The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Friday, October 31, 2003 Link... Remember "Malcom Lagauche"... the author whose site was shut down after he got too many hits? You can now find him here: Lagauche is Right - posted by river @ 12:25 AM Ramadhan... Ramadhan is the 9th month in the Islamic year (which also has 12 months, but only has around 358 days). Ramadhan is considered one of the holiest months of the Islamic year- in my opinion, it is the most interesting. We spend the whole of Ramadhan fasting, every day, from the first rays of light at dawn, until the sun sets. In other words, we can neither eat, nor drink, nor smoke, nor chew gum until it is time to ‘break the fast’ during the evening. Ramadhan is the month during which the angel Gabriel first visited our Prophet, with the message of Islam and the Quran. That is why it is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. The exact date of the momentous occasion can’t be calculated exactly, but it is believed that ‘Laylet il Qadir’ (the night the Prophet was first visited by Gabriel) is towards the end of Ramadhan (many believe that it falls on the 27th night). Ramadhan is a festive month, in many ways. It’s like the last two weeks of December- a little bit hectic, but important, all the same. It’s that month where you get to see all the family you never you knew you had- the intolerable cousins, the favorite aunt, the grandparents, nieces, nephews, uncles and even the great-uncle you thought had died last year. The whole month is sort of a ‘family month’. The fasting works like this: at the break of dawn, we simply stop eating and drinking. This lasts through the whole day until ‘al maghrib’ or dusk. Fasting is considered one of the ‘arkan’ of Islam, which means it is required of all Muslims. There are certain exceptions- people who are ill aren’t required to fast during Ramadhan, and people who are traveling. If the fasting affects a person’s health in any way (i.e. if the person is diabetic, or pregnant, etc.), they are excused from fasting. Of course, the ‘moral fasting’ comes with the physical fasting. In other words, a person can break their fast without using food. Gossiping, fighting, lying, cheating, angry words and more have to be avoided during Ramadhan, otherwise your fast, or ‘siyam’ is considered useless. Prayer and Quran reading are also stepped-up during the whole of the month because it is believed to be a ‘blessed month’. Someone might ask, but why fast? What is the point of denying yourself food and drink for over half a day? Fasting is supposed to teach tolerance, patience, and hunger. Yes, hunger. The average person forgets what it’s like to be hungry… and I don’t mean the, wow-I-could-really-use-a-burger-and-some-fries type of hunger. I mean the hunger you feel when you haven’t had anything to eat or drink for over 12 hours and your stomach feels ready to cave in and your head feels like exploding because you didn’t get that zap of caffeine you need to function. The point of being hungry is to help you appreciate food more. It helps you realize that food and water shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially when there are people who feel like this every day regardless of it being a holy month or otherwise. Many doctors also believe fasting is healthy, as it often lowers blood pressure and keeps people from smoking or drinking. I currently have an uncle who swears he's going to give up smoking this Ramadhan (like he gave it up last Ramadhan- and the one before). We begin preparing for the ‘futtoor’, or the meal with which we break our fast, over an hour before its time. Traditionally, most people break their fast on a date, and then proceed to whatever is on the menu. Often, people begin the meal with some sort of soup because it warms the stomach without shocking it after all those hours without food. The most popular Ramadhan soup is lentil soup, or ‘addess’. It is a pale, yellow soup that is both light and flavorful. There are dozens of different ways to make it, but I enjoy it with a squeeze of lime and ‘khubz’. After the soup, comes a whole procession of often traditional foods… maybe I should post the recipes. There’s so much food because the ‘futtoor’ is more of a daily celebration than it is an ordinary meal. During previous years, we would spend almost every day breaking our fast with various family or friends. This year is different because the security situation doesn’t allow for traipsing around Baghdad or other provinces on a daily basis. It’s also not the same because, under normal circumstances, our ‘futtoor’ gatherings often last well into the night, sometimes past 12 am, before the group breaks up to go home. The neighbors are often a big part of the month. If they’re not dropping by to sample futtoor, then they’re sending over a plate of something for you to sample. We also get together to agree who will be sending food over to the local mosque to feed the mosque keepers and the Imam, and to arrange who will be sending what to the more destitute families in the neighborhood. Ramadhan is the time of year when we put aside neighborhood differences (like the fact that Abu K.’s dog howls at anyone who goes down the street), and combine culinary skills and a general feeling of empathy. The most active part of the whole day is the quarter of an hour directly before breaking the fast… the whole family is often in a flurry of action, with someone setting the table, someone carrying the food, someone giving orders about where to put everything… and everyone impatient with hunger. The last five minutes before you hear the call for prayer signifying the end of the fast are always the most difficult. Every second of those last five minutes passes with the heaviness of an hour… you can literally see every one strain to hear the sound of the call for prayer echoing through the Baghdad streets. And then it is finally time for futtoor… and we begin to eat with relish. The platter of rice that seemed ridiculously small 15 minutes ago, is now ‘too much’ and no one eats as much as they had hoped they were going to eat- everyone is exhausted with simply contemplating the food, the choices and the possibilities. After futtoor, the smokers fall upon their cigarettes with an enthusiasm only other smokers can appreciate. We watch them taking puff after puff with a contentment that even screaming kids, and loud televisions cannot taint. The rest of the night is spent in eating snacks and sweets, like baqlawa saturated in syrup, and warm kunaffa (a cheese sweet). Everyone moves somewhat slower and the general mood is one of contentment and joviality (no one can get up the energy to be angry after a large meal). .. the only thing that can thoroughly ruin a futtoor is an air strike (like in 1998) or an electricity cut. Tomorrow we’re expecting to break our fast with an uncle’s family and one of our neighbors (who are Christian). Christians don’t fast during Ramadhan, but they do often join us while breaking the fast and many refuse to eat and drink in places like college and school (where eating is allowed) out of solidarity and respect. And now you’ll excuse me… they’ve just warmed the kunaffa drenched in a sugar syrup and if I don’t hurry, there’ll be nothing left for Riverbend… - posted by river @ 12:20 AM __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Exclusive Video Premiere - Britney Spears http://launch.yahoo.com/promos/britneyspears/ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk