Eid al-Fitr 2024: “A time of sharing and being grateful”

OT  spoke with optometrists about how they celebrated the end of Ramadan

A woman wearing a light hijab smiles at a man in a brown turtleneck jersey. They are eating lunch with a selection of different dishes on the table
Getty/Nikola Stojadinovic

Earlier in April, many optometrists across the UK celebrated Eid al-Fitr – an event that marks the end of Ramadan.

Around one in five UK optometrists is Muslim, while four in 10 student optometrists are Muslim.

OT caught up with optometrists to find out how they spent the day – and what the festivities mean to them. 

My Eid al-Fitr

Optometrist and Eyecare Express owner, Yassar Yousaf, tells OT about his mother’s lamb biryani and his children’s delight at unexpected lunch guests

A man with black hair and a beard, smiling. He is wearing glasses and is dressed in a suit.
Optometrist and Eyecare Express owner, Yassar Yousaf
We find out when Eid will take place the night before, when the moon is sighted. Leading up to the announcement there can be a feeling of suspense. Then, when Eid is confirmed, everybody can start preparing for the big party. The children, especially, are extremely excited.

We begin the day with a special early morning Eid prayer, at around 7.30am. Then my brothers, their families and all the children will come together at my parents’ house, to sit down together for breakfast. Our breakfast dish is called halwa puri – which is made of fried puffy flatbread and semolina, cardamom and shaved almonds. It’s a special Yousaf family breakfast, along with a great cup of karak chai. Now, that’s how you start a great morning.

We then spend time together as a big family chatting and catching up about what we have been up to over the past month. Everyone will have brought a dish for a late lunch – the main meal of the day – so that the burden of cooking is not on my parents. Our Eid meal usually features a unique lamb biryani, a type of spicy rice dish, made with awesome flavours. Mum’s cooking is always the best – she knows how to prepare the biryani so the flavours absorb really nicely. For dessert, we have a lovely selection of cakes and also falooda – a drink with ice cream, milk and rose syrup. After lunch, we visit other family members for a chit chat and to say Eid Mubarak. We also drop off gifts, sweets and boxes of chocolates, to our neighbours.

We are quite fortunate because there are a lot of children around – my parents have 13 grandchildren. A few years ago, when the children were smaller, some of the adults decided to dress up in different costumes. My brother was a bear and I was a bunny. We went quietly outside, changed into our costumes and rang the doorbell. When the children answered the door, their jaws dropped. We played a little pantomime for them – miming a game of tennis with table tennis racquets and having arm wrestles with one another.

To this day, the younger children will still talk about it. My youngest, who was two at the time, still asks ‘When is Barney the Bear coming back?’ I have to tell her, that Barney the Bear and Fluffy the Bunny are now celebrating Eid together as animals. One day we will dig those outfits out, and surprise them all again.

Eid is a time of sharing and being grateful. After the emotional roller coaster of 30 days of fasting, we come together, relax and enjoy each other’s company. Eid Mubarak to you all. 

Name: Sohail Hakim

Role: Optometrist and director at Alan Miller Optometrists, a Hakim Group independent practice

How did you celebrate Eid 2024?

A man with a black beard, smiling
Optometrist and director at Alan Miller Optometrists, Sohail Hakim
For myself, Eid is celebrated at home in the UK with family, relatives and friends. In fact, as I write this editorial, I'm sitting amongst family and friends enjoying the delightful treats associated with Eid.

The long day starts with the dawn congregational prayer dressed in one’s best, and then descending upon friends and family for meals, meeting, greeting and connecting home to home. Oh, and lots and lots of lovely food and treats.

What significance does Eid have for you?

There are two Eids that are among the most important and significant dates in the Islamic calendar.

Eid al-Fitr is a celebration that signifies the end of the Holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world complete a month of fasting. Whilst enjoying this day, we also reflect and turn our attention to the less fortunate around the world. We offer charity so they too can enjoy Eid.

Eid al-Adha comes around two months after Eid Al-Fitr. It signifies sacrifice and the story of Ibrahim in Islam.

For me both Eids signify the importance of faith, unity and kinship, whilst recognising that not everyone has the blessings that many others experience. We need to make sure that we include those people in sharing our blessings.

What is your most memorable Eid and why?

All Eids have been equally enjoyable, exciting and an event we look forward to – much like Christmas. However, the Eid during the pandemic under social distancing will be one for the ages as we experienced a totally different dynamic to what we have been accustomed to when it comes to social celebrations.

How are you marking Eid in your practice?

Having been a director at Hakim Group through my professional life, Eid is recognised by all our teams as an important event for us and we share the festivities with all our teams from all faiths and walks of life. This includes sending cards, gifts and most importantly sharing the sweet treats and lovely food.


My Eid al-Fitr

Optometrist and Walsall Local Optical Committee chair, Aisha Jeewa, on remembering those no longer around the table during Eid

Woman wearing glasses with long brown hair, smiling
Optometrist and Walsall Local Optical Committee chair, Aisha Jeewa
After Eid is announced, it’s a moment infused with excitement. We might go shopping or have our hands painted. We will get the decorations ready for the house – balloons, banners and maybe some incense to burn – prepare the best cutlery and plates. I’m usually frantically cooking in the kitchen the night before.

