Ramadan Musings

Posted on July 28, 2013

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As written for Yahoo! Maktoob (July 24, 2013)

Muslim children attend a special evening Ramadan prayer at the Juma Masjid July 10, 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (via Yahoo! Maktoob / Getty Images)

Muslim children attend a special evening Ramadan prayer at the Juma Masjid July 10, 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (via Yahoo! Maktoob / Getty Images)

To anyone looking to truly appreciate Ramadan, I would say: put on those blinders. Block out the clichéd crescent-themed commercialism lacing the highways – the hawking of seasonal sugar syrups competing with the peddling of fast food all-you-can-eats. Ignore the ostentatious Ramadan tents and the allure of their excessive Suhoor buffets, for Ramadan – to me at least – is not the festival of the fasting glutton.

Instead, visit a Muslim household at the time of breaking the fast and remove those blinders in time to observe. My brother and I as younger children would watch the clock -as though the minute hand would cheat us if not for our vigilance- anticipating the achievement of yet another fast. I remember fondly my mother in her kitchen preparing Iftar for the family, adding the final garnish with an added pinch of love in her serving. And my father in his designated armchair, making the most of the blessed time by fervently making duaá for his and his family’s well-being.

The scene hasn’t changed very much 15-odd years on, except that we’re one seat less at the table with my brother away for study, and I’ve given up clock-ogling to shuttle between helping my mother and joining my father in silent supplication.

At the table of the most celebrated meal of a Ramadan day every culture has its own traditional menu.  In a typical Sri Lankan Muslim household such as mine, Ramadan is only truly heralded with the seasonal appearance of the traditional Khanji’ – a wheat-based dish comprising of meat and spices made to a porridge-like consistency (quite similar to the Emirati Harees), dug into right after the date-water-dua combo as a starter to the rest.

What I find most fascinating, is that every Sri Lankan household prepares it differently, resulting in half the excitement of being invited over for Iftar the variation in Khanji. Aunty X makes it with meat instead of chicken, Aunty Y adds a different set of spices to the mix, and your good friend Z likes to experiment with a less-thick consistency – each as delectable as the other, and the perfect savoury relief to arid taste buds. The proof is in the Khanji, so to speak.

What I anticipate most in Ramadan however, is the final lap. When we and our fellow-worshippers are at our final spurt of adrenaline – the heady rush that is a combination of the exhaustion of the physical dedication to worship combined with the fresh spiritual glow of a soul at ease.

Particularly the last 10 nights of the month, where in addition to the self-imposed discipline in refraining from food and drink (and questionable character/deeds!) during the daylight hours, we dedicate near-whole nights to prayer in the hope of reaping the rewards of the one night most sought after – the Laylat Al Qadr. What makes it all the more alluring is the fact that this one night that equals a thousand months, could be any of the latter 10, and readying the self every night with the intention of ‘catching’ that one to have worshipped at your very best, is a satisfaction most gratifying. The climax to my Ramadan.

 

The anti-climax being Eid Al Fitr. But that in itself is a whole other story.

 

 

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