“It’s a special time for everyone in the community” – Arshad’s Eid story


Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslims worldwide marking the end of the month-long dawn to sunset fasting of Ramadan. It’s a special time for many people and their families, including Mental Health Museum staff member Arshad Mahmood. He shared his story.

Hello, my name is Arshad Mahmood.

Photo of a man
Arshad Mahmood

I started working for the Trust in 2012 as a health care support worker and then became an occupational health worker within Newhaven (a low secure unit for people with learning disabilities). I gradually transitioned to work as part of the Creative Minds team and gradually moved into the Mental Health Museum team. The Museum is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am till 12pm for schools/universities and 1pm till 4pm for the public.

I have helped developed the museum’s wellbeing offer. Through my work, I engage with communities to make better use of the museum space. My work also helps service users to transition back into the community and stay well. For example, at the museum, we host citizens advice, housing advice and debt advice.  It’s a great team to be part of and I love my work.

Recently, I’ve observed the Islamic month of fasting, which is called Ramadan. I’ve been observing Ramadan since childhood. I grew up in Pakistan, as one of nine children and moved to England when I was 14. Me and my family fast throughout Ramadan – it is one of the pillars of Islam and it’s a chance to reflect on the previous 11 months. We give thanks throughout Ramadan for the things we would usually take for granted, such as food and drink. During Ramadan, it’s also a chance to focus on being a better person; I read the Koran and pray as much as possible and give thanks for my health and family.

The end of Ramadan is announced with the sighting of the moon. We don’t follow the Gregorian calendar; our calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. The end of Ramadan is formally marked by Eid al-Fitr, which means festival of breaking the fast, also known as little Eid. There is another Eid, Eid al-Adha, which takes place later in the calendar. It is referred to as big Eid and commemorates Abraham’s sacrifice.

When Eid starts, we go to the mosque and say prayers. Then we go home and say a little prayer for our house and family. We spend time with our extended family. Children in the family receive gifts of money. We eat together – it’s a big celebration. We wear nice clothes and enjoy special food dishes together. I have two sisters who are both good cooks; I particularly enjoy the sweet rice that one of my sisters cooks and love the kebabs that my other sister prepares.

As a child, I celebrated Eid in Pakistan. The way that Eid is celebrated in Pakistan is worlds apart from the way we celebrate it in the UK. In Pakistan, everyone celebrates Eid so it’s a big cultural event and people are unified by celebrating it together on one day. The whole state celebrates so people get special leave to celebrate it and there is public bunting and festivities. It’s like a festival and a special time for everyone in the community. I can still remember the taste of the fresh samosas and pakoras I ate as a child. I remember spending time with my parents and wider family – it was a fantastic time.

My father was in the British army and was medically retired during the 1950s due to being shot in the kneecap.  When he returned to his village in Pakistan, he was advised by his elders to move to the UK to find work in the mills.  He moved to Wakefield and started work in the textile industry. He told me that his first house in the UK cost £230.  He was a brave man: he fought in the second world war, overcame injury and then moved to a country where he didn’t know anyone. He worked hard to support me and my family.

My dad wasn’t to be messed with. When I was 16, I dropped out of college, without telling my parents.  My dad found out and frog marched me to the mill where he worked.  He took me to see the managing director. He stood in his office and demanded that he give me a job. The managing director said, “Yes, I’ll give him a job but he won’t be able to do what you’ve done for the last 27 years.”  I was a bit of a know-it-all and I said “I can! If he can do it, so can I.”

I lasted 3 days before I decided to go back to college.

The experience reminded me that my dad was a tough cookie and how hard he must have worked to support his family. He was cut from a different cloth and I’m very proud of him.

These days, I’m a father of four grownups: two daughters and two sons. I’m also a proud grandad of two grandchildren. This Eid, I’ll be meeting up with them and our wider family, giving thanks for the many good things in my life.


“It’s a special time for everyone in the community” – Arshad’s Eid story

time to read: 4 min