Tuesday, August 17, 2010

About Ramadan for non-Muslims

The Holy Month of Ramadan is marked with many, many Ramadan tents, where poor people can eat for free (obviously, only between sunset and 90 minutes before sunrise). Some of the tents only serve iftar, the meal taken just after sunset, while others serve sohour, the early morning meal to sustain Muslims through the day-long fast.

Farook took me with him to the Dubai Cattle Market (the official mis-translation of the Arabic Souk Mawashi Dubai, or Dubai Livestock Market). I saw sheep, goats, and cattle, and Farook told me that a different part of the 'cattle' market also sells camels.

Farook took me from stall to stall asking the prices, weights, and countries of origin of the sheep, goats, and cattle. Once he finds the best buy, he'll definitely buy at least a sheep, and he says that this Ramadan he might also buy a whole cow, some poor, old, post-change-of-life bovine. But he will definitely buy at least one sheep, and perhaps a few goats. He will then take his purchases to the Dubai Municipal Abattoir, and from there take the meat to a Public Kitchen, or tabakh, to be cooked into a dish of meat and rice called biriani.

Then he'll give most of the biriani to one of the charitable groups that hands out the free food during Ramadan.

I mention this because I have never seen anything quite like it in Western countries. People asking for free food in the West are often questioned and frequently humiliated, to discourage free-loaders; but here, any hungry person, whether Muslim or not, is free to eat in the Ramadan tents with no questions asked (but only between sunset and 90 minutes before sunrise).

In accordance with Islamic tradition, they give each person a few dates, then the biriani, and side dishes of fresh fruit, and salad, so it's a very healthy meal. Since the person hasn't had anything to drink all day, they also give bottled water and juice and sometimes buttermilk.

At least for this month, everything that Christianity preaches about compassion is actually practised throughout the Islamic world.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ramadan Mubarak

In English, we say 'Merry Christmas' to celebrate the important Christian religious season of Christmas; however, if merry has any deep religious significance, I'm not sure what it is.

In Islam, the two greetings for the Holy month of Ramadan are Ramadan Mubarak, meaning 'May your Ramadan be blessed,' and Ramadan Kareem, meaning 'May your Ramadan be generous.'

So, to start Ramadan, I'd like to say Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan Kareem.