We’ll be hearing this statement many times in the next few weeks because if it is hard getting a tradesperson to the home throughout the year, watch how things slow down during the month of Ramadan.
Because of religious observances in this special month the working hours are shorter and, as after sunset the eating, drinking and meeting get into top gear and go on well into the night, those who front up to work the next day are notoriously inefficient.
With a full month of daytime fasting and nighttime festivity the tiredness inevitably builds the longer the period continues.
There are plenty of statements available that describe and explain the Ramadan customs but a good summary, entitled ‘Ramadan is Coming’, is posted on American Bedu, which is a fascinating site that records the “experiences and observations of a former American diplomat now married to a Saudi and living in the KSA.”
Fasting can sound austere and painful to the uninitiated but when one hears the response of people going through this month, it is usually expressed with positive appreciation, joy and a sense of solidarity in making this journey with other sisters and brothers of the faith.
Sexual activity during the daylight hours is part of the abstinence ritual but those who track the birth patterns in the UAE testify to the large numbers of babies that burst into the world nine months after Ramadan. This is further testament to Ramadan being a month of love, encounter, joy and relaxation.
For people who are not members of Islam there are special Ramadan greetings to use, cards that can be sent and invitations of hospitality to accept.
While modesty in dress is the usual practice throughout the year, this necessity is underscored with greater importance during this month of focusing on matters of faith.
Most restaurants and cafes in shopping strips and malls are closed during the days of Ramadan and people not fasting are asked to be considerate (in some countries this is forbidden by law) by not eating and drinking in front of those who are abstaining.
It is difficult to purchase alcohol in the UAE in the month of Ramadan. The usual outlet in Fujairah often informs its customers in advance that it will be closed for the entire month. This Ramadan reminder also serves as an encouragement to ‘stock up’! Large international hotels shut down many of their bars and they need to get a permit to have one or two still open for their thirsty international guests.
Just as people with no real Christian interest, renegotiate Christmas festivals by entering into the spirit of giving it is possible for those who do not embrace Islam to reframe Ramadan as a month that is authentic and meaningful. The voluntary fasting from food, meat and alcohol is bound to bring many benefits. Fasting from shopping and burning up petrol is a change that would do wonders for the environment.
Often the emphasis is put on Ramadan prohibitions and what one is not allowed to do when fasting should reveal all the positive things that one can do because so much time is not consumed in eating and cooking. To be freed up from all our usual activities can present us with superb gifts—good quality time for thinking, enjoying silence, pondering the significance, reviewing the past year and formulating commitments for the future. If life is about discovery, it is a good idea to use the extra time in Ramadan to be more open to ourselves, to others people and to all the many dimensions of life.
I have a friend who does not follow the way of Islam but he often abstains from eating during the daylight hours of Ramadan in order to express solidarity with the poor and hungry. He uses the extra time that this creates to pray and to work for peace.
Preparing for Ramadan
The ‘most read’ article in today’s (17 August 2008) Khaleej Times reports consumers flocking to UAE supermarkets to buy up cooking ingredients for fear that some items might not be available or they might be too highly priced for Ramadan meals and festivities. Such shopping fever illustrates the way that Ramadan is just as much about feasting as it is about fasting.
Instead of stockpiling in the pantry or replenishing the cellar this pre-Ramadan period requires some careful planning. Yes, by all means, plague the electrician to fix the wiring and call the plumber to get that leaky pipe repaired but let’s ponder how we might free ourselves up to take hold of those things in life that are of greatest importance.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Design on a Ramadan greeting card.
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