Friday, August 2, 2013

I hate Ramadan

Ramadan is the holy month for all Muslims.  It means that they are fasting and praying and hoping that their prayers to Allah (just another name for God...the very same one that Christians and Jews worship) will receive them.  My husband always reminds me of what a joyful month this is for all practicing Muslims. I don't fast.  For the rest of us who sit by and watch, eh...not so much joy going on here.  OK, maybe hate is too strong a word.  It's mostly just an inconvenience.  Honestly, fasting all day makes a person grumpy and you're not supposed to have any bad thoughts while you're fasting, so I find it better to steer clear of him for an entire month.

He eats breakfast about 3 in the morning.  The middle of the night.  Then there's absolutely no food or water touching his lips until around 8:30 at night.  It's a very long day when you live in the US midwest during the summer.  The date for Ramadan moves back by 10 days every year because it's scheduled by the lunar calendar.  That means that there will be months when the days are shorter, but for the summer months of Ramadan, it can be grueling.  I remember last year I was in New York City for a few days of Ramadan.  Every taxi driver we had was a Muslim, and I was just thinking about how the guy in charge of our car could be dizzy, lightheaded, not focusing on traffic, etc.  We never had an incident, but when you're programmed to drink more water and eat small meals all day, as they do teach us in the USA, it's really difficult to get your head around a practice that involves not eating or drinking all day, in spite of higher temps and longer days.  My husband talked about all the Muslims he knows doing construction work on highway projects, and I can't fathom working a tough job like that all day in the sun.

If you read the Koran, you'll find that the commandment to do the month long fasting came to the people via the prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, around 600 AD.  He lived in the middle east.  There were no traffic lights or cars.  People didn't mow the grass.  They lived simple, often nomadic lives.  The average life expectancy was around 35.  Now if I have any of this wrong, please feel free to correct me.  I don't claim to be a religious scholar, but I did read the Koran, albeit the English version.  In our modern world, life is very different.  Muslims are living all over the globe now.  It can't be easy to practice your religion when it isn't the main culture of the place you live.  I found that out last year when we spent a week in Dubai during Ramadan.  Everything slowed down there because the entire population was practicing the same Islamic traditions.  For the past few years, Abdul would travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for a week or more to pray and practice his religion with others worshipping at the holiest city on the planet.  He and others like him talk about what a life changing experience it is when you're in a city with millions of people praying right next to you.  Praying on your own in Milwaukee, WI can't even compare.

While you have someone in your house fasting, there are still a lot of chores to be done, and the guy fasting probably shouldn't be doing them.  My husband normally goes to the office around 9:30 am and returns about 5 pm.  He goes to bed until dinner time.  If it's a weekend, he sleeps or watches TV all day.  I don't count on him to do anything or be anywhere for an entire month.  Our son who is 7 doesn't really understand this.  He wants to play with his dad and go to the park, and I have to explain that Daddy needs rest or that he's praying.  It's a long month for me too because I'm sleeping with our son, and entertaining him all day.  When was the last time you spent time with an active 7 year old 24/7 for an entire month?  There's one week to go before the ending of Ramadan (Eid), and I'm exhausted.

There's also the food issue.  I mean the Iftar, or breaking the fast.  For those of you who are Christians- think of the great holiday meals you eat, like Christmas dinner.  It just isn't Christmas without ham or turkey and stuffing, pies, salads, and all the trimmings.  Where my husband grew up in Somalia, they broke their fast with family and friends every night and it was a big celebration.  He still wants to eat that way, which makes no sense to me when we usually just have a salad for dinner during the summer.  The ideal dinner for him is dates, crepes with honey, sambusa (fried meat pies), spinach salad, rice with vegetables, and a hearty meat stew with vegetables.  Follow that up with strong tea and a dessert.   To make a meal like that often requires hours in the kitchen, and I can't do it when I have a kid to watch. If I make anything else, he just isn't satisfied, so for the past week, he's started picking up his special dinners at a Mediterranean restaurant on the way home from work.  Often he's eating alone in the kitchen while I'm putting our son to bed.

There's also the exercise routines that go by the wayside.  My husband had been working with a trainer since Fall and got in great shape, lowered his blood pressure, lowered his blood sugar, increased muscle mass, lost a few inches and pounds.  He was running 5 miles a day several days a week.  His doctor was so impressed with the results of his latest blood work.  Now it has been several weeks without doing anything.  I imagine it will be hard to start up again, but my husband has loads more discipline than I do, so I'm hoping he will go back. 

Now you have a picture of what it's like to be a fasting Muslim in a country that doesn't slow down for you.  Maybe when you meet a Muslim, you'll consider his situation and be more compassionate.  It's difficult to understand traditions that you haven't grown up believing or accepting.  I'll be the first to admit that.

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