Saturday, August 14, 2010
Ramadan has beun and for the next 40 days Muslims the world over will be fasting (the fourth Pillar of Islam) as a sign of their devotion to Allah. During Ramadan gulf area Muslims fast from around 3:00AM (before the first light of day) until 6:30PM (when the last light of day has vanished from the sky). Many Muslims use the night hours to celebrate with friends and family where they enjoy great feasts. The first breaking of the day long fast is called Iftar (locally around 6:30PM). Traditionally Iftar meals consist of assorted nuts, dried fruits and light snacks. The second meal is called Suhoor which locally takes place around 9:00PM onward. Suhoor can go on into the wee hours of the morning and is often used as family time.
Last night 18 of our friends from the squadron got together for an Iftar buffet at the Novotel Hotel. It was there that we enjoyed a beautiful spread ranging from dates and nuts to lamb and other local favorites. Tanner and my friend's 4 year old daughter Maggie joined in on the feast and festivities, all had a delicious meal and fun visiting with friends!
Durring this time of Ramadan other courtesies must be followed and are strictly enforced by local law enforcement. There is to be no consumption of food or beverage in public during times of fasting, those found even drinking water (in the 115 degree heat) could be fined BD 500 (roughly $1400). No gum, no smoking - nothing in the mouth - period. It's odd driving around and seeing all eating establishments in Bahrain closed during daylight hours, even places normally open 24 hours like McDonald's. The only places that serve food are hotel restaurants to care for those traveling.
Clothing is also affected during this time of Ramadan. For all non-muslim women our bodies must be conservatively covered: shirts must come past our elbows, pants past our knees. Men must wear pants, base has asked all male personnel to wear collared shirts in public as well.
Shopping establishments as you can imagine hold very different hours during Ramadan. Many stores and shops (obviously grocery stores) are closed during daylight hours but open all night. It's as if the society has flipped their day and night. It should be an interesting 40 days, I am prepared to stay home most days and venture out only in the evenings.
When I first moved to Bahrain I had countless cultural questions, I am fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers and friends who have shared much. For my Christian friends who are curious (as I was), below is some information copied from Muslimah's Homepage on Islam:
THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM:
To do this one must simply state publicly "Ashadu alla ilaha illa Allah, wa ashadu anna Muhammed ar-rasool Allah".
This means, "I bear witness that there is no God other than Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammed is His messanger."
Offering of prayers is obligatory upon every Muslim who is sane, mature and in the case of women free from menstruation and confinement due to child birth. some requirements must be met in oreder for the prayer to be valid. Prayers are required at least five times a day. Other obligatory prayer include the Friday congregational prayer, Eid prayers and the funeral prayer. Times of the five daily obligatory prayers:
2.Zuhr-After the sun begins to decline from its zenith.
4.Magrib-Just after sunset.
In addition one is also encouraged but not required to perform prayers during the day and night. Prayer should be offered in its due time, unless there is a reasonable excuse. Delayed obligatory prayers must be made up. In addition to the prescribed prayer, a Muslim expresses gratitude to Godand appreciation of His favours and asks for His mercy all the time. Especially at times of, childbirth, marriage, going to or rising from bed, leaving and returning to his home, starting a journey or entering a city, riding or driving, before or after eating or drinking, harvesting, visiting graveyards and at time of distress and sickness.
Obligatory charity giving is an act of worship and spiritual investment. Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors. Note that Zakah is obligatory. Muslims can also go above and beyond what they pay as Zakah, in which case the offering is strictly voluntary (blessing will come to those who wish for his brother what he wishes for himself).
Fasting is abstaining completely from eating, drinking, and intimate sexual contacts from the break of dawn till sunset. It is a matchless Islamic institution which teaches man the principle of sincere love to God, creative sense of hope, devotion, patience, unselfishness, discipline, etc. Obligatory fasting is done once a year for the period of the month of Ramadan. Fasting during this time is obligatory on every muslim adult if he is mentally and physically fit and not on a journey. Women are allowed to skip a fasting day due to menstruation, and while nursing a baby which needs to be made up at a later time.
It is obligatory to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime. Muslims from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe assemble in Mecca in response to the call of Allah. It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, who were the first pilgrims to the house of Allah on earth: the Ka'bah. It is also to remember the great assembly of the Day of Judgement when people will stand equal before Allah. Muslims go to Mecca to glorify Allah, not to worship a man. The visit to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Madena is highly recommended but not essential in making the Hajj valid and complete.