Issue 21

An Experience of Ramadan

In August Kamal H, who many of you probably know, started to tell me that Ramadan was coming. As excited as he was about it he was expecting it to be more difficult to attend his occupational therapy groups and would hope for some understanding with his difficulties in getting up at that time. I asked him what it was and he described a holy month when Muslims fast between dawn and dusk and prayers carry more potency.

That basically nothing can pass the lips during the daylight hours. I thought it sounded hard and asked what would make it easier? He said that the support of other Muslims who were also fasting was a great help but here it was a bit harder as there were not any other Muslims. I did a quick calculation in my head, more of a snap decision really and tried to look at my toes that were invisible past my belly and said, "I don′t mind fasting with you. "

As the days approached I did not really think much about it, figuring it would be a crash diet, good for me and one of life′s varied experiences. Then a date was given September twelfth to October twelfth as set by a lunar calendar and announced in the Holy city of Mecca. So what was Ramadan going to be like? Kamal told me so much more the week before than he had in that first conversation.

When I thought of nothing passing the lips I thought about food. I did not think about drinks, cigarettes, sweets, chewing gum cups of tea. Nothing meant nothing. So when were you supposed to get all these things in? Easy before you prayed at around five in the morning and at night around half past eight.

Praying in the morning I had not done that since school assembly. On the first day in hind sight I think I should have told my family what I was doing. They are used to my odd hours due to shift work, but my apparent lack of appetite and ravenous devouring of milk and dates to break the fast was something new. Dates are out of interest a naturally Halal food I learned and they are used by many to break the fast.

Day one rolled into week one and I started to think less about my bodily needs and wondered what is Islam? Five things are fundamental to the religion but I was finding out more things of interest than:-

  • There is one god, the testament of faith, the Shahada.
  • Prayer, five times a day, a direct communication with the one god.
  • The giving of support to the needy, Zakat.
  • Fasting, the month of Ramadan and an appreciation of what it is to want but to grow spiritually.
  • Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca, performed once in a lifetime and only if fit or financially able.

I was finding out that knowledge is allied to faith and the sciences and learning are very important. I discovered a list of prophets going back to Adam and including Moses and Abraham. I found a belief in the Immaculate Conception of Jesus. That when you shake hands with people minor sins are forgiven. A belief in the creation and a word Salaam.

Salaam means peace and is a greeting, it is a great word and I have used it often since September twelfth. It has always met with goodwill and friendliness.

( I also found out that if you are going to face south east and pray to Mecca in a traditional Muslim way in your bedroom. Tell you′re wife.)

Iestyn W. Staff nurse Cardigan Ward.