I really enjoy the feeling of togetherness. First thing in the morning, we pray together as a congregation. Once the prayer is completed, everyone is hugging each other and having a chat. It’s a happy, festive moment. Kids run around with chocolate or ice creams in their hands that they’ve been given at the mosque. After going to the mosque, we will visit the cemetery, lay flowers, and pray beside the graves of my elders.

I will bring in some cake or biscuits to the practice in the days surrounding Eid. Where I work, Muslim patients will come in and drop some food off at the practice.

There’s something so special about the different generations coming together

Aisha Jeewa, optometrist and Walsall Local Optical Committee chair
I think we should encourage all kinds of religions and faiths at work. It enhances bonding and collaboration. Nowadays we live in such a multicultural world, that we should encompass all kinds of celebration where possible.

Lamb biryani reminds me of my mum and my grandma. Mum would always help me out with the cooking – her presence will be deeply missed. She was a pinnacle of our society in Wolverhampton. She served her community and we, as the next generation, will carry on that tradition.

I have lost all of my elders over the past four years. This Eid has been in memory of them, especially my father, who radiated festiveness and brought a sense of liveliness to Eid, and my father-in-law, who I lost in February this year. The grandparents loved Eid because they would have all their grandchildren around them. They would secretly slip the grandchildren envelopes of money. There's something so special about different generations coming together. In the past, my Eid would centre around my elders – I would make an effort to learn how to cook their favourite meals. But this year, I didn’t know what to cook and their absence left a void at the table. We can only now reminisce about the cherished moments we shared with them. 

Name: Hassnain Safdar

Role: Optometrist and director at Evington Eyecare, a Hakim Group independent practice

How did you celebrate Eid 2024? 

Eid is a day which Muslims believe God has gifted to us to rejoice after the month of fasting has ended. We always start the day with a home favourite dish called seviya – sweet vermicelli – then visit the masjid for Eid prayer. Afterwards, we go to the cemetery to remember those who are no longer with us, and then have a big feast with our families.

How have you found Ramadan this year? 

A man with brown hair in a blue suit
Optometrist and director at Evington Eyecare, a Hakim Group independent practice, Hassnain Safdar
Throughout the month, I try to immerse myself in the recitation of the Holy Quran and aim to complete reading it by the end of the month. I was fortunate to be able to do that this Ramadan. I also use my time to self-reflect in the night prayer as it’s a precious time to recharge one’s spiritual energy and focus on gaining closeness to God.

What is your most memorable Eid and why? 

I would have to say Eid this year has been one I’ll never forget. On the one hand, we’re fortunate to be celebrating at peace with our families and friends, but on the other we see families in Palestine and other areas of the world having to celebrate without their loved ones, who they may have lost during the conflict and oppression.

Are you marking Eid with your practice staff? 

We’ve brought some sweet treats for the staff. Twinned with Eid coinciding with my birthday the day after, there was plenty of cake to go round.

Is there a special dish that you like to eat around Eid?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. After a month of self-control, it’s hard not to enjoy all the food that’s prepared on Eid. I think my favourite would be the breakfast Eid staple Seviya as it’s an explosion of cardamom, rose and pistachio, – arguably, the most exotic flavours in the kitchen (see photo in gallery).

My Eid al-Fitr

Optometrist and Specsavers Formby ophthalmic director, Zetun Arif, on a socially distanced Eid and making adjustments for staff

Eid is always a family occasion. My husband will go to prayers at the mosque while we get ready, then when he comes back we will have breakfast. After that we will start to see family – we will always see my mum and dad, grandparents and other members of the extended family. We will be popping in and out of houses, wishing everyone Eid Mubarak.

Woman smiling wearing a black head scarf and a black top.
Optometrist and Specsavers Formby ophthalmic director, Zetun Arif
My husband has an elderly aunt and uncle who live in Preston. We always take them food because they don’t have the opportunity to cook for themselves. Since my daughters were quite small, it has been a tradition to bake together for Eid. They always look forward to it because that’s what my mum used to do with us.

I use my mum’s recipe for the biryani, although it’s not quite as good as hers. Whenever my husband suggests that we experiment, I say ‘No, this is the way my mother made it.’ There are no shortcuts involved – things have to be done from scratch. My mother was one of these cooks who doesn’t use measurements. Everything is done by the eye, touch and taste. When I started cooking biryani, I would video call her and show her the pot.

When you've been fasting and your children been fasting, Eid is a special day where you remember to appreciate what you have. We are lucky to have a day of feasting. It is a time to come together – we are blessed to have family we can visit on Eid.

Eid during the pandemic was memorable, but not in a good way. We posted out presents to each other and had a video call with all of my siblings and my mum. It was bittersweet, because we weren't together in person. It made me realise how special it is to be able to see family and be together.

A little bit of understanding goes a long way

Zetun Arif, optometrist and Specsavers Formby ophthalmic director

Myself and my practice partner are Muslim. Our locums who are Muslim appreciated the fact that we adjusted their clinics during Ramadan. They were able to work through their lunch and finish earlier if they wanted, so they could get home for their evening meal. If you are flexible, you receive appreciation and loyalty back from your locums and staff. A little bit of understanding goes a long way.

We were also mindful of patients celebrating Eid. We shared information about the importance of maintaining glaucoma medication as this does not break Eid fasting.

As told to Selina Powell

Photographs of Aisha Jeewa’s Eid celebrations kindly provided by KJH Photography.