Today will most probably mark the end of Ramadan for this year. I say probably because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar and therefore the start / end of month is based on the moon sighting. I find this not knowing till last minute annoying now; not so when we were kids though . The suspense kept us excited and glued to the TV screen around evening time. When announcements of eid al fitr ( the eid or celebration marking the end of Ramadan ) were made , we raced to be the first to holler the news around the house. On queue, the phone ( and here we’re talking landline only) would start ringing. Family and friends, especially those living abroad and can’t make it the next day, calling to say Kul 3am w intu bikheir ( wishing you wellbeing year on year ) .
And so, a month of fasting ends. Muslims worldwide fast during the month of Ramadan, from sunrise till sunset. No food or drinks are allowed until iftar ( the breaking of the fast ) announced by the Maghreb (sunset) prayer call. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and so is required by all able adults. Children, the elderly, the physically ill and those traveling are exempt. Growing up, I remember the peer pressure when it came to fasting. To this day, it baffles me why fasting is the one pillar where you are judged the most if you opt to skip. No child wanted to be the odd one out, and so we either soldiered it through the day or frequented the fridge with Mission Impossible stealth and speed. We would argue with Christian friends whether fasting or Lent is harder and I remember the argument that going chocolate free for 40 days is a much tougher quest. Since Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, it comes roughly ten days earlier than the previous year. And so, and depending on where you live, there are years when it falls in shorter cooler days.
The purpose of fasting is self - discipline and feeling with those who do not have enough to eat or drink. And so, giving is widely encouraged during the month. The Zakat, also one of the obligatory pillars, states that every household is required to donate 2.5% of their monetary yearly income* to those in need before end of Ramadan. A lot of pop up free iftars are offered; in the UAE an initiative called Ramadan Fridges has become very popular. Donated fridges are distributed throughout the city where people and companies stock them with food and drinks accessible to all. Keeping in line with giving, for the days where you could not fast, you are required to feed the needy**. Worship in Ramadan also becomes more prominent and mosques are filled with people performing prayers together especially in the evening and during the last ten days.
There is something about giving and eating together at the same minute that unites people and brings them closer. On the downside; going food, drink and smoke-free takes its toll on some and so erratic behavior is present at times. In addition, while not encouraged; some take iftar feasting to a different level and so food waste is present. Again, great initiatives have become available whereby excess food can be picked up for free by couriers and given to those in need. In dubai, UAE Food Bank in partnership with Careem rides is an example. In Jordan, a group of youth is on a mission to go to iftar buffets, pack and distribute the leftover food to refugee camps.
Eid is around the corner. A time for children to run around collecting as much eidiyeh ( money given by friends and family ) as they can and for adults to dig deeper, reach out to family and friends. As hectic and daunting as with all festivities worldwide; I say Happy Eid all and Kul 3am w intu bkheir.
*Rules apply here to what should be included in this calculation
**Again, a lot of rules apply as to how this applies; please refer to the right resources
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