Friday, July 03, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Sixteen

Ibn Warraq's increasingly erratic Ramadan musings...

It is amazing how quickly after reaching the halfway mark of Ramadan people's minds turn to Laylat al-Qadr, Leilat Sabawachrine and then Eid. The annual refrain (from young children) has already started. "I need new clothes, I need a tiara, I need henna...". Make no mistake, children are wonderful, but during the second half of Ramadan they become rather expensive!

The tiara and clutch purse are "essential"

Laylat Al Qadr is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims, and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. It is known as the "Night of Power," and commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, beginning with the exhortation, "Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)," - Surat Al-Alaq.

The Prophet Muhammad did not mention exactly when the "Night of Power" would be, although most scholars believe it falls on one of the odd-numbered nights of the final ten days of Ramadan, such as the 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, or 27th days of Ramadan. In Morocco it is most widely believed to fall on the 27th day of Ramadan.

On this night, the blessings and mercy of Allah are abundant, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree of what will occur is revealed to the angels who also descend to earth.

Many Muslims observe this occasion with study, devotional readings, and prayer. Some Muslims participate in a spiritual retreat called itikaf, where they spend all ten days in the mosque reading the Quran and praying, but according to a local Imam, the number of people doing this has declined over the years.

Then there is the Leilat Sabawachrine - literally the "night of the 27th"  - is a night especially for children - a time when they dress in their finest clothes.

... and boys get to dress up as well

For girls this also means having their hands and feet covered in beautiful henna designs and wearing makeup and jewellery. Once dressed, they take to the streets where many of them were happy to receive gifts of sweets or money. Of course, most children will tell you, that to take part they need new clothes!

It is only the 16th day, but already the tiaras are on sale, ready for the 27th

Meanwhile, out in the country...

There is a saying, "Come to Morocco and prepare to be astonished. There is another saying "In Morocco everything is possible."

For proof of both sayings look no further than the astonishing photograph of a grand taxi proving that carrying ten passengers is uncomfortable, but possible - especially if you are desperate to get home for Ftour!

Nikah or nothing!

In light of all the discussion going on about moral and sexual issues, it is interesting to learn that Britain is having a surge in secret nikah (Islamic marriage) and, according to a leading British family lawyer, many of them are polygamous. According to a report in The Times, young Muslims, as many as 100,000 couples, are shunning legally binding unions. And, for young unmarried girls it is "nikah, or nothing"!

One of the reasons for this rise in Sharia marriages is that it is a way around the prohibition on sex before marriage and that there is no splitting of assets if they divorce. The nikah are not valid under UK law and by bypassing the registry office procedures many women are left without assets if the relationship ends.

More good deeds in Ramadan

Back in June,  a young schizophrenic who happened to be a Muslim, vandalised a church in Toronto. He tore the pages from a Bible,  broke the altar and overturned the cross.

Imam Hamid Slimi

Imam Hamid Slimi called it "a very bad scene." and decided to do something about it.  The Moroccan-born imam collected 5,000 Canadian dollars  and went to visit the priest in charge of the premises who showed him pictures of the incident.

"When I saw the damage, I thought it was sheer injustice. It was just wrong, "said the imam who is also president of the Canadian Centre for Religious Studies at the Sayeda Khadija Centre.

The priest announced the news of the 5,000 dollar donation to the faithful at the Mass last Sunday, urging them to "pray for the one who committed this act,  and to forgive and forget."

For Hamid Slimi it was simple, "there is no discrimination in charity. It is the act that is rewarded regardless of the one who receives."

What you post on Facebook may come back to haunt you.

An interesting side issue that has emerged during the ongoing discussion about the assault on a transgender person in Fez is that while around the world there has been a general revulsion at the attack, others, mainly young people in Morocco, have used it as an excuse to post homophobic messages. This use of social media to spread hate has a downside for the ignorant. Posting hate speech at any time is wrong. and doubly so during Ramadan - a time of reflection and tolerance. Poison speech poisons the speaker.

Discussing this over coffee after Ftour, a local business man said that he had changed his mind about offering a young woman a position as a manager in his Riad Hotel, after he saw her "anti-gay" vitriol on Facebook. "How could I have her work for me, knowing she was so homophobic?" It was, as a Buddhist friend would have said, "instant karma".

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane 

In light of the case of the Inezgane girls and the anti-gay behaviour, the state wants to put the record straight. A joint statement from the Department of Justice and the Interior Ministry was direct, " any act or action to substitute for justice or law enforcement is totally illegal."

And the sentiment is being expressed all the way to the top of the government, with the Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, condemning the attackers in Fez, saying that "no one has the right to sit as a judge and a substitute for justice". He went on to say that "The state will be uncompromising in treating such cases and does not allow this kind of behaviour."

