Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramadan Mubarak/Happy Ramadan

To all of the Muslims out there-Ramadan Mubarak!

For those that do not know what Ramadan is-Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims. From dawn until sunset, Muslims (in good health) do not eat or drink anything, not only that they are also supposed to refrain from gossiping, smoking, swearing, lying and sex. (Of those last items, only sex is permissible normally. All of the others, we shouldn't be doing anyway.)

Why abstain from these things? By practicing self-control over things that are normally allowed, i.e. eating and drinking, we can gain control over the areas in our lives where we may have developed bad habits. We also seek a closer relationship to God during this time by striving to read the entire Quran during the month and spending more time reflecting on God. The Quran is broken down into 30 sections, therefore, we aim to read one section per day or approximately 200 verses. We connect with other Muslims by joining them at the masjid/mosque for Iftar (breaking the fast). At the masjid we attend, this is done potluck style and shared with anyone who cares to join us-Muslim or not. We connect with the needy through acts of charity, donating food and/or money to those who are in need.

The timing of Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar so the dates move forward about 11 days each year. When I first became a Muslim, it started in Feb. This year, today was the first day of fasting. It's likely to be more difficult fasting this year as well as the next several years, since Ramadan will be during the longest as well as the hottest days of the year, but quite honestly, if the people of the Arabian peninsula could do it for generations without the benefit of air conditioning or any of the other luxuries we take for granted, I'm sure I can manage as well. (Imagine having to walk everywhere in 110 degree or higher heat or cook for hours over an open fire in the same heat.)

There are people who are exempt from fasting-people who have chronic medical conditions that require medication, children who are under the age of puberty, people who are traveling, women who are menstruating and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. For these last two reasons, it's been some time since I've fasted. In the last 11 years, I've been pregnant and/or nursing every Ramadan except for one. Needless to say, I'm a little out of practice. I'm going to try fasting this year even though H. is still nursing but since he's almost 2 he doesn't have that much longer for nursing anyway and he mostly nurses at night. As long as I make sure to get up early enough to drink at last a few glasses of juice or water and drink the same or a bit more after Iftar, I should be ok.

The Washington Post had a nice article entitled Better Health Through Fasting, in case you'd like to read more. (Sadly, some of the comments to the article are idiotic at best and hateful, xenophobic at worst.)

The pictures don't really have anything to do with Ramadan. One is a picture of the heavily laden persimmon tree we had in our yard last year in Iran. The other is what was left of a box of pomegranates after the kids had their share. One of our kids favorite things about Iran is the abundance of pomegranates - some sweet, sour or a mix of the two. The light-colored ones are sweet, or possibly have a mix of both sweet and sour seeds and the darker ones are tart/sour. A whole box costs us less than buy just a few here.

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