Friday, June 19, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Two

Ibn Warraq continues his thoughts on Ramadan 2015...

I have to admit that I love the Ramadan nights. There is something about the Fez Medina that takes on a special character in the hours of dark. The early evenings after Iftar (Ftour), the streets and squares are alive with the buzz of people fresh from breaking their fast. Men return from the mosques and sit in the cafes, sipping coffee, enjoying a cigarette and companionship. The women gather in the open spaces, discussing the prices of vegetables, the cost of dates and keeping an eye on the children playing soccer or rollerblading on the streets.

Later, things go quiet as people return home to rest before Suhoor the final meal ahead of fasting again. Yet there is still an energy flowing through the Medina. From the mosques comes a melodic chanting of Koranic verses, the sound rising like a fragrant cloud above the buildings.

Standing on my friend's roof terrace, I hear the cannon sound at exactly 3.16 am.  A thrill goes through me as I look out over the golden glow of the narrow alleys to the minarets of the nearest mosques and I realise that, compared with so much of the troubled world,  being in Fez during Ramadan is a blessing.

Fez Medina 3.16 am

As was pointed out in an article by our friends at Morocco World News, Ramadan is also a time when some things and some people change. During Ramadan, you will notice that a few folk, even those who are normally very relaxed about religious matters, suddenly become more observant. And, some go further and use their burst of religiosity to start giving lessons about religion, telling everyone in earshot what is halal, what is haram. what should be done, and what should be avoided.

Fiqh is an expert on Islamic jurisprudence and there is a saying that during Ramadan "everybody becomes a Fqih."  If you encounter these well meaning folk, you will discover that they are peppering their lectures with surahs or prophetic teachings, which they may have recently heard for the first time.

And expect a dose of conservatism. Sometimes it is reasonable, sometimes a little over the top. Police in southern Agadir created a stir just before Ramadan began by arresting two young women who work in a hair salon for what they described as “violating public decency”. No, not something outrageous but simply that the police deemed their clothing to be "inappropriate".

After a report in the daily newspaper Al Sabah, human rights activists criticised the police in Inezgane (southern Agadir) and denounced the arrest of the two girls based on their clothing, saying the incident was a “setback to individual rights guaranteed by the constitution.”

In addition the president of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights in Agadir, Abdelaziz Sellami, told the newspaper that the arrest of the two girls was, “a flagrant transgression of individual freedoms,” and added that the "Moroccan law does not define criteria for dress code" and appearance or what is considered to be indecent dressing.

"Moroccan law does not define criteria for dress code"

The reaction around the country was predictably divided. For some, it was a suitable warning to those who did not confirm to a conservative stereotype, while for others it was a step backwards... "We are going backwards, I was raised in Morocco, we never had this issue, back in the 70's and the 80's, you could wear, eat, drink whatever. Now it seems to me that we are like Afghanistan. Without a sexual revolution and without the separation between the state and the religion, no country will ever make it."

Many people, especially men, take Ramadan and “fasting” as an excuse to give themselves the legitimacy to comment on women’s appearances and sometimes react violently to women who they judge to be “provocative.” Whatever your take on the issue, it is best to remember that different people have different notions of what is right and wrong and we should always allow them to express themselves  - especially during Ramadan when feelings can be exacerbated by fasting.

And then there is the case of the missing D'kak!

During the pre-dawn hours in Ramadan you may hear a drumming, singing and loud horn playing. This is the signal that the D'kak is abroad. To make certain you don't miss this meal is the job of the Bou Damdoum in Amazigh or D’kak in Moroccan Arabic, (the drummer), who uses his drums or n’ffar (a long horn that makes buzzing sound) to guarantee that everyone in the neighbourhood wakes up in time to cook and then enjoy their Suhoor meal before beginning the day's fast. It is a tradition also in Lebanon where the drummer is referred to as the Musaharati.

Last night I waited intently for the sound of our local Dkak, Yassine's approach. Nothing. No squeak, no drum, no singing, no banging on my door. It occurred to me that maybe he had slept in and that I should get my drum and n'ffar and bang on a few doors until I found him. Rumour has it that he may have just got married -  mabruk Yassine - but is that a suitable excuse?

The history of the D'kak dates back many centuries. It seems that his function was part of the social life in the Islamic eras, particularly during the Mameluk and Ottoman times.

An early report of the role of a D'kak in Algiers is in the remarkable work by the cleric Antonio de Sosa. In his Topography of Algiers (1612) - Edited with an introduction by María Antonia Garcés. Translated by Diana de Armas Wilson - Sosa has a brief description of the D'kak during Ramadan. "When midnight approaches, some Muslims, out of devotion, walk the streets sounding certain drums, whose sound awakens sleepers so that they can return to their food..." This is the same custom that (hopefully) still exists in the Fez Medina today.

Yassine Boudouàià - one of the D'kaks in the Fez Medina

I'm offering a reward of two dates and a glass of cold milk for the return of our D'kak!

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy 

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