Notes from America: Ramadan – a personal reflection
By Ahmed Tharwat
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last week. This fasting month is observed by millions of Muslims around the world, unless you are in China, where anti-fasting cops resort to force feeding observing Muslims in public. The number of hours that Muslims must fast will vary based on where they live. In a country in the northern hemisphere, like Denmark, there is a whopping 22 hours of fasting time. I fear there will be some very angry Muslims over there. However, in the southern hemisphere, Argentina has the shortest fasting day with only 10 hours. In my own state, Minnesota, there are 17 hours to endure and summer temperatures often reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 C). This would make even Representative Michelle Bachman (R/MN)—who is known for her anti-Muslim sentiment–feel for Muslims.
When I didn’t fast Ramadan …
it wasn’t unusual to see a six or seve year old kid standing on a fasting check point, surrounded by the whole class, sticking his/her tongue out, ready for the fasting Virginity check, to make sure it is dried and its gray hymen cover not broken from drinking or eating
it wasn’t unusual to see a six or seven year old kid standing on a fasting check point, surrounded by the whole class, sticking his/her tongue out, ready for the fasting Virginity check, to make sure it is dried and its gray hymen cover not broken from drinking or eating
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts this Friday, the day fasting month will be observed by Millions of Muslims around the world, the number of hours that a Muslims have to fast will vary based on where they live, in the northern hemisphere like Denmark a whipping 22 hours fasting time, there will be some very angry Muslims over there, in the southern hemisphere, Argentina is the shortest, with only 10 hours. in America it is 17 hours in a heat that reaches more than 90 degrees. Something would make even Michelle Bachman to feel for Muslims. Muslims fast during the day and eat and during all night, the opposite of the American do. The worst thing about fasting, is not so much the not eating for 17 hours, it is not the drinking part; and no amount of evening food will prepare for that. Fasting Ramadan is one of Islam five pillars requirements; Faith of oneness and finality of the prophet, “Shahadah”, Hajj, Almsgiving “Zakah”, and daily praying are the other four. However fasting is the only pillar that is between you and god, if you are not eating or drinking in public, nobody could tell if you are fasting or not but god. Allah says “Fasting is Mine and it is I who give reward for it. [A man] gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for my sake” Most Muslims will observe fasting even if they aren’t keen to follow the other four pillars. This hot Ramadan some Muslims will find creative ways of avoiding fasting, like traveling (at least 80 miles on a Mule, nobody has tried this recently), bringing their old medical records to their doctors for permission to not fast, or just simply not fasting at all. Islam doesn’t required children to fast until reaching adolescence “l-Kharqi said:” When a child is ten years old and is able to fast, he should start to do so.” But fasting at earlier ages gives Muslim children some since of growing up, as smoking, kids want to emulate their older brothers and sisters. Some strict Muslims parents will demand of their youngsters to fast as soon as they can walk, I have seen a Somali girl as young as two wearing hijab, so it is not far fetish to assume that she will be soon tinkering with fasting. Forcing your kids to fast is not always virtual, and could be counterproductive; In the holy month of Ramadan kids find out for the first time that god doesn’t necessarily listen to their parents or their Imams, fasting is something between you and god, and if you don’t fast you aren’t going to be turned to a monkey or the devil will eat your food. In Ramadan as a young Muslim realize that god has a great sense of hummer, and Islam is a religion of mercy (Rahmah) and the intent of their action is more important than the action itself. Growing up in Egypt, as a youngster, my parents were relaxed about religion, my dad has a great contempt to zealous Imams, he lived by example and despised breaching, my dad raised eight children and the only thing he liked about Ramadan fasting is the not eating part, “be hungry be healthy” he always joked when ask for food. My mom didn’t care much as long as she was not an accomplice, so you don’t ask her for the food to break your fast. Cheating on fasting is not a piece of cake; it can be tricky in a country where everyone around is fasting, you have to be careful. In my village in Egypt, you can get by without fasting, until you start going to school for the first time; everyone watches you, there you cant eat or drink in front of anyone. Nobody believed me when claimed I was Christian; everyone knows the only one Christian student in the entire school, besides I was the son of “Alnazzer” the school principle. In Ramadan Kids will check to make sure that you are fasting and haven’t eating or drinking anything. “open your mouth, show me your tongue” they ask you every time they meat you at the hall, and at this juncture you only have no choice but to open your mouth. Nobody will read you the Miranda here. Kids actually took this very seriously, it wasn’t unusual to see a six or seven year old kid standing on the fasting check point, surrounded by the whole class, sticking his tong out, ready for fasting virginity check, and to make sure that its gray hymen is dried and not broken from drinking or eating. Kids if they suspect fasting violation, they bring their noses as close as possible to your face and smell your mouth to make sure that you have the blessing of a bad breath. “During Ramadan, some people experience bad breath as the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep the breath fresh.,” said Dr Rana Al Thib, General Dentist at Hibah Shata Specialized Dental Clinic, Dubai Healthcare City. Muslims usually understand and tolerate bad breath in Ramadan, they believe that it has its reward from god. As the prophet says “The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in Allah’s estimation than the smell of musk. “ Americans may tolerate badmouthing, but wont tolerate bad breath, and no amount of culture diversity training is going to change that, American spend millions of dollars every year to get ready of their bad breath. At the school, the bathroom was my best place for premature fast breaking, no one will ask you what you are doing in a bathroom, they have been there before, but it is a great place for multitasking. When you aren’t fasting, as a youngster you feel you are out of place, and it seemed that people will spot you from miles, it is also hard for you to join in the fun , the magnificent seen of the sun sets on the horizon, the anticipation of ‘Azzan” the call for “Maghrab” to break your fast, the food preparation, the sizzling smell of your favorite Ramadan dishes, the communal eating at the table, the chat, the sense of accomplishment, and everyday at that moment I always regretted that I didn’t fast tat day.
Good luck and Ramadan Kareem!
Ahmed Tharwat/ MInensota
Host & Producer of Arab American TV, BelAhdan
Freelancer writer, Public Speaker
July 19, 2012