One third of the way there. The numbers underneath the fraction line are getting smaller. Today is day 11 of the long-hot-summered Ramadan fast. There’s just 19 more to go.
I began the fast wanting to see what it felt like for Muslims to not eat or drink on an Irish July sunny day. The magnified pleasures of food and water at the end of the first day, coupled with my innate curiosity (call it nosiness), was enough of an incentive to keep going.
The first few days I made some attempts to conserve energy and avoid the midday sun but now I go for walks, play tennis, go shopping, even cook dinners and lunches for my husband and toddler. Life has normalised.
My solitary breaking of the fasts have also been broken up with very welcome company of friends which has doubled and tripled the dusking pleasure.
Today I am on section XI of the Quran. I’m reading a translation. The English doesn’t trip easily into my brain. I stumble over words and sentences. And the messages and meanings clog up my clock-works.
There is a lot of talk in the Quran of believers and unbelievers, of faith and fear, of fighting and peace and doing good and charity.
I questioned Dr. Ali Selim, senior member of staff at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland about my understanding that believers should not be friends with unbelievers but he said it was a matter of translation and also of understanding the context in which the verses were written.
“I have a friend” he tells me “a good friend, who is an atheist and we go for meals together and talk about religion and if I am giving talks I always invite him. We’ve been friends for over ten years.” He jokingly tells me “he has a very stubborn mentality”. My friend, who has accompanied me to the ICCI says to him laughing “and he probably thinks that you do too”.
Dr. Selim made it clear to me that it is okay for Muslims to have non-Muslim friends but as a non-Muslim, ignorant of Arabic and of Quranic interpretation, this is not the message that I took from it. There are many similarly problematic passages for me which I’m sure cannot be read at face-value.
In the meantime, there’s no sign of a break in the weather. The grass on the road verges is burnt dry. Sometimes we can smell smoke off the mountains as the gorse catches fire. There’s talk of water shortages and we are officially in drought. For Muslims working at manual labour in Ireland it must be difficult. But for me, in my summer holidays, I’m doing just fine.