Are you fasting? This is one of the most common questions we are asked at this time of year.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. During this month, two main meals are eaten daily: suhoor(served pre-dawn) and iftar(served at sunset). Both are hearty (but not necessarily healthy!) meals to get through the daylight hours of fasting from food and water. Some take fasting from fluids to the extreme – it is not uncommon to see drivers of cars open their door at traffic lights and spit onto the road to avoid any risk of swallowing their own spit. Driving close to sunset is always fraught with a lot more risk than usual with a dangerous dynamic of dehydrated drivers (it’s the height of summer over here) making decisions at much higher speeds to get home in time for Iftar.
Generally Iftar is a family time so we felt privileged to be invited to Iftar at our friend’s house in the village. Even though the drive was a few hours each way (and the kids were very tired for school the next day!) it was well worth it! We have had many Ramadans in the Middle East but we still haven’t figured out how to adjust our rhythm of life! In fact everyone struggles and finding time to sleep, rather than fasting, can be the bigger challenge. Nate hasn’t yet mustered up the energy to join his friends playing sport in the middle of the night! Everyone loves to talk about their Ramadan routine. Some go to bed early to wake early, others stay up all night then sleep after work or school. You can try asking your fasting friends what they do to find sleep during the month.
Ramadan is also known as the month of giving, where people will engage in charitable acts especially to those in need (zakat, or almsgiving, is another of the five pillars). It’s always good to wish others ‘Ramadan Kareem’ (‘generous Ramadan’). Everyone is on their best behaviour and one friend told Nate it is his favourite month at work since everyone tries to be so nice and generous (but he said he wishes they were like this the rest of the year!).
Allie has been working hard this month with mostly local mums to organise a school Iftar. This week they are expecting to feed hundreds of hungry adults and kids! Volunteering at the school has been a great (albeit often tiring) way for Allie to build genuine relationships as well as understand life through the eyes of local mums. Tonight, Allie will be sharing in Iftar with just these mums – almost always conversation naturally moves into the significant. Please ask that she will be ready to respond with clear reasons for the hope she has.
At Iftar, the type and order of food eaten is very important. The fast is first broken with dates. How many dates (it needs to be an odd number) and how you eat the dates is crucial (most friends insist you must take the seed out with just your right hand first). At the village Iftar, Nate accidentally ate the whole date and tried to surreptitiously dispose of the big seed that was already in his mouth so the 20 watchful eyes around him wouldn’t be horrified at his poor etiquette! Our kids often do better than us to watch, learn and adapt. Please ask we will keep being curious, teachable and adaptable to become ‘all things to all men…’
Allie and Nate live with their family in the Middle East.
Names have been changed.