A song of Ramadan

September 19, 2008

Ramadan Kareem

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The first years of Ramadan for me were spent in Fujairah, an east cost emirate of UAE. Fujairah is a peaceful place, unlike Dubai, with some farms, many villas and a peaceful and wide sea – the Gulf of Oman, reaching up to the costs of Cochin in Kerala. The thought of my homeland on the other side of the sea made me more attached to the sea than anything in Fujairah. I also loved it for its calmness, there were only few people at the beach, and so we had our own area in the beach.

There isn’t much to remember about the Ramadan in Fujairah. Ramadan came during the school days, and we were not allowed to take food to school on those days. One thing I remember about those days were lying that I was fasting. Also, our parents encouraged us to take half day fasts only. So it was two half day fasts into full day. And when somebody asked me about the number of days we had fasted, we would say four and a half or five and half and so on. I would compete with the number of days we had fasted with my younger brother, who is two years younger to me. The most difficult thing for us then and now is the shuhoor, or the late night dinner which you have in the middle of the sleep. I remember my brother getting for the shuhoor, and then the next day he will be saying, “I don’t remember anything I ate for the shuhoor.” On day he said, “I saw only the white walls when I got up for the dinner.” Hehehe. The thing that fascinated me more was the plates full of fruits and snacks at iftaar.

We were shifted to India, when I was in seventh grade, to an Islamic residential school. During the first two years, the school closed during the Ramadan. That was the time of mischief for us, me, my brother and our cousins. We had nothing particular to do in the mornings of Ramadan and so we all get out of the house into the near by farms. We would steal mangoes, gooseberries and guavas from the farms and hide it under our dresses till night. Sometimes, we will also go to the near by shops and buy some locally made toffees, with the money grandpa would give us. At night, when the elders have gone to sleep, we would get up and share the pieces of mangoes and other things between us. For this, we would all sleep in the same room, or near by rooms. We used to take all the 29 or 30 days of fast.

During the last days of Ramadan, grandpa would give us money to buy bangles and hair clips for eid. The boys would buy fire-works or toys like guns and cars. We would also buy some sweets. Grandpa loved us so much that he won’t allow us to take fast till the dusk. According to him, children need fast only till the noon. For him, I was a child even when I was at college! He used to scold grandma for making us fast till the dusk, even when I was in my late teens. According to him, we were still his kids. He passed away some three years back, or we would have been his kids even now! May Allah shower his forgiveness and peace upon him, make his abode wider and gather us in his paradise. Ameen.

From my ninth grade onwards, our school started working for Ramadan. That bought a change in me. We had schools only till noon, unlike normal days when we had schools till the evening. After school we, me and my friends, would sit to recite some Qur’an and we had Islamic classes in the mosque. I was getting into the real Ramadan, with all its life in me. The saddest day and the most memorable day of my life in Ansar, my school, was the day when my friend’s mother gave birth to twins, and they died with in an hour. Friendship in Ansar was something that I have not known before or after, it was a very special bond. My friend’s tears seemed to be my own, and it was the same for everybody. We all wept a lot that day. The Ramadan was also special in a way that we had great and good seniors to guide us, who were very loving. And yeah, I remember the day when one of my roommates’ father died. I came to know of the event before her from my teacher. My teacher asked me not to tell her about it until somebody came from her home. She was good at singing, and used to sing a song which meant something like this:

Why is my father, who gets up for fajr everyday, sleeping under this white blanket today….

Why didn’t my father call me today in the morning, to pray the fajr with him…..

Why isn’t my father talking to me, what I have done to make him angry with me….

Those words of the song still echo in my ears, and that was the last Ramadan she sang that song. During the last year of my school life, we celebrated the last Eid with our friends in hostel, one of my best Eids!

After school, I went to an Engineering college. Thanks for the Muslims friends I got at college, or Ramadan would have been a difficult time for me. There were some 20+ Muslim students in out hostel, and some really nice boys in our college. A lady in the town promised to cook iftaar and shuhoor for us, and the boys would deliver it on time. That was how we spent our first year at college. During the second year, we changed our hostel to another one, owned by a Muslim management. Fasting was made easier for us since w had iftaar and shuhoor cooked for us by the hostel cooks. We had tharaweeh prayer in jama’ath and we celebrated the Eid with our friends, while usually we did it with our family. Ramadan lost its life when at college, since we had a busy schedule of exams, practical works and records while at college. And yeah, we were in our late teens, which meant years with boiling blood in our veins. We used to fight with our wardens, cooks and management for every silly problem that came across our way. Even though we had jama’ath prayers at hostel, we would never take part in it because we hated our warden so much. Forgive us, Allah. It was bread when we wanted bun. S we would go to the warden and shout at her. It was fish when we wanted chicken. We would sit there without eating anything, and the whole fish would be wasted.

