Asian Lite is marking Holy Month of Ramadan with a new column by Masarat Daud. Ramadan Musings will reflect on the Holy Month and will carry comments on relevant issues concerning the Muslim community
The coming of Ramadan is always a much welcomed and most exciting time of the year. Growing up in an Arab country, Ramadan became engrained in the memory as a time punctuated with street decorations, cart-full of festive food in supermarkets and the sound of long prayers reverberating in our streets.
Most people with a similar experience will tell you that Ramadan ‘feels’ different—we don’t need a date on the calendar to inform us of it, we simply know.
It was the month when the holy book of the Muslims, the Koran, was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Reciting the verses form an integral part to this month’s worship. It is the month where Muslims globally fast from dawn to dusk without eating or drinking (yes, not even water). It is a time to refrain from the excesses of life—the make-up, the partying, caffeine and food. Withdrawal from these makes us realize the value of what we take for granted.
Year on year, the month becomes a reminder to stop and take stock of where life is taking us. The deep night of reflection, the extra prayers, the small moments of gratefulness that hunger pangs reveal, the feeling of Muslims and non-Muslims alike stepping out of house till late, enjoying a late dinner till dawn when the call to prayer signals the start of the fast.
In London, I miss all of these. I have spent the last few years reminiscing this piece of me that has gone missing here. But it has taken me all these years to realize that memories can be cherished and celebrated, but ‘newer’ traditions can be made. I am constantly reminded of my grandmother’s generosity, in a village in India. The open doors, the food that was available for anyone who came, the many people who came through her door to chat, to ask, to get.
Month of generosity
Personally, Ramadan is generosity. One of the easier ways to connect with others is through food. I thought of re-living my grandmother’s generosity. I started cooking meals and sending them to Muslim and non-Muslim neighbours. At first, there was a hint of surprise—who in London shows up at your door with home-cooked food? But three years later, not only do many of our neighbours share their Iftar dishes with us, but this has spurred other neighbours to interact with each other and exchange food too. This year, my list shows that a totally of 15 homes (neighbours and relatives) will get an Iftar meal of a starter, main and dessert.
It is a comforting feeling to share food and to keep a bit of the past alive. In Sharjah, we used to take food to the local mosque where many people gathered everyday for a free Iftar. This is a reprise of that same value of generosity, a tender feeling that runs so deep. Food is gratitude and on cold, rainy days, it is a hug we all need.