Saturday, 4 July 2015

Anyone want some salad? ...Anyone?

Last night I was cultured once again. Well, by "cultured" I mean I participated in the easy part of a very difficult task. I'm talking about Ramadan. But before I tell you about last night's event let me give you a little history of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a month-long tradition within the Muslim faith. It takes place on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar*. Most understand Ramadan as a month of fasting - which it is - but it is also much more than that. The purpose of this observance, according to Islamic belief, is to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. In total, Ramadan lasts anywhere from 29-30 days, but is dependent on the cycle of the moon. Interestingly, because of the number of calendar days, in the Islamic calendar, it is possible to have more than one Ramadan in a year. The last time this happened was in 1997, with the next set for 2030!

A list of past, present and future Ramadan dates
(Photo Credit:
There are three keys dates related to Ramadan:
  1. Hilāl, or the crescent - The beginning of Ramadan, which is signified by the crescent in the moon. This is usually a day or so after the presence of the new moon. 
  2. Laylat al-Qadr, or "the night of power" - This is believed to be the "holiest night of the year." It is understood that on this day, the first revelation of the Quran was revealed to Muhammad. 
  3. Eid al-Fitr - The end of Ramadan, which is signified by the commencement of the proceeding lunar month, or the presence of the next new moon. 
During Ramadan, there are a number of traditions that are closely followed by those observing the Holy Month. This includes prayer, fasting, and charity. But, for the purposes of this blog, I will quickly note the practices surrounding the fasting component of Ramadan. That being said, I would encourage anyone interested to look into it further, as it's quite fascinating, and this mediocre attempt to capture the significance of the month does not do it justice! 

So, fasting during Ramadan. Those observing Ramadan are to fast between sunrise - or Suhur - and sunset - or Iftar (as I participated in last night). I'm told that a reason for the fast is so that those participating can understand what it is like to be poor, and the hope is that it creates a reminder to help those in need - adding to the element of charity I haven't explored. Now, to clarify, sunrise and sunset doesn't mean when the sun is all bright and shiny. It's relating to when the sun begins to rise and set. To put this in perspective, because I know I have mentioned it already in previous posts, in Manchester, where I'm currently residing, it feels like the sun is pretty much always shining, by way of light, not necessarily warmth! Through many inquiries to my Muslim friends, I learned that this is sort of true... The sun rises here around 2am, and sets just before 10pm. Think about that for a second. That's 20 hours of fasting everyday. But, fun fasting fact: The longest fast is in the northern most parts of the world, where it lasts up to 22 hours. The shortest observance is in Australia, where there is an average fasting time of 11 or so hours. There is an option to bypass the extended fasting times, and follow the hours observed in Mecca. However, it does not appear that any of my pals here are opting for that. Look, there is so much more that I probably should be outlining, but because of my lack of expertise, I don't want to butcher it more than I likely have!

Okay, let's change gears a bit... less educational, more experience sharing!

So, last night my residence hosted Iftar (which you should all now know is the breaking of the daily fast). We had about 50 or so people come out to the event, which was incredible - particularly as there was a good mix of people, backgrounds, and likely beliefs. We had anticipated a little less than that, but still had SO MUCH FOOD! Not that any of us were complaining!

We broke the fast, first with a date, and then everyone lined up and began to dig in!

(Photo Credit: Yong Kai Jie)
(Photo Credit: Yong Kai Jie)
A sample of what was for offer.
(Photo Credit: Yong Kai Jie)
At the end of the night, the only thing not claimed by anyone, except for one sir who took only the carrots, was the salad... I tried effortlessly and (perhaps more importantly), unsuccessfully to pawn it off on anyone, even offering up zero dollars for anyone willing to take it. But, alas, there was no one. And, with a few kind words and a heavy heart, the salad was tossed**.

The salad.
(Photo Credit: Yong Kai Jie)
It made for quite the late night for little 'ol me, but it was well worth it. I have such respect for anyone committed enough to endure the long days of fasting. I stopped eating at around 4:00pm,*** and had the shakes while waiting in line to have my share! I can honestly say that I have no idea how they're all doing it, particularly when it's a legitimate sunny day here. I remember being in Northern Ghana during Ramadan last year and being completely mind blown by how difficult it must have been for those working, intensely in the hot, hot, heat!

So for those of you fasting, keep it up! You're halfway there! And thank you, for letting me be a part of it, even if I pretty much cheated!

-the Orange Canadian

*The Islamic calendar runs 12 months, like the Gregorian one widely used around the world. However, instead of 365/366 days within the year, the Islamic calendar runs over a total of 354 days. 
**Yeah - I DID just throw in a little salad pun there!
***For the record, I hadn't been eating a steady flow of food until 4:00pm, but that was when I had my last bite before the 9:45-ish breaking of the fast.

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