The Challenges Of A Gluten-Free Ramadan

The Challenges Of A Gluten-Free Ramadan

The Challenges Of A Gluten-Free RamadanIt is the 23rd fast and I haven’t had a single samosa this month.

Some will understand right off the bat why this is a problem. Samosas, or some variation of them, are synonymous with Ramadan throughout the Muslim world. In Pakistan and India samosas are crispy white flour pastries filled with diced potatoes and peas. In Somalia, the samboosa is packed with spicy ground beef. And in Egypt the delicious spinach fatayir serves as the country’s official entry to the Samosa Games.

It is always comforting to attend a community or mosque iftar and see that inevitable foil tray filled to the brim with some form of samosas. The American mosque, especially during Ramadan, is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and ethnicities, and for these 30 days, fasting, prayers, and samosas help us all speak the same language.

So here’s my problem: a samosa’s flour crust renders most variations of the treat inedible for Muslims like me who choose to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. This issue branches out to many other Ramadan staples as well: most forms of bread, almost all baked desserts, foods covered with breadcrumbs and pasta are just a few. At home, avoiding gluten is doable — I’ve actually enjoyed using gluten-free ingredients to recreate some of my favorite iftar foods — but eating at the mosque requires some investigation about ingredients with whoever will be preparing the impending meal.

This is where things get difficult. After a 17-hour fast in the middle of a hot summer, the effort required to perform a background check on food options doesn’t always seem worth it. People with dietary restrictions or allergies, including those who eat gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian often find it easier to just stay in for iftar.

Now we’re in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, one of the most spiritual period in the Islamic calendar. Many Muslims use this time to retreat from worldly life and focus on God by retreating to the mosque for a few days. This includes late-night prayers and the early suhoor meal consumed before the next day’s fast.

I love spending weekends in the mosque during the last 10 nights. It becomes easier, somehow, to put the iPhones down, reflect, and truly feel closer to God. The suhoor meal usually includes donuts, toast, breakfast cereals, muffins, and samosas — a celiac’s nightmare. But the promise of the last 10 nights is priceless. The tranquility in the mosque is sacrosanct. So I prepare ahead of time. I pack my bag with gluten-free cucumber sandwiches, fruit, and Larabars, and next year, maybe I’ll get the mosque to support some gluten-free worship.

By — Hiba Akhtar

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