Thursday, 18 June 2015

Ramadaan Mubarak

The blessed month of Ramadaan has arrived.



This year, for South African Muslims, the actual fasting (abstaining from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset) aspect of Ramadaan should be relatively easy. Being mid-winter, the days are cool and short (for example, today's fasting times for Johannesburg are 5.26 a.m. until 5.27 p.m.). To put this in perspective, in Johannesburg, we will be fasting for about twelve hours, compared to parts of Sweden where there is currently only an hour of night time, meaning that they fast for over twenty-three hours. In St Petersburg, Russia, Muslims will be fasting for about twenty-two hours. This shifts by about two weeks each year as the Muslim calendar is slightly shorter than the Gregorian calendar, meaning that at some point we fast for long days in the blistering summer heat while those Swedes fast for only an hour when they have perpetual night time. 



While the actual abstinence is obviously a huge deal, as critical is the spiritual side of Ramadaan, reflecting on ones own character, aspiring and making changes to be a better person and generally doing more good deeds and this applies universally. (For me, there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to this aspect and I have a long list of goals each year.) Muslims aim to pray more, give more charity and abstain from sin during this period, the idea being that if this is done for 29-30 days, this  behaviour will become habit and hopefully carry forward during the rest of the year.

It is a challenging time each year. Besides the food aspect, more prayers are required. Sleep deprivation is worse than usual as we wake up very early for a very light meal before the fast commences (in our family, this is typically just cereal and fruit) and go to bed later due to extra prayers required.

One seemingly minor,  but tiring battle for me is just co-ordinating the evening routine. As we break fast early in winter, food must be on the table much earlier than our usual supper time (and a little extra effort goes into meal preparation). After we break our fast in the evening, hubby, A, like other Muslim men,  is usually at the mosque for extended prayers in the evening, leaving me alone with the bath and bed routine, which is usually a shared task. I have no idea how single mothers do it, but for me, bathing a four year old while trying to stop a one year old (who has just been bathed) from diving back in the bathtub or play in the toilet bowl is the ultimate exercise in patience and self-restraint. Getting both to sleep simultaneously at a reasonable hour, prayers and then doing all the usual evening chores- mission impossible. Character building- that is what this month is all about!

Despite the minor challenges, at the end of the month, we look forward to this month and the sense of peace it brings each year and always feel like our faith has been strengthened and re-affirmed for the year ahead.

Wishing all Muslim readers a blessed, peaceful and enriching Ramadaan.