Friday, July 19, 2013

home and hungry



I am back in Michigan, meaning my nearly 3-week long road trip is now over. I have so many photos to post and stories to tell that I will be kept busy for a very long time, but before I get to it, I wanted to talk about the most recent event in my life!

It's Ramadan!

That's right, it's the holy month of the fast. I don't usually talk religion on here, but I thought I'd give an insider's scoop on the deetz behind this often talked-about, but rarely understood, holiday. (Holi-month?) These are some of the questions I'm most often asked. If you've ever been curious, read on.



1. So what is "Ramadan"?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (we have a lunar calendar). It is the month that we believe the Qur'an⎯our holy book⎯was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and so it is our holiest month.

2. What do you do during Ramadan?
Ramadan, to me, has often been more about what I don't do. The big one most people know is that during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. We refrain from eating or drinking during that time. We also try not to fight, or talk badly about people, or swear. And we don't have sex. What we do do is reflect and try and do good deeds. It's encouraged to read the Qur'an during the day. Muslim families often invite people over for meals at the end of the day, and feeding the poor and giving to charity is common.

3. Wait. So you don't eat or drink all day? For a month?! What's that like?
It's rough, haha. :P Can't deny it! Summertime fasting is the hardest, because the days are so long, you have more free time to sit around and dream about food, and it's hot. (So hot! What's going on with the weather lately, USA?) I get up at 4 am to eat for the half-hour or so before sunrise, and I can't consume anything again until just after 9 pm. I end up sleeping a whole lot, and catching up on Netflix, if we're being completely honest. ;) It gets pretty brutal around the last 4 hours, so if you have a Muslim pal in your life, be understanding if they're a little cranky during Ramadan! If you're up to it, try it for a day.

4. Do you gorge when you can eat?
I'd like to, but I can't! Your stomach shrinks after not eating, and it's actually painful to eat sometimes. It's traditional to break the fast with milk and dates. I usually eat a regular sized dinner, though I allow myself some extra ice cream afterwards. ;)

5. Were you fasting on your road trip?
I was not! There are exemptions from the fast, and travel is one of them. I will have to make up those days I missed some time after Ramadan is over; I'll probably wait until the winter, when the days are shorter!

6. What do you like about Ramadan?
When I tell people I'm fasting, I usually get looks of sympathy and a lot of, "Wow, that must suck"s. That's fair, because it is hard! Really and truly difficult. But there are good things about Ramadan, too. I really appreciate the yearly reminder to be grateful. Nothing makes you understand what hunger feels like until you experience it, and during this month I get a small, painful glimpse of what the daily reality is for a lot of people in this world who are forced to go without. I think fasting since an early age (I began when I was 7 years old) has truly taken a part in shaping me; I have an unwavering commitment to social justice, and I think this annual experience has played a part in that.

I also like how fasting has taught me willpower. It takes a lot of personal strength to resist for a month; because Ramadan is part of the lunar calendar, the time of year it falls on shifts, and I have fasted through Thanksgiving, Halloween, school Christmas parties, and my first week of teaching, to name a few challenging times. This ability to say, emphatically, "No," even when it is difficult, is something I am proud of, and it carries over into other crucial parts of my life.

And, of course, I love the aspect of community. Ramadan is a time to spend with your family and friends. You make dinner together, and spend the evening talking and bonding in a way you might not otherwise get to during the rest of the busy year. Growing up, one of my favorite things was going to the mosque during Ramadan to have dinner with all the other Muslim families. We would sit on the floor in front of sheets of white plastic and enjoy our meal together, back to back as far as you could see.


{Have a question I haven't answered? Feel free to ask in the comments! And stay tuned for lots and lots of road trip pictures!}

4 comments :

  1. This was really interesting to read, I never knew all that about Ramadan! It seems you have incredible dedication!

    Rachel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! :D And I'm glad it was interesting!

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  2. I love this post! I work with muslim children (aged 8 and 9) and most of them are fasting right now. One of my girls has challenged me to fast for a day, which I'm really keen to do as I want to really understand what it's like for them.

    Becky
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! How cool that you have a class of Muslim children! Do you teach in a predominantly Arab/immigrant community? And I definitely would recommend trying the fast once! It's really an interesting experience; when I was growing up, some of my friends tried it for a day with me, and they said they enjoyed it. :)

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Comments make my day⎯really! I love reading what you have to say. Hope to hear from you. :)

Best,
Leila

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