a hot plate
Three men pose for a photo, surrounding a hot plate cooking corn cobs