Support has also been expressed by Moroccan-born imam Hassan Iquioussen, who went on the record in France, saying that "a Muslim is not invested with a mission to spy and snoop into people's privacy".

At the same time the police have continued with their arrests, not only over the disgraceful mob attack in Fez, but also with the crowd who harassed two young women in Inezgane for wearing dresses.

After all of this, it would be a relief to be back in the "good old days" when after Iftar discussion was about the deplorable state of television.
Which reminds me! Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran! 

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

The View from Fez's Foreign Corespondent is a woman with a long and abiding interest in gender roles amongst Sunni Muslims particularly in Afghanistan.

Back in the 1990s long before the current Afghan hostility she spotted that women walked about four paces behind their husbands.

When our Foreign Corespondent returned to Kabul a couple of weeks ago she noted, with regret, that women still walked behind their husbands.

She pondered why, despite the establishment of women's rights, wives still paced behind their husbands. So she fell into conversation with one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why are you so happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?'

The woman looked our Foreign Corespondent straight in the eye and without hesitation said, "Land mines."

Our Foreign Corespondent filed this report : Behind every Afghan man, there's a very smart woman!

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY FIVE             DAY NINE            DAY THIRTEEN
DAY TWO         DAY SIX                 DAY TEN              DAY FOURTEEN

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Fifteen

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

Half way through Ramadan and the big question - is half way a cause for joy or regret? If your Ramadan is full of joy it is often the case that you want it to go on and on. If your Ramadan has been a struggle so far, then being half way is a matter of pride and determination.

Readers of the Ramadan Diary seem to have mixed feelings.

Driss in Ouazazate wrote to say... "Hot and thirsty Ramadan, but everyone is sharing. I pray the rest of Ramadan is the same".
Fatima in Meknes says, "Humdullilah, Ramadan is wonderful."
However, Majid in Tangier says he is, "...counting the days until Eid".
Rachida in Marrakech got all philosophical about it and wrote a long email around the notion of a glass being half empty or half full. "I also spend a lot of time on Facebook and that helps".

Hamid tells me that a friend in the Saudi city of Jeddah had written that, "The only way to experience Ramadan is to let go. Don't sit there and wait for something to happen. Ramadan is a great teacher. It brings you face to face with yourself and highlights your weaknesses. Every time I gossip, or think bad thoughts about someone, or crave a drink, I know it's not the devil, because this month he's chained up; it's all me. Ramadan gives us the opportunity to see ourselves as we really are and to clean up our inner junk, and it only comes once a year. Don't let it pass you by."

It's good advice. Don't count the days of Ramadan, make the days count.

The Thread test  

"As morning comes and white thread distinguishes from black thread, you may eat and drink and then complete your fast till the night."

Waking up in the middle of the night, there is often a strange moment when I think I have missed the cannon or the Dkak drumming me awake to prepare Suhoor before the fast begins again. Beside the bed is a piece of paper with two cotton threads. According to the Qur'an, Muslims must start their fast when they're able to distinguish white thread from black thread. Thankfully I can't see either of the threads. And then I hear the Dkak, banging his drum, banging my door...

Time to pay Dkak tax!

Speaking of the Dkak... It could just happen that you will hear your local Dkak drumming and even knocking on your door during the middle of the day. This is particularly disturbing if you happen to be asleep, having a siesta.  However, there is a reason. The Dkak tax! Yes, the Dkak has to live too and so half way through Ramadan and at the end, he drums up business and people take the opportunity to donate a small amount of cash as a way of thanking him for waking them each night.

While it is true that there is joy and sharing, the very hot weather has made more than a few people grumpy and intolerant. Scraps between taxi drivers in Rcif have increased and the drivers are showing signs of fatigue. Being driven from the Ville Nouvelle back to the Fez Medina yesterday, I was more than a little concerned when my taxi driver's eyes glazed over and at one set of traffic lights he appeared to have dozed off. I had to nudge him and point out that the lights had changed to green.
Ramadan traffic is always interesting...

Ramadan traffic is always.. er... interesting

During this hot Ramadan it has become clear that social media such as Twitter and Facebook have played a useful role in helping people let off steam. The most commented on topic is that of an outrageous attack on a transgender individual in the heart of the new city in Fez. Mobile phone coverage of an out of control mob of young men assaulting the victim went viral. Thankfully, the police have been quick to identify and arrest those involved. It is an interesting sign of the changing social climate that many in the online community were swift to condemn the assault as shameful.

The other topic that has drawn a lot of responses is the growing call by activists to repeal Penal Code Article 490 which prohibits sexual relations outside of marriage. The Justice Minister, Mustapha Ramid, told as French newspaper that he’d rather resign than repeal that article. The social media response was predictable - "So resign!"

