The reason I don’t mention Islam more often on Zingcreed is that it is one of many topics on which I could write all I knew on the back of a postage stamp. Others being cricket, the X Factor, meteorology and high finance. However in my own defence I think I’ve helped out the pub quiz teams I’ve joined for trivial pursuits stuff. Do you know how many bones there are in the human foot?
Looking back I remember two times Ramadan impinged on my life.
One was when on holiday in Alexandria, Egypt. No Moslem swallowed food or water from dawn till dusk. This went as far as the taxi driver spitting into a cloth every so often so that he didn’t swallow his own saliva. Me, I was swigging from a plastic water bottle all day long. Food was available through the day if you looked for it. After all, people bought food to take home to prepare for the breaking of their fast at dusk. No-one expected tourists to observe the fast. However it felt disrespectful to me to wander the streets chewing bread or nuts or whatever when others couldn’t enjoy the same privelege.
I loved the end of the fast each day. Instant queues formed outside the bakers’ shops, as hot pitta bread came out of the ovens on time and were passed eagerly from hand to hand by the waiting crowd. Then there were the ‘pop-up’ falafel kiosks that were wheeled into place with their sizzling cauldrons of hot oil in which the bean balls were deep fried. Hot off the ladle, a more hygienic snack could not be found!
My second encounter with Ramadan occurred in the North London comprehensive school where I was a supply teacher (‘substitute teacher’ in US) for a few weeks. I had small classes of mainly Turkish and Kurdish boys, and the start of the fast was noticeable to all the staff. The pupils were more lethargic, quiet and compliant. Much easier to control in other words! Hunger and self-discipline worked wonders. Whether their brains functioned normally I don’t know. One member of staff quipped “Pity it can’t be Ramadan all year round!”
I want to say something more positive about the topic now, quoting from a Moslem source.
Disciplining oneself to do without daytime refreshment for 29 or 30 days every year of one’s life is like a reset button.
- You appreciate food and drink far more when you’ve waited for it for so long
- You are forced to stop and reflect on all we have been given
- You meditate on the better part of ourselves and on our existence here
- You become aware of how much we waste water and food
- You come to realise how much time and effort is spent in the pursuit and consumption of food, in a world that is driven by consumption
- A sense of wonder can come out of this beautiful pit-stop, as we realize how frail we are and yet how strong
- Fasting causes you to be more sensitive, and strengthens the heart
- Fasting slows the body, giving the mind a chance to wonder so that the minutest things become a joy again
- Ramadan weakens the cage to let the trapped bird remember its song and its wings
- Fasting helps us to remember that we are always more than we can ever imagine.
‘Fasting beauty’ by Muhammad Muwakil, Caribbean Beat (magazine of Caribbean Airlines) July/August 2014
Related Zingcreed Posts:
I love Syria
The Hijab: just for modesty or a symbol of oppression?
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