My Ramadan Top 5

15 Aug

The sighting of the new moon signalled the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan on Tuesday evening here in the Land of Sand. And unless you are living under a rock, deep in the desert (without any view of the moon!) or many miles from civilization you KNOW when Ramadan has begun. It is not a quiet affair. The call to prayer which rings out over the city from each and every mosque is something that I have grown to enjoy in my years of living in the Gulf region, it regulates my day and sometimes serves as a reminder of things I need to get done like, aaah the call to prayer, it must be 3:30 I probably need to start thinking about what to make for dinner. You know, reminders of the really important stuff!  During Ramadan, however, it is taken to a whole new level. The entire Qur’an is recited over the course of the month by means of special prayers which are held in the mosques every night and not only do the people attending mosque get to hear the recitation but so do we, in stereo! We have 3 mosques within hearing distance of our house. Plus I think that they get to crank up the sound a little for this month.

Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual activities from dawn until sunset. Fasting is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility, and spirituality. It is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of God (Allah) and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

Here are my top 5 favorite things about Ramadan:

  1. Life slows down to a virtual standstill during the day. Day and night switches around as the locals are exhausted, hungry and generally a little cranky by late afternoon. Who can blame them, I would be very cranky without water in 45 degree heat after being up most of the night.  
  2. Most businesses start late and close early. Olaf’s official working hours are 9:30am to 3:30pm. It varies from company to company and some have different working hours for Muslims and non-Muslims but it is generally pretty laid back for 30 days.
  3. The roads are dead during the day which makes for a refreshing change from the usual chaos. Of course there is also absolutely nowhere to go as everything is closed for most of the day It’s like a Sunday in the 1980’s (when shops still closed for a day of rest) all day, every single day, for 30 days.
  4. When the sun sets, the fast of the day is broken with Iftar. Iftar dinners are served in most restaurants and hotels as well as in all Muslim homes. Iftar served in the home of good Muslim friends is a lovely experience filled with great warmth, generosity and large plates of food. In restaurants and hotels buffets bigger than anything you have ever seen before are the order of the day. If you are a big eater or are particularly hungry, Iftar is SO the way forward.
  5. The best part of Ramadan, it is followed by Eid-al-Fitr. Eid marks the end of Ramadan.  Eid-al-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast; a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor; everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes; and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. For us, it means a compulsory holiday of about a week and time to travel. Yipee!

Some information about Ramadan and Eid are courtesy of Wikipedia

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7 Responses to “My Ramadan Top 5”

  1. JamesBrett August 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    good stuff, very informative. i didn’t realize ramadan had begun until the other night i heard extra long muslim singing about 9 at night. my wife and i looked at each other and said, “that sounds like about 1/30th of the koran — must be ramadan.” so it obviously doesn’t change our lives a great deal.

    [completely off-subject, but you made me think of it: i read (i think in a malcolm gladwell book) that birth defects are higher in muslim countries at 8-9 months after ramadan than in any other month — because of the poor nutrition and stress put on mothers in the beginning of their pregnancies.]

  2. dustbusting August 15, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    “extra long muslim singing” that’s funny!

    Wow, I have never heard of or thought about the birth defects issue. I am interested to explore that a little more. Also, I have a Muslim friend over tomorrow afternoon for a playdate. Will ask her about how she and those she knows handled being pregnant during Ramadan. I shall get back to you, sir.

    • JamesBrett August 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

      i’m guessing pregnant muslim women do take precautions for fasting during their pregnancies. i wonder if that’s one of the reasons birth defects are worst when the baby was conceived during or just before ramadan? because they don’t know they’re pregnant yet and can’t take those precautions…?

      • dustbusting August 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

        So I have been chatting to some of my Muslim friends about the whole fasting whilst pregnant scenario and this is what they have had to say about it. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, diabetics, the elderly, people involved in strenuous jobs, people undertaking a long journey and the ill may opt out of fasting during Ramadan. It is entirely up to you and how you feel physically but is not a requirement. Should you choose not to fast, you usually have to make up the days you skipped later when you are able to(before the next Ramadan). If you are not able to fast at any point, as you are diabetic for example, you can pay money to feed someone or provide a meal for a poor person for each day you skip.

        The ladies were unaware of the birth defects idea and had never heard of such a thing. Having done some of my own research on the effects of long term fasting on the body, it seems that it could be likely especially if one is not really careful about nutrition and liquid replenishment during the eating hours. Olaf also mentioned today that he had spoken to someone in the medical profession who had said that they are always very busy with people coming into the hospital during Ramadan who were diabetic and pregnant and were fasting. Obviously I am not at all knowledgeable on these matters but I can let you know what the people around me have told me and what they believe.

        It often seems to be a case of relying on your faith to get you through more than scientific or medical opinion. And that is obviously the choice of the individual concerned.

      • JamesBrett August 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

        that all makes sense, and i’m glad they have the options not to fast if need be.

        i’m not sure who did the research; but it was reported either by malcolm gladwell or levitt and dubner… just in case you want to look it up.

  3. jana August 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    A dear friend of mine challenged me to join him for a day of fast after I teased him for breaking the fast last year.

    I literally said, “Jeez, how hard can it be not to eat for a day? I do it regularly.”

    Turns out, not eating is not the hard part. It’s the not drinking part that brought me to my knees before the sun had a chance to set. And that was during the rainy season in Korea! The desert heat would probably just kill me.

    • dustbusting August 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

      Funny you say that, I have decided to do a day or two of fasting this Ramadan and like you, am absolutely terrified of going the entire day without water. My Muslim friends have recommended that I do a couple of half days first so that it is not so daunting but also so that my body can adjust. I think that it will be wise to do so. I’ll be sure to let you know if I make it all the way through the day.

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