Justice Minister, Mustapha Ramid says he would resign rather than change the law

In his defence, Ramid surprised his audience by hinting at away around the issue. Ramid pointed out that there is no penal code article that criminalises sexual relations outside marriage, “unless a complaint is filed.” He explained that police may not break into houses where unmarried couples might live. “As long as the couples do not disturb neighbours, or have a lawsuit filed against them, their sexual relations will never be criminalised.” According to the Minister, under the law as it stands, even if neighbours file a lawsuit against an unmarried couples, they will only be arrested if the suspects confess or if case police catch them red-handed having sex.

It is interesting the role Facebook plays in giving people the feeling that they are being heard. Sometimes it acts as a safety valve, but on others it can be incendiary. The vitriol and hate that often spews out in people's comments is extraordinary. Mind you, it is good to remember that before we had Facebook, all that stuff was stuck in people's heads!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world...

And now some good news from Australia. The State of Queensland has always been very active in promoting interfaith communication with conferences, and special events. However, during Ramadan Muslims have decided to get up close and personal. They have taken to inviting non-Muslims to share Iftar. The dinners are coordinated through the Queensland Intercultural Society to foster a better understanding of the Islamic faith. One family in Logan, south of Brisbane, even invited the Queensland Police chief, Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Brent Carter, to share a Ramadan feast in a bid to break down cultural barriers.

Murat Coskun says he hopes breaking bread with others helps foster cultural diversity.

"It is such a special thing for us, the Ramadan dinner," said mother-of-five, Canan Coskun. "If you can imagine you haven't eaten all day so you're really looking forward to that soup and that bread, and everything just seems so delicious." Mrs Coskun said she believed having a meal together could also help to break down barriers.

"I've had many people over at my house who have never seen a Muslim person before, or maybe they've never seen a woman in a hijab," she said. "They're sitting at my dinner table and just kind of looking at me serving them soup and serving them sweets, and I can see them thinking, 'wow, they're pretty much like us and they're quite normal'."

The notion of going without food or water for thirty days also sparks plenty of questions from non-Muslim guests.

Esme Coskun, 17, helps prepare Ramadan dinner
"They just think we're refraining from food and water, but it's more than that," said 18-year-old Seyma Coskon. "It's about developing more spiritually, it's about doing more good, it's about making better habits."

Her father, Murat Coskun, says "I think that whilst it's not an obligation for people to know about it, it would not take anything away from them, from knowing about Ramadan. It would just add to their depth and I think and it would help them better understand people that they bump into at work, or maybe their neighbours or their friends.

"We like to learn about Christmas and how our human brethren live and what they believe in."

He said the family looked forward to Ramadan.

"It's like the spiritual pinnacle of our year," said Mr Coskun.

"It's where we're closest to God and consequently closest to people as well."

Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Carter described it as an educational experience. "You know I've learned so much, meeting this family for the first time, sitting down and sharing a meal with them," he said. "They're just like any other Australian family: hard working, very committed and family-orientated."

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

The ageing Mula Nasruddin and his wife, Kulthoom noticed that they were beginning to forget many little things around the house. They were afraid that this could be dangerous, as one of them may accidentally forget to turn off the stove and thus cause a fire. So, they decided to go see their doctor to get some help.

Their physician told them that many people their age find it useful to write themselves little notes as reminders. The Mula Nasruddin and Kulthoom thought this sounded wonderful, and left the doctor's office very pleased with the advice.

When they got home, the Kulthoom said, "Dear, will you please go to the kitchen and get me a dish of ice cream? And why don't you write that down so you won't forget?"

"Nonsense," said Mula Nasruddin, "I can remember a dish of ice cream!"

"Well," said Kulthoom , "I'd also like some strawberries on it. You better write that down, because I know you'll forget."

"Don't be silly," replied Mula Nasruddin. "A dish of ice cream and some strawberries. I can remember that!"

"OK, dear, but I'd like you to put some whipped cream on top. Now you'd really better write it down now. You'll forget," said Kulthoom.

"Come now, my memory's not all that bad," said Mula Nasruddin. "No problem, a dish of ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream." With that, Mula Nasruddin shut the kitchen door behind him.

Kulthoom could hear him getting out pots and pans, and making some noise inconsistent with his preparing a dish of ice cream, strawberries, and whipped cream.

He emerged from the kitchen about 15 minutes later, and walking over to his wife, he presented her with a plate of korma curry.

Kulthoom took one look at the plate, glanced up at her husband and said, "See dear, your memory is really bad, you've forgotten the popadoms and the roti!"

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY FIVE             DAY NINE            DAY THIRTEEN
DAY TWO         DAY SIX                 DAY TEN              DAY FOURTEEN

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