This will be our second Ramadan in the UAE. I quite enjoyed the relaxed pace of things last Ramadan and look forward to a general slow down in this holy month. On a practical level, for us, it means that my work day is reduced to 6 hours (without a lunch break). Generally this means I’ll be in the office from 7am to 1pm. Today, however, I am on the reference desk until 4pm so I won’t go in until 10am. I’m using some of that extra time to write this post. Ramadan also means changes in traffic. The roads will generally be better except for right before Iftar when everyone is racing to get to the place they need to be to break their fast and late at night when folks are heading home after long meals and social events.
The word Ramadan, I understand, means “great heat.” I suppose that can have a symbolic as well as a practical meaning. Muslims fast from sun up to sun down over the entire month (I do not recommend that the Inuit convert anytime soon). The devout find themselves in a period of deep reflection and prayer as well as study of their sacred text. It is believed that the Quran was revealed in the closing days of Ramadan.
The moon has been sighted and Ramadan begins in the UAE today. While the lunar calendar could be calculated mathematically they still declare the start of Ramadan based on actual sighting of the moon. I kind of like that. It inspires a sense of watchfulness and readiness for things to come.
I’ve been thinking for weeks about how I could participate more fully in Ramadan. I’ve mentioned to a few muslim friends that I was considering fasting. They did not seem offended in any way that I would join in on the holy month. Islam is not my religion or my culture but I do have deep respect for the good it can do in the lives of the people who live it. I am fasting today – this first day of Ramadan – I won’t commit to any fasting beyond that. I will, however, spend more time with my sacred books and in prayer this month. It should be an interesting cultural experience.
Fasting is also a part of my religious heritage. We fast the first sabbath of every month. In most of the world that means from after the evening meal on Saturday to the evening meal on Sunday. The money we save during that voluntary fast is then given as an offering and used to relieve the suffering of the poor and otherwise afflicted. I am terrible at fasting. When I remember to do it inevitably my Saturday evening meal ends somewhere around 9pm and the Sunday evening meal begins around 3pm. Fasting during Ramadan I suspect may take on a similar shape for me.
My real plan is to post daily during Ramadan much like I did over Christmas. I am looking forward to a month of reflection.