But we soon realized our mistakes, when our college lost its recognition and we were transferred to another college. That was the last year of our college life. We decided to take a rented house, as we were all tired of our hostel life. It was one week before Ramadan that we got the house. We had no cooking utensils with us, and so we were not able to cook anything. We decided to seek help from a hotel near by, and Alhamdulillah, they agreed. They delivered the food for iftaar and dinner. It was tough, taking the food from hotel everyday. We started to regret for the problems we made in the hostel, when they would provide us with food. Here we had no choice of bread or bun, and chicken or fish. Just eat what we got. May be it was a punishment we got for making mischief at the hostel and a way Allah chose to teach us to be thankful to the food we got. That was the most difficult Ramadan we had so far, and a memorable one too. We had seminars at college, which extended till seven or eight, and magrib would be at six. We would keep apart the snacks we got at seminar, and use that to break our fast. We would be so tired, with the long busy day at college, and sometimes seminars would turn to sleeping time. It will be somewhat eight or nine, when we reach home, to the food from the hotel. The food would taste better by that time. We missed home so much those days.

After college, I was married. Ramadan was easier then, at home, with so much of spare time to do the ibaadaths. Ramadan became lively once more, after the school days. Food was also not a problem, when at home. The next year, I came to Dubai with hubby, and there was my co-sister’s mom to help during the first Ramadan at Dubai. I find the heat a bit of problem in Dubai, but I think I can stand it. And this Ramadan is my first Ramadan alone, with me doing all the cooking myself. I sit here, now and think of the days of Ramadan, every Ramadan special to me, in its own way. Some Ramadan bought so much of time and rest to me, so that I can pray and make a lot of ibaadaths. But during some Ramadans, I had to fight to keep up with the feelings of Ramadan. I believe it’s all over now, and Ramadan would be the same for me from now onwards, with no friends, brothers and cousins to make the days active. The life as an adult is really boring, na?

Heat, Fast and Me.

September 15, 2008

So i have left out two days of Ramadan. I feel very sad, not being able to fast, but what can I do when the doctor says a ‘NO’? Its the urinary infection again, that made me leave two of my days in Ramadan. Seems I cannot take in the heat and the Fast together. Doc has asked me to take 1 or 2 glasses of Pocari Sweat every hour ( that leaves no place for food which mean I have to fast on Pocari Sweat!!), along with some medicines to be taken thrice daily. This happened last year also. But that time I left only 1 day of Ramadan. Heat has been my enemy since my childhood. I used to get all sorts of heat sickness during the summer. But once in India, I had no problem at all. Thanks to the moderate climate of India. And now again in the burning Dubai, all the heat diseases that left me years ago have come back, stronger, I think. So what do I do? 😦

The Multi-Cultured Ramadan

September 9, 2008

Dubai is a multi-cultured city, with people from almost all parts of the world. And so is Ramadan here. I think the only similarity between these people will be the dates they take when breaking the fast. Even prayers seem to be different, if you really want to find any difference in it. When I go for tharaweeh, Masha Allah, what lots of people are there! With so many types of dresses, so much languages and yeah, so many type of prayers. Until Ramdan, I went to the masjid by the Malayalees, and so I never came across such a variety except while performing Umrah in Masjid-al-Haram.

Well, there are the Africans, may be Sudanese with their long hijab (I don’t know what it is really called) reaching below their knees. They are so tall and I feel so small when I stand with them during the prayer. The masjid near to us has got the 23 raka’th tharaweeh prayer. The Africans usually pray all of the 23 raka’aths.

There are some UAE nationals too. They come up fully covered from head to toe, with only the eyes opening. Once inside the ladies’ only area, they remove their abaya and hijab – and beneath it, it will be dresses similar to the western styles, sleeveless T shirts, jeans pants reaching up to the knee, or long sleeveless/ full sleeve but see through frocks. And there will be all sorts of make up on their faces.

There are also some Pakistanis who come in their Salwar-Kamees, with an abaya on top. The difference with the Pakistani and South Indian dressing is that Pakistanis use the shawl of their Salwar-Kamees as the hijab, but in South India we use the black hijab of the abaya itself. North Indians also have a similar dressing to that of Pakistanis. Some Pakistanis also wear the Niqab, which is very very rare in South India. During the prayer, most of the Indians and Pakistanis stop at the 8th raka’ah, to be continued only during the last three of the remaining 15.

There is one woman who looks like a westerner, and speaks English. But there are so many who look like them and speak English like them. So I’m not sure. There are also other Middle East nationals coming from Lebanon and Iran. I love the way the Iranians dress – their long (????) I don’t know what it is called, a piece of cloth from head to toe which they wear while at prayer. After prayer they take it off, and beneath it they wear the usual dress – also my favorite, the topcoat and pants with a special type of hijab. I saw some Iranians keeping a piece of wood, round in shape, at the place where their head touches the floor while in Sujood. I don’t know why.

Some days I see some Mongolians too, I don’t know if they are from China, Japan or the –asian islands. They have long hijab, reaching up to their knee, and wear loose pants, made up of the same material used for the hijab, underneath.

