It is halfway through Ramadan and tonight people are celebrating. In today's excerpt from the Ramadan Diary we discover a random act of kindness and a religious expert who says Muslims should not watch TV series during Ramadan
A random act of kindness
7.36 pm. The canon at the Southern Fort had belched forth its flash of fire and huge bang - al humdullilah - and we had just sat down to break our fast. The kind folks at Riad Rcif had invited me and the iftar table was laden with food and beverages. The cake had just come out of the oven and, as someone put it, "the smell of it baking had me salivating for the last couple of hours".
"Tomorrow we are halfway through Ramadan," Hicham said. He was about to continue when there was a disturbance outside the door. He went to investigate, while I continued my nightly love affair with a jug of fresh avocado smoothie.
Hicham leads a diminutive Japanese woman into the room. She looks to be in total shock. She mumbles something, but it is either in Japanese or she is so incoherent it is unintelligible. Then she repeats it, a little louder. "Can you help me. Help me. I am frightened."
Aicha takes her to a banquette and seats her, while Salim produces a glass of mint tea and a slice of cake, but the woman is trembling so much that she can't hold the glass.
For the next ten minutes Aicha arms herself with a box of Kleenex and sits with her arm around the sobbing woman.
Eventually we piece together the story. She is a solo traveller on her way around Morocco. Having visited Marrakech, Ouzazarte and Mezouga, she was pretty confident about her ability to look after herself.
What she had not been prepared for was being lost in the Fez Medina at exactly the moment when the usual crowds had gone indoors to eat and the streets became totally empty. When a young man had offered to guide her she became even more fearful and somehow managed to find Riad Rcif.
What happened next was an act of Ramadan kindness. Hicham, even though he had not finished breaking his fast, got changed and told her he would walk with her down to Rcif where he had his car parked. He would then drive her to her hotel.
As she left, the woman glanced around the room and whispered "Thank you".
The look of relief on her face was more nourishing than anything on the table.
Halfway through Ramadan
So, as we were discussing... halfway through Ramadan.
Everyone's Ramadan is different. For my friend Driss, who works every day as a builder, there is a sense that he has conquered the first half. "Just another half to go, ' he says stoically. "What is hardest? Not having a cigarette during the day".
Well, Driss, help is at hand. Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael, the Grand Mufti in the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department of Dubai says: "The use of nicotine patches in order to refrain from smoking during the month of Ramadan is permitted and does not break the fast. The patch is used as a medicine, and is not consumed as a food item, is the rationale behind this rule. Anything that enters the body though the skin such as an injection or in this case a nicotine patch and is meant to repair rather than feed the body does not break the fast".
For Mustapha, who is spending most of his time sleeping or watching television, Ramadan's cup is half empty. "Only half to go," he says wistfully. "It is going so fast this year." However, he (and almost every Moroccan) is in trouble with the Grand Mufti, who has declared, "It is not permissible for a Muslims to watch TV series. This should not be only in Ramadan, but during the rest of the year as well. In Ramadan, people fasting and watching such serials will surely spoil their fast. The Muslim who is fasting during Ramadan should devote his time to worship and reading the Quran."
But the Grand Mufti would surely approve of the more than 200 young people for whom Ramadan tension is growing as they plunge into the highly competitive world of Qur'anic recitation.
The National competition for Mohammed VI Qur’an memorisation and declamation award opened on Monday in Rabat, with some 246 people, including 28 females, are taking part in the event after succeeding in the preliminary phases organised locally by the regional offices of Islamic Affairs in coordination with the Councils of Ulema. The jury is composed of Moroccan Ulema specialised in declamation.
|Qur'an recital competition in Rabat|
Someone who is not fasting, but copping flack over Ramadan is David Abraham, CEO of Britain's Channel 4. He's been grilled by members of the British parliament over the decision to broadcast the call to prayer.
Ralph Lee, Channel 4's head of factual programming, said: "The calls to prayer prompt Muslims to carry out quiet moments of worship, but hopefully they'll also make other viewers sit up and notice that this event is taking place. Observing the adhan on Channel 4 will act as a nationwide tannoy system, a deliberate 'provocation' to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word."
Lee added in an article in the Radio Times: "No doubt Channel 4 will be criticised for focusing attention on a 'minority' religion but that's what we're here to do – provide space for the alternative and a voice to the under-represented.
The decision to broadcast the call to prayer is to be applauded. However, just across the "ditch" in France, tensions have been running for several nights after rioting broke out. The cause? A woman wearing a full hijab, in contravention of French law. The entire mess could have been avoided if the police had exercised a little Ramadan tolerance.
Ramadan food for thought
For those who think that fasting in Morocco is hard work, spare a thought for Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there is an upsurge in sectarian violence, Syria, where the full-scale bloodshed continues unabated, and Egypt where tensions are running high and the death toll is mounting. And pause to reflect on the impoverished everywhere, for whom a food-laden iftar table is only a dream.
The Ramadan cup may be half empty or half full, but it is a cup we share.
See all the Ramadan Diary excerpts - RAMADAN DIARY