Ramadan is coming, coming with a vengence, it is almost here. Ramadan is expected to start with the sighting of the new moon on August 1st. I am feeling happy – a friend has asked me to help her find special Eid dresses for her daughter returning to Saudi Arabia. I know what she is looking for, and I am at a loss as to where they might be found. I will check tomorrow with friends who have lived in Pensacola for a long time and see what they have to suggest.
Meanwhile, as is my annual tradition, I will reprint an article I wrote in September 2007, Ramadan for Non Muslims. Even better, go back to the original Ramadan for Non Muslims and read the comments – I’ve always learned the best information from my commenters. :-)
Ramadan for the Non Muslim
Ramadan started last night; it means that the very thinnest of crescent moons was sighted by official astronomers, and the lunar month of Ramadan might begin. You might think it odd that people wait, with eager anticipation, for a month of daytime fasting, but the Muslims do – they wait for it eagerly.
A friend explained to me that it is a time of purification, when your prayers and supplications are doubly powerful, and when God takes extra consideration of the good that you do and the intentions of your heart. It is also a time when the devil cannot be present, so if you are tempted, it is coming from your own heart, and you battle against the temptations of your own heart. Forgiveness flows in this month, and blessings, too.
We have similar beliefs – think about it. Our holy people fast when asking a particular boon of God. We try to keep ourselves particularly holy at certain times of the year.
In Muslim countries, the state supports Ramadan, so things are a little different. Schools start later. Offices are open fewer hours. The two most dangerous times of the day are the times when schools dismiss and parents are picking up kids, and just before sunset, as everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. In olden days, there was a cannon that everyone in the town could hear, that signalled the end of the fast. There may still be a cannon today – in Doha there was, and we could hear it, but if there is a cannon in Kuwait, we are too far away, and can’t hear it.
When the fast is broken, traditionally after the evening prayer, you take two or three dates, and water or special milk drink, a meal which helps restore normal blood sugar levels and takes the edge off the fast. Shortly, you will eat a larger meal, full of special dishes eaten only during Ramadan. Families visit one another, and you will see maids carrying covered dishes to sisters houses and friends houses – everyone makes a lot of food, and shares it with one another. When we lived in Tunisia, we would get a food delivery maybe once a week – it is a holy thing to share, especially with the poor and we always wondered if we were being shared with as neighbors, or shared with as poor people! I always tried to watch what they particularly liked when they would visit me, so I could sent plates to their houses during Ramadan.
Just before the sun comes up, there is another meal, Suhoor, and for that meal, people usually eat something that will stick to your ribs, and drink extra water, because you will not eat again until the sun goes down. People who can, usually go back to bed after the Suhoor meal and morning prayers. People who can, sleep a lot during the day, during Ramadan. Especially as Ramadan moves into the hotter months, the fasting, especially from water, becomes a heavier responsibility.
And because it is a Muslim state, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, touching someone of the opposite sex in public, even your own husband (not having sex in the daytime is also a part of fasting), smoking is forbidden, and if you are in a car accident and you might be at fault, the person might say “I am fasting, I am fasting” which means they cannot argue with you because they are trying to maintain a purity of soul. Even chewing gum is an offense. And these offenses are punishable by a heavy fine – nearly $400 – or a stay in the local jail.
Because I am not Muslim, there may be other things of which I am not aware, and my local readers are welcome to help fill in here. As for me, I find it not such a burden; I like that there is a whole month with a focus on God. You get used to NOT drinking or eating in public during the day, it’s not that difficult. The traffic just before (sunset) Ftoor can be deadly, but during Ftoor, traffic lightens dramatically (as all the Muslims are breaking their fast) and you can get places very quickly! Stores have special foods, restaurants have special offerings, and the feeling in the air is a lot like Christmas. People are joyful!