Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ramadan in Kurdistan
The taste of starvation
“Hungryyy!!” that is me winging and moaning in Ramadan, as the students eat their salad sandwiches, that is, if I were in Australia, in Kurdistan the story is different—in fact, very different.
The most festive season on the Muslim calendar is this holy month of Ramadan; and how glad I am to spend this time of year in Kurdistan. Whilst the weather is not really of good help and the hours are very long, still, there is a special taste that cannot be felt or experienced abroad.
I remember in high school if you said ‘I am fasting’ they would feel sorry for you and offer water, ‘I can’t have water either’ would be the general reply. Many would not understand the logistic explanation as to why we deprive ourselves from any food from sunrise to sunset, despite the fact that the forty-hour-famine was popular at that time-- many young people took on the challenge.
Personally, I am enjoying the time of Ramadan back home, in Kurdistan. There is a tendency of a particular sentiment that is difficult for an average person to realize, unless they have lived abroad.
No one would imagine that fasting can be enjoyable—but in Kurdistan it can be. The fact that people all of the sudden become closer to God, begin to pray with consistency, the young wear veils and covered up more and the curtains around the restaurants are all signs of respect and value to this holy month.
Many people have come to believe that the development and advancement that have come with the phenomenon of technology and democracy means that we abandon our religious values. Nevertheless, whilst religion remains a personal decision it is sometimes worthy to celebrate events such as Ramadan, as a wider community. It is by no means a political matter, but a cultural theme that creates vibrancy and connection amongst different people in our society.
There is something special about the small dish of soup the neighbor brings for you right before you can finally eat at the end of a long fasting day; the sound of the Quran on television as the family prepares the dinner table; the uncles and aunts who have come to break their fast with your family; the daunting hours in the early morning waking up to eat as a family. The aroma of mother’s cooked rice during the evening prayer before and the unity of the entire family before having a piece of date to break your fast is a rare sentiment to experience living abroad.
All this on one hand, but the most important on the other; any Muslim will tell you that praying in the holy month is unlike any prayer in any time of the year-- there is a feeling of purity and inner sanity.
In Kurdistan you do not have to sit and explain to anyone why starving yourself is not foolish and how there is a purpose behind it all. Just as you step foot outside the house you can feel the sentiment in the atmosphere that people are fasting, even those who do not fast for their own reasons there is respect towards those who do choose to fast, for example, no one eats in front of the public during the fasting hours.
Ramadan is not just a month to lose weight; we become better individuals with the ability to think of others who are not as lucky as we are. For a month we can feel the pain of the poor, the grief of a family with no bread for dinner, the agony of hunger and more importantly to not take any simple aspect of our life for granted, and begin to think of others.
What is amazing about Kurdistan is that those that you least expect to fast are actually fasting; they are or not, that is not the point, the point is that people respect a time of year as a society and community.
In reality the actual fasting is only two weeks, the first week is filled with excitement as it is just the start, the middle two are a little tiring, the final week is when it reaches climax and ends with a blink of an eye as people begin to prepare themselves for the ‘Jezhn’ celebrations to mark the end of the holy month.
In Kurdistan, during Ramadan, you do not just taste hunger and starvation but an array of sensations from the unique family bond, the prayers, the sound of Quran; the atmosphere outside the house, the generosity of the people and the general respect and attitude towards this special time on the Muslim calendar.
Must admit, all these sentiments does not conceal the stomach rumbling sound, but it does reduce its irritation. Meanwhile, Four days down, 26 to go… Ramazantan Pirozbet!
by Sazan M. Mandalawi- published in www.kurdishglobe.net