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The 30-day epic of Ramadan

The 30-day epic of Ramadan

By: Fidaa Abuassi
24th August, 2011

Episode I: Winter time in Summer

Move the clocks back one hour and Gaza will get an extra hour of sleep –of darkness, but, I thought to myself, Haven’t we already got enough darkness?! The epic of having to switch back to winter time is almost repeated every Ramadan. Since Ramadan is based on the lunar cycle, it varies yearly. This year Ramadan is in August. It’s summer time. It’s scorching. It’s boiling hot. No matter what, winter time starts the moment Ramadan starts. Then, no wonder DST (daylight saving time) ends in August though it was supposed to end in October. Winter time in summer! Summer time in winter! Don’t bother thinking and go enjoy that extra hour of sleep because nothing makes sense in Gaza, why would time? It’s normal to be abnormal in Gaza. Don’t ask why or how. This is the way it is. It’s all settled. Period.

Episode II: After Ramadan

It’s also worth mentioning that, in Ramadan, work hours, office hours and study hours are reduced by two, which means that the official 8-3 would become 8-1, for example. Everything is delayed until Ramadan is over, and some people even take the whole month off. I hear them say “we will do it after Ramadan”, “we will agree after Ramadan”, “we will talk after Ramadan”, we will call you after Ramadan”, “the exam is after Ramadan.” I still wonder why Ramadan, the month of change and good deeds, seems to many as though it was a month of inactivity and sleep, of inertia and fatigue, of stagnancy and retreat. This is not the true spirit of Ramadan, indeed.

Episode III: Dark Ramadan

Roughly speaking, the dawn-to-dusk fast means to abstain from food and drink. Gazans should decide to abstain from electricity as well, and no wonder we are uniquely different. Having regular power outages is a real epic; especially, when it’s hard to predict when it’s going to go off and come back. Had we known about its exact time beforehand, we’d have had our day scheduled accordingly. It’s advisable not to waste time waiting the unknown, for power outages are never exact. To survive in Gaza, especially during Ramadan, we have to live as though it’s not a universally acknowledged right to have light all the time yet as a great privilege, and we have to celebrate each time the power returns. One has to visit a Gazan family to witness how everyone, especially children, rejoices when its Majesty, the power, is back and you’d hear them joyfully scream at the top of their voice “whoopee! ejat el kahrabaaaaa/the power is back”. Paradoxically, simple things make us happy in our far-from-being-simple life.

Episode IV: The two calls at dawn

As Muslims have to wake up for Suhoor –the pre-dawn meal, there are two Adhans/calls-to-prayer at dawn, the second of which is when Muslims begin their fasting. The epic of having two calls at dawn confuses most of us, let alone when you live in a neighborhood crammed with mosques so you’d hear the two calls a zillion times because of the irregular timing of calls recited by each. “sho? Addan? (did it call?)” “Is this the first or the second call?” “Do we still have time?” “Can I still take another gulp of water for one last time?”

Well, Ramadan is not about racing against the Adhan or eating and drinking till the last moment. One shouldn’t spoil the serenity of these peaceful pre-dawn moments when dua’as (supplications) are answered and should start making use of the last third portion of the night by praying to Allah, reading Quran and asking Him for whatever one wishes.

Episode V: The Rush Hour

As the countdown to the evening call-to-prayer rolls on, Gaza would become an absolutely frantic town, with everyone rushing home hysterically, with taxi-drivers honking their horns irritably, and with people at food stores running distractedly, pushing and hurrying one another impatiently. One need to roam the street half an hour before the iftar to see how crazy people go. However, the instant the countdown stops, no one is there in sight, absolutely no one. People vanish from streets, and silence is all what one could hear.

Episode VI: The Luxurious Iftar

The epic of the iftar (the celebratory evening meal) is certainly worth a say. As the table is stuffed full of all kinds of food, of Ramadan special drinks and sweets, I wonder whether this is the essence of Ramadan! With all these luxuries, do we really empathize and sympathize with the poor and those in need? I don’t think that such extravagance after the 14-hour fast is what Ramadan stands for. Ramadan is not about starving ourselves then eating as much as we can. We don’t really feel for the poor and needy this way. And, why does it seem to me that people fear hunger more than anything else? One need to go down the streets a week before the commencement of Ramadan and see how people crowd every bakery, clear out every supermarket and stack up every grocery as though there would be no food on this earth again, as though they had been starving the whole year and waiting Ramadan to eat.

Episode VII: Ramadan Kareem
People need to understand the true essence of Ramadan. Ramadan is the month of working not of sleeping, a month of self-restraint not of mere hunger strike then having lavish iftar, a month of spiritual reflection not of watching TV, a month of worship not of banquets, a month of tolerance and patience not of tensions and conflicts and a month of night prayers not night shopping. Ramadan Kareem to all of you!


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