Ramadan is a time of sharing and while sharing a meal is the most common form, there is much more to it than that, as today's leaked excerpt from the Ramadan Diary reveals...
A wonderful story of sharing was posted yesterday by a number of friends. Originally written by Souad Mekhennet in Casablanca, it is a story of sharing across religious boundaries - Souad called it "Lifting the Veil"
“Eat the Harira, eat while it’s hot. Don’t be ashamed,” the host insisted, repeating this polite order three more times. Harira is a thick soup of tomatoes, chickpeas, meat and various spices that Moroccan Muslims traditionally eat in the holy month of Ramadan during the time when they break the fast.
Only on this night, the host and cook of this Ramadan meal was a Jewish woman, Suzanne Abittan, who invited Muslim and Jewish neighbours and friends to her home in the city centre of Casablanca, two floors above a synagogue.
Twelve people sat around a table laden with dates, traditional Moroccan pancakes, and sweets: nine women and three men—five of them Muslims and seven Jews.
“For generations Muslims and Jews grew up together here in Morocco, we are brothers and sisters and in some cases shared even the same mother’s milk,” Abittan said in a loud and strong voice, balancing a tray with hard boiled eggs and cut cucumbers as she walked from the kitchen into the living room.
The 59-year-old has worked for many years as a community outreach aide, helping poor families to access education for their children. “Jews and Muslims,” she said, “we don’t make a difference.”
But while the dinner symbolised a tolerance that has existed in this corner of the Maghreb for thousands of years, some Moroccans also worry about the effect of Arab Spring in their neighbouring countries.
“All these countries are turning into chaos, the radicalisation is increasing,” said Souad Fetouak, who works at the ministry of interior and is a friend of Abittan. Together they have created an association for tolerance to bring together Muslims, Jews and Christians in Casablanca.
“I am worried when I see what is happening in the countries around us,” said Fetouak, who is a Muslim. Her dark brown eyes looked over the table full of food and she sipped a cup of coffee—her first after a long day of fasting. “The countries are ending up in big messes.” (full story here)
|Sharing a meal is the most common form of Ramadan sharing|
Sharing takes many forms during Ramadan. Most of it intentional, but some, unintentional, or should I say "unavoidable"? Like the music. Celebration is plentiful when the sun goes down here in Fez, and music and poetry are commonly part of the gatherings. You don't have to be invited to listen, as it is everywhere. And it is not only the Dkak beating his drum to announce meal times.
Walking down a local street I can hear the nafar (long trumpets) echoing through the alleyways of the medina, and from a nearby home, voices soaring, singing praises to the Prophet Muhammad.
Ramadan is an especially sacred month and performers tend to reflect and shape this sacred time by giving concerts of samā` wa madīḥ. Samā` wa madīḥ refers to poetry, recited or sung, that focuses on praise and exaltation, usually of the Prophet.
Walking the streets it is obvious that there is a greater level of charity towards the poor. Although there is a special time at the end of Ramadan for giving, it has started early and food and money are being given to the needy. It will increase during Eid al-Fitr which falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month which follows Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. That is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy.
Before the day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a determined amount as a donation to the poor. Although the amount is actually announced on TV, this donation is usually of actual food - rice, barley, dates, rice - to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration. This donation is known as sadaqah al-fitr (charity of fast-breaking).
Of course there is much more to look forward to! Leilat Sabawachrine - literally the night of the 27th day of Ramadan. It is a night especially for children - a time when they dress in their finest clothes. For girls this also means having their hands and feet covered in beautiful henna designs and wearing makeup and jewellery. Once dressed, they take to the streets where many of them were happy to receive gifts of sweets or money.
Before the 27th there is the prayer night (the 26th) Leilat Alkadr or "The Night of Destiny" which always falls on one of the last 10 days of Ramadan. This event is one of the most blessed of all nights in the Islamic calendar year.
Laylat Alkadr (or al Qadr) is known as the Night of Power as it commemorates the night when, according to Islamic belief, God (Allah) revealed the Qur’an to the prophet Mohammad.
Then, of course there is virtual sharing. Moroccans spend more time on the net during the month of Ramadan than at any other time of the year. Every day millions of fasters, especially young people, share a huge number of publications of all kinds: articles, photos, videos. It is interesting to note that net giants like Google have been providing a content hub dedicated especially to the sacred month.
|Warda Al-Jazairia - The Algerian Rose|
Even the Google search page features specially selected images such as: Warda Al-Jazairia (Arabic: وردة الجزائرية literally The Algerian Rose). Commonly referred to as just Warda, she was an Algerian-Lebanese singer who was well known for her pan-Arabist songs and music.
There is even a "Ramadan for Geeks" which the Casablanca Social Media Club has organised for the last three years. And, in the spirit of Ramadan, they call themselves "Ftour 2.0" and get together to share expertise and Ftour (Ramadan breakfast) Those who can not come can participate by posting comments on Twitter using the hashtag # Ftour20.
Finally, here's a little story about sharing to put a smile on your face in the hours before you can put food or water in your mouth.
Wanting to have a break from a traditional Ramadan F'tour, the elderly Omar and his equally elderly wife, Fatiha, decided to visit the new Burger King restaurant. After looking at what was on offer, Omar ordered one burger, one cup of chips (French fries) and one bottle of coke.
When the food arrived Omar took the burger and carefully cut it in half, placing one half in front of his wife and taking the other half himself.
He then carefully counted out the chips, dividing them into two piles and neatly placed one pile in front of his wife.
"Bismillah!" said Omar, then took a sip of the coke. His wife then repeated the blessing and, after taking a sip, set the cup down between them.
As he began to eat his few bites of burger, the people around them kept looking over and whispering, “That poor old couple – all they can afford is one meal for the two of them.”
Then as Omar began to eat his chips a young man came to the table. "It's Ramadan, Sidi, please let me buy another meal so you can both eat."
Omar shook his head, “We are just fine, khoya. We are used to sharing everything."
The other people noticed that Omar's wife hadn’t eaten a single bite, but just sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the Coke.
Again, the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for them.
This time Omar's wife, Fatiha, said, “No, thank you, we are used to sharing everything.”
As Omar finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin, the young man again came over to his wife who had yet to eat a single bite of food and asked “What is it you are waiting for?”
She glanced at Omar and then smiled at the young man. "I'm waiting to share the teeth."
See all the Ramadan Diary excerpts - RAMADAN DIARY