Ramadan and reading the Quran

Never before has a strawberry tasted so divine as the one I ate for the break-fast that came with the falling sun and fading light tonight.

I broke today’s fast with a date (fruit variety) followed by the strawberry. I closed my eyes and let the tastes melt into my happy mouth and sighed. The explosion of taste and gratitude for food and water at the fast’s end is what made the fast easy today. I knew what I had to look forward to.

The no-food factor is ending up at almost 24 hours daily simply because I’m too lazy to get out of bed before 3 a.m. for a refill. The hunger is easy. The thirst is thirsty. I lick my lips a lot. The stomach cranks up a few notches by eight or nine and shifts gears – loudly. But energy levels today were high. And I started reading the Quran. That is also part of what makes up Ramadan.

It’s my second time reading the Quran. I read it for the first time a few summers ago when I did a tiny bit of research on women in Islam. It took me the whole summer.  This time I’m trying to keep up with a chapter (or section) a day. There are 30 chapters and 30 days in Ramadan – it’s meant to be read one section a day. I’m already playing catch up.

The Quran is very different to the Bible. Less narrative. A very strong emphasis on faith and on the woes that will befall those who are faithless. The 114 Surah’s are not arranged chronologically but according to length.  It is an interesting read. They say that in Arabic it is perfect poetry but I’m on an English translation. I’ve heard the Arabic recited and it’s beautiful even to my ignorant ears.

I think it is perhaps okay to say that as a non-Muslim, Catholic-raised woman, like meself I do find the Quran a difficult read, a challenging read.

There are many verses about doing good and the importance of charity and looking after the needy, and being forgiving, and also on restraint, honesty, equality, hypocrisy. And then there is what is perhaps the most contentious verse – which happens to be in chapter 2 – and which is interpreted in many different ways:

‘Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’

Sometimes I feel afraid of the potential reactions that my thoughts (if voiced) about Islam could elicit. And so I cannot (do not) speak them. Or write them. And so I stay silent. I don’t know where the boundaries of discussion lie. What is safe to say, what is not safe? What is acceptable to discuss and what is not? I know not what.

When I was researching Muslims in Ireland for my Master’s degree I received at least two emails from an Irish Muslim man asking me which intelligence agency I worked for. Was it the CIA or the FBI. The fear works both ways.

I will continue to read the Quran – I remember there are many beautiful sections. And in the meantime, from tomorrow, day three, it’s meant to all get easier again.

And regarding Ramadan? Right now I see only positives so there are no hidden silenced thoughts. But if there were? Who would be to know?

A discussion on the merits of fear, faith, silence, free speech is for another space. In the meantime, I’m off for another litre of uisce (water).Image

The Ramadan calendar I was given at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland yesterday

2 thoughts on “Ramadan and reading the Quran

  1. The verse you quoted there is specific to a place and situation. It’s not a hate verse giving Muslims free rule to do whatever they want to infidels anytime, as it’s so often used!

    • It’s very difficult for me, as a nonMuslim, to understand this verse (and many others) as I do not have the cultural background or knowledge of the context. Thanks for the comment – it’s a very important point.

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