The minor differences I find between the people are while standing for the takbir. Some tie their arms below the stomach, some on their stomach, some on their chest while some never tie it at all. Some of them tie their arm when standing straight after the rukoo’h. And while sitting for the ‘Aththahiyathu’ during the second raka’h, some people keep their fore finger straight all the time. Some open it at the ‘ashhadu alla ilaha illa allah…..’ and close it immediately after that. Some keep on pointing the forefinger till the end of the prayer, while some keep it opening and closing through out the sitting position.

I pray only 8 raka’aths, and then continue with the last three, so while waiting for the last three, I sit and watch all these differences between people. And the children, they also make a difference. While the Pakistani and Indian children are busy playing around while their moms are at prayer, the children of Middle East nationalities stand with their moms in prayer. May be the reason is, in India (I don’t know about Pakistan), the Imam and other people of the mosque discourage children in the masjid. So they never get a chance to learn the importance of masjid at the younger age. But in Middle East, it is entirely different. You can see children from 3+ months in the mosque. They get to learn the importance of prayer and masjid at a younger age.

About thte iftaar, I don’t know much about the food of other countries, because I have never gone for such an iftaar. Once I went to an iftaar by a UAE national. There were many dishes of which I didn’t even know the name. I recognized the haleem and custard. The main food was kabsa, and I loved it a lot. It was a dish prepared of raw rice.

So, Ramadan is fun, with this variety in the muslims. You can call it – unity in diversity

Ramadan at my home.

September 2, 2008

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan Kareem

Yesterday, I was face to face with Ramadan. I smiled and exchanged salutations with Ramadan. I loved Ramadan so much, because Ramadan was responsible for closing the hell, chaining the devil and making the good deeds weigh more. So I was more than pleased to see Ramadan in front of me yesterday. I’ve been planning for the last two three weeks for Ramadan’s visit. There is a long list of to-do’s hanging on my kitchen shelf, for the one month stay of Ramadan. I’ll surely miss Ramadan when gone. I was staring at the beautiful Ramadan when Ramadan asked me the first question.

“What do you have planned for me during my visit?”

I was glad Ramadan asked me that. I wanted to make Ramadan fell that I was eagerly waiting for Ramadan, with a lot of activities for us. I wanted to make Ramadan feel at home during the entire stay. So I spewed the entries of the to-do list on my kitchen shelf.

“ I plan to pray as much of Sunnah I can, read at least 1 juzu’ of holy Quran everyday and finish it within this month, stay away from sin, pray Taraweeh and Thasbeeh prayer, make Thasbeeh and Salaths to Prophet….. Blah blah blah…..”

“Good work, Najeeba. You’ve put in a lot of effort,” Ramadan interrupted, “but you see, once I am gone, will you go on praying all the Sunnah’s ? That too during your office hours? I prefer an activity that stays with you even after I’m gone.”

“Er….I think I’ll…..er….er…… keep up with……” I went up to the to-do list.

“So you haven’t planned such an activity for me?”

I was ashamed to admit no, and unable to say a yes. I kept quiet.

“A simple activity, let it be the smallest one in your list. But you should keep it with you even after my departure, for the memory of my stay with you.”

I made a quick scan of my to-do list, searching for something I can keep with me all the time. Reading one juzu’ of Quran was not possible everyday, with the hectic schedule of my life. I can read up to five or six pages, or ten pages everyday, and sometimes a juzu’ on weekends, but reciting a juzu’ everyday seemed impossible. Staying away from sin all time is easy said than done. I don’t think I can stop shouting at anybody when I get under pressure, but I’ll try to get rid of it this Ramadan. So what is there that I can do my entire life? I was busy thinking of a solution when Ramadan came up with another question.

“Don’t you exercise every morning?”

I was surprised. What has exercise to do with Ramadan? Even though, I murmured a meek ‘yes’, I do have a half an hour warm up session in the mornings.

“While doing the exercise, in between don’t you lie down for some time, take deep breaths and count till ten?”

Yeah, I do it. Everyone does it. Another ‘yes’ murmured. Where is Ramadan taking me? I waited for the next question.

“Instead of counting till ten, why don’t you recite some Tasbeeh? Let’s say ‘Ashhadu allailaha illa allah, asthaghfirullah, allahu akbar walhamdulilla’ for three times.”

Wow, isn’t that a great idea? Remembering Allah even during my exercise sessions! Why didn’t I think of it earlier? And here a simple way of worship that I can do all my life! Instead of finding the easy and simple ways to keep my contact with Allah, I’ve selected the difficult path, which will soon make me tired. And then I’ll sit wondering why Allah has made everything difficult for me.

I thanked Ramadan for this little but useful peace of suggestion. And I promised Ramadan that I’ll do it all my life, Insha Allah. Ramadan smiled, patted on my head and kissed on my cheeks. I was the happiest person on earth.