Ramadan’s Digest (Part I)

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Ramadan is about the purification of spirit and soul. It is about reflection, self assessment, prayer, reading the Quran, and ceasing of verbal sins (gossip, lying, swearing). It is about self control. It is about feeling with the less fortunate. It is about detoxification. Above all this, it happens to be about fasting from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

It is a great opportunity to getting one’s body accustomed to less food than it is used to and, more importantly, less than it usually wants. Coincidentally, in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (which I didn’t read by the way), it is mentioned that it takes 30 days to build a habit. Ramadan just happens to be 30 days.

When the moon is sighted people rush to the supermarkets and push carts full of food to the checkout counter. The checkout counters beeping seem endless. People buy everything there is that goes in the mouth. The month of stomach cleansing, detoxing and dieting has begun.

Come sunset, a cannon is fired to declare the kick-off to eating time (an Ottoman habit to ensure that the loud bang of the cannon can be heard in all fasting neighbourhoods), a suitable start to the state of panic that overcomes everybody. The radio broadcasts announcements asking people to slow down at traffic lights and intersections. Police hand out dates and water at traffic lights to contain the turmoil. Phones ring off the hook telling the fasting individuals who aren’t home yet to hurry home! It is time for eating to begin! Going on for 15 hours without food was bearable, but these 10 minutes it would take any person to get home would kill them if they don’t eat the minute the call for maghrib prayer is heard. The sounds at the dinner table is like that at a mining field with the cutlery banging on the dishes.

The breaking of the fast starts with a humble date and water, or milk, or yoghurt. Then the soup with the bite size samosas, or kobe. Then the salad with bread crumbs. A juice made of dates, raisins and rose water with floating pine nuts called jallab, or apricot juice, or tamarind juice. Then a traditional layered dish of with humous, or stuffed eggplants, with yoghurt and garlic, bread crumbs and pine nuts. Then the main meal which has to be rice and meat/chicken. Never fish though, it makes one thirsty. If it was a buffet then it is a completely different issue.

In about 30 minutes from the first meal, and shortly after the caffeine hit that everyone would be craving since the morning, comes the desserts. These desserts are Ramadan specific; not found anytime else in the year. They consist of a pancake or a crunchy crust, stuffed with cheese, or cream, or pistachio, or walnuts, or any combination of those mentioned, and drenched in sugar syrup.

For the health conscious, pulling back on food is not an option. One would be coerced into indulgence for fear of dying out of hunger. “Stop drinking too much water!” They would exclaim. “Enough eating soup/salad!” They would demand. “You will get full now!” …. Isn’t this the point of eating?

Shortly after the dessert most will make their way to tents where people will get together and talk about what they have eaten. They will nibble on lupin bean or fava beans. They will drink more of the juices, but no matter what happens the chewing motion must not stop.

Shortly before sunrise, another main meal will be eaten to prepare the body for the tough situation of going through the day not eating, half of which is spent in sleep.

29 long days of bloating, over eating, and the seldom case of food poisoning, the whole world turns their gaze up to the sky for a glimpse of a new moon to indicate the end of the month of fasting. When the moon is sighted people rejoice, “Thank Goodness the month ended! Now we can go back to eating again.”

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5 responses »

  1. Lovely article! I love how you mix seriousness and sarcasm in a seamless manner. Plus I love your first paragraph..

  2. Once again a great blog…and true in a sad way.

    This is the first time I fasted. It was a beautiful experience. Having never done this before, and starting as an adult, the experience was humbling and powerfully reflective.

    One of the first things that struck me, was the abundance of food. How accessible it is, how we are constantly being drawn to it and how it is always in our face. I often thought about the majority of the world, who must toil or travel in order to obtain nourishment, and in most cases, even then, they have no access to it. When my rumbling stomach reminded me I had missed breakfast, the thought of being able to access food, at any point, left me feeling betrayed, that my own body should dare complain, whilst my fellow humans die of hunger each day.

    Shopping had become wise. No more excess. Just enough to provide my energy. Never overeating in anticipation of what was to come and never throwing anything away. What was purchased, was consumed, and always with thanks. When one fasts, watching people around them eat, eat,eat reveals the unconscious greed we all are guilty of.

    Food took on a new meaning. I do pride myself on trying to eat naturally, but after fasting, I became much more aware of what I was choosing to consume. Looking at labels on food, and seeing how much unnatural stuff there was quickly made me put things I would have normally bought, down. I exercised everyday also. Giving thanks to the gift of this machine and promising to love it and honor it.

    The spiritual element of fasting is much greater however. When I first took on the conscious responsibility that I would fast, I promised myself, that I would be in full control and kindness. No ill feelings, no bad deeds, no anger. If I broke this promise to myself, I would break my fast on that day. This was my word. How enlightening the experience was, when by conquering the need for food, the Soul masters its own lowly qualities. Happy to say I made the whole month, without once getting angry or giving way to my lesser states. The humbling fasting state, causes one to become more empathic to our own fellow beings. I not only felt happier, but being kind changes, everything..for the best.

    And beyond even that, prayer had a different meaning. It was no longer “Please…”, but sometimes, just “Thank you”…said with a deep bow and with enough Soul to bring forth tears, and enough humbleness to acknowledge that we can only hope to even begin to even fathom the meaning of God, once we are truly at peace with ourselves and everything around us. Quite right. One month to form habit. And that habit remains.

    One of the most beautiful experiences ever. And one that will continue forth forever more. If everyone on Earth, would just try this, for one month, regardless of religion, race…but simply to find themselves…the world would be at Peace.

    Ramadan, to me, is a journey, in order to reflect within and find what we are. Our journey within, forgoes external nourishment to help us find internal calm.

    Truly a beautiful gift.

    ..it also gives you a wicked 6 pack.

    Sash

  3. Pingback: This Ramadhan | R . e . c . l . a . i . m . i . n . g . B . i . n . k . y

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