Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Ramadan Dairy ~ 2015 ~ Day Fourteen

Ibn Warraq's Ramadan musings continue...

We all need nourishment during Ramadan: spiritual, intellectual and culinary. For many Moroccans reading the Qur'an provides the first two. For others, there is companionship and conversation in the evenings. For a great many people, there is television.

Hassan El Fad’s famous comedy sitcom, “The Couple,”

According to the old and the wise among us, the way Ramadan is celebrated now is a change from how it was when they were young. And it is the same across the Muslim world. In Jeddah, 65 year-old Ali Al Ghamdi told a local newspaper, "There is a significant difference between how we receive Ramadan today and how we used to welcome Ramadan in the past, particularly as the advanced technology and television we enjoy today has tremendously weakened our intimate, simple, and easy-going attitudes, as well as the spirit of Ramdan. We used to have more family visits then, attend to the poor and the needy, and prepare Ramadan dishes such as soup, samosas, and various types of desserts. After the taraweeh prayer, we would take part in recreational games and play sports in the city centre, such as football.”

And things have changed everywhere. As Amjad Hemidach, an English teacher, pointed out in Morocco World News, during Ramadan, thousands of people attend prayers and frequently read Qur'an for religious insight. However, when Ramadan ends, many go back to their old habits, while others repent. Religion has become a culture, and people focus only on mechanical practices that do not reflect their daily interactions.

I'm not sure if it was low blood sugar, or fatigue, or the heat, but last night after visiting friends I decided to give up television for the rest of Ramadan.  We enjoyed Iftar and then my friends sat, mute, in front of television. The Ramadan TV obsession, like too much sugar, is unhealthy. Egyptian soap operas, Turkish soap operas, unfunny comedy shows and banal cooking shows - give me a break.

For Television stations Ramadan is jackpot time with advertising revenue reaching a peak. For the millions of Moroccans Ramadan is when they overdose on series and comedy sitcoms including “Nayda fi douar” and the second season of the sitcom “Kenza fi Douar,” which was watched by over 10 million viewers during Ramadan 2014. And then there is “The Couple”, shown every day just before Iftar.

Maybe it is just me, but I can only watch so much mediocre TV before becoming, not just bored but irritable. Abderraouf... no thanks. Al Awni, no thanks... the list goes on, Sidi Ahmed, Mahadi, Trika or Camera Annoujoun. I would prefer a lobotomy!

Of course, after a day fasting in the heat, I can understand that turning into a vegetable in front of a TV seems the only option. But, an entire family, zoned out, and incapable of conversation makes me feel that too much TV is a drug. An entire family? No, in reality, millions of Muslims around the world are addicted. The minute they come home the TV goes on, some have a small television in the kitchen so as not to miss things while preparing Iftar.

That is not to say that there are not worthwhile programs that stimulate thought, reflection and conversation.

Al Jazeera has been running some interesting documentaries that fullfil the hunger for intellectual nourishment. Filmmaker Yasser Ashour's look at Ramadan in Kenya is a good example.

I knew very little about Kenya and even less about how they celebrate the Holy month. Muslims have lived in Kenya for centuries and today make up about 11 percent of the country's population. These communities live on the coast in cities like Mombasa - where nearly half of the city's inhabitants are Muslim - and in the country's northeast.
"The attitude of the people of Mombasa is that they are very friendly people. You can just go in, go join anyone, anyone you see ... If I don't know you, you don't know me, you are very welcome to come sit with me. Let's have Iftar together, let's have prayers." 
Arafat bin Taleb, in a shelter for orphans, says the month of Ramadan acts like a guide

To watch it on your computer click here: Ramadan in Kenya

On the other hand, why not turn off the television, get up, go outside, take a walk and remind yourself that there are better ways of spending your evening.

The White Nights - Ramadan St Petersburg style

Early on in Ramadan, I mentioned the problems encountered by Muslims living in the far north of Europe, Russia and Scandinavia, where fasting in a normal way is impossible as the sun only sets for a very short time and a person would be fasting for between 21 and 22 hours every day. St Petersburg in Russia is famous for its White Nights Festival at this time of the year, but for local Muslims the long-lasting daylight in the region is an extra challenge to their faith.

While the Qur'an gives a lot of advice about fasting it does not give explicit instructions on observing the fast in the far north. Some Muslim scholars have written that residents of northern regions can forgo the fasting ritual, which is meant as a way to strengthen the will and rule over desires.

Other religious authorities suggest that Muslims living in the far north can observe the Ramadan fast according to the time of sunrise and sunset in Mecca or the nearest Muslim city.

“According to the instructions of the Holy Qur’an, fasting in regions [near the poles] is never obligatory, for it is established as such only for a set amount of days, that is, in those places where night and day are comparable in length,” Russian Tatar scholar Musa Bigiev wrote in a text on fasting.

Muslims praying in St Petersburg

Although there are no exact figures on how many Muslims live in St Petersburg, last year’s Eid al-Fitr festivities, which mark the end of Ramadan fasting, drew 42,000 worshippers to the city’s two main mosques.

No parking penalty - but parking reward

A mosque in America has let its congregation know that parking in a considerate way will earn them heavenly rewards.
Please leave parking available near all mosque entrances for the elderly and expectant mothers in our community. You will be rewarded for every step you take towards the mosque. Park farther away and earn multiple rewards.

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

David and Quentin were lost in a desert and very close to dying of thirst and hunger. Then they came upon an oasis and a beautiful mosque.

David turned to Quentin and said, 'Look, there is a mosque, let's pretend we are Muslims, otherwise we won't get any food or water. So, I am going to call myself Ahmad.'

Quentin refused to change his name and said: 'My name is Quentin and I will never pretend to be other than what I am.’

They stumbled across the dunes to the oasis and in the mosque the Imam received both of them warmly and asked for their names.

‘I am Ahmad’ David said.

‘I am Quentin,’ said Quentin.

The Imam nodded, turned to his helpers and instructed them to bring food and water, but only for Quentin.

And then Imam turned towards David and smiled. ‘Ramadan Mubarak Brother Ahmad!’

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY FIVE             DAY NINE            DAY THIRTEEN
DAY TWO         DAY SIX                 DAY TEN

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