Usually I don’t/won’t write about this stuff, but since I’m up at an ungodly hour, I thought, why not?
You may or may not know this, but starting the day-before-yesterday, muslims around the world started fasting in the month of Ramadan. Now, I am not going to tell you the history, or the where’s and why-fores of Ramadan are; that’s what Wikipedia is for. But for those of you who are totally new to the concept, I’ll give you a brief rundown.
So, according to the five pillars of Islam, muslims, who are able to, have to fast the whole month of Ramadan (the 9th month in the muslim calendar). But this doesn’t mean that we’re deprived of food for 30 days. Muslims have to refrain from eating, drinking, and having sex (I know, I know, you’re all going ‘say what?!’) from sun-up till sundown. This usually means that they eat before sunrise, fast all day, then eat break their fast after sunset.
Now that’s all about the religion. But since there are muslims all over the world, different cultures have different ways in which to practice this religious fasting. For instance, I am a Bangladeshi. this means that whatever I do, I do it the bangla way.
I mentioned earlier that I’m up at an ungodly hour. That’s because I had to get up to eat sehri (suhoor for all our arab friends). This is basically a meal eaten before the crack of dawn (literally), to ensure that we don’t starve to death during the day. Now this meal varies culture to culture and person to person. Banglas usually eat rice, with different curries and vegetables. A middle-eastern may be eating bread with soup. Some people might just throw down a bowl of cereal. The practice of eating sehri, while encouraged, is not compulsory. I’ve gone days where after a late night, waking up before the sun rises to eat wasnt very appealing. So I didn’t get up. It might’ve made my day slightly harder, but I lived.
So after the sun rises, nothing but air is allowed entrance down my throat. I’m supposed to fast the whole day. Now this part sucks if Ramadan falls during the summer, because it means longer days. So for all the muslims in Europe and the Americas- you have my condolences. I live in Malaysia, where the only seasons are rain, and more rain- there is no concept of changing seasons here. This means that I usually fast an average of 12-13 hours.
After a long day out in the big bad world with no food, i usually come back home and sleep. And let me tell you, sleep is your best friend during Ramadan. nobody said you can’t eat in your dreams ;). But once the sun slips over the horizon, it’s time to eat iftar. This is like the opposite of sehri. It’s the time where after fasting the whole day, muslims-for lack of a better word-pig out. They literally eat like starving men. Usually the fast is broken by eating dates, after that, anything and everything is fair game.
Iftar is usually also a communal gathering. For example, in bangla culture, one usually as iftar parties. This is just a bunch of people going over someones’ house to eat iftar. Afterwards a muslim usually has to pray. Ramadan is also supposed to be a super-duper holy month, meaning devout muslims are trying their hardest to be praying 24/7. But th average muslim also becomes slightly more devout during this month. They may pick up the Quran more often, or be less inclined to miss their prayers.
Now you may be asking, what on earth is the point of all this. Well there is some spiritual reward, and something about going to heaven. But for kids, and for most of my life, Ramadan was only worth it because of Eid. After a long month of fasting, a muslim get day where they pig out. The entire day. It’s the equivalent of Christmas for a muslim. I don’t know about other cultures, but a bangla will don new clothes for eid, and go door to door, of all their friends and family, for free food. But that’s not the best part. If you’re young enough, you get MONEY. In Bangladesh, this is called Eidee, in Malaysia it is called Duit Raya. I’m pretty sure giving money to little kids is predominately an Asian custom. There’s nothing better than waking up on the morning of eid and realising that you no longer have to fast :]. I guess you could say eid is like a cross between Christmas and Halloween.
So the sun is officially up here, which means that I hafta get on with the fasting now. I wonder what I’m having for iftar? hmmm.