I was giving a class about Islam to my second year students last November and we were discussing Islamic dress. I asked the students if any of them would be interested in participating in World Hijab Day and explained that … Continue reading
Ramadan has changed my relationship with the moon. Some days I see it high in the middayed-bluey sky and I pay attention to it in a way I never did before – its waxing or its waning. Its size.
Ramadan ends with the sighting of the next new moon. Every day now the bright side of the moon is shrinking in size. The month of fasting draws to a close.
I’ve finally lost a bit of weight. I’m down three pounds now and delighted with myself. Jasmina, one of the women I met on Saturday night in Clongriffin tells me that if you haven’t lost weight during Ramadan you haven’t done it properly. She has lost three kilos since the beginning of the month.
“Not to put a value on people” she tells me “but the whole point of Ramadan is to come out renewed in some way – for example to cut down on swearing or backbiting – and to learn to control your physical desires.”
“The idea is not to fast for eighteen hours and then gorge on everything and anything” she says. “There is nothing wrong with having treats but some people use Ramadan as a month of feasting and by the end of it their clothes don’t fit.”
Jasmina is from Australia and has a Home-And-Away style accent. She has a chirpy, confident, warm personality. She is wearing a colourful scarf on her head (hijab) and a long flowing black cloak called an abaya that covers her from neck to wrists to ankles. Underneath the cloak she is wearing a dress.
It must be hot with the hijab, heatwave, abaya and dress. “Other sisters [meaning other Muslim women] are saying “it’s so hot”” she says laughing “but I am like “this is nothing compared to Australian heat””.
“And the abaya is very light” she tells me holding up a section of the material to the light. “You can see through it” .
“In the Middle East they call this material “Atlas material”. I don’t know why but instead of saying it’s chiffon or silk they say “it’s Atlas”. And the cut is a butterfly cut so it’s very airy”. She reaches out her arms and the material falls down like wings.
“On hot days I just wear leggings and a singlet underneath” she says. “And you can wear any shoes that you like”. “Even flip flops?” I ask, surprised. She laughs “no no, the feet have to be covered”. She holds up her right foot to show me. She is wearing red runners.
Jasmina’s family are from North Africa and her husband is half-Algerian, half-Irish.
“We normally break the fast with a light soup, pastry, dates and if my husband is hungry he’d make himself a sandwich too – I’m not a very traditional housewife” she adds, smiling. “After breaking the fast my husband goes to pray in the mosque but this year I haven’t gone to the mosque as my daughter [who is three] is in bed by 8.30”.
The food she makes includes traditional Algerian soups, meat-filled pastries called Bourek and for sweets she would mainly eat fruit “or whatever I can grab from the shop – like maybe profiteroles.”
“My husband has a sweet tooth” she smiles. “He needs to have his Barry’s tea and rich tea biscuits. That’s the Irish contribution. But I prefer just some fruit.”
Muslims all over the world eat different foods for their Iftar meals. Experiences of Ramadan are as diverse as the cultures from which Muslims come.
It’s like looking at the moon and seeing either the rabbit or the man or even Michael Jackson (as I sometimes see). The object that we perceive in the shadows of the surface is dependent on the vantage point and cultural background.
Perspective is everything. The moon takes on new meanings. And for the first time in my life, as I share the experience of Ramadan with Muslims all over the world, the moon has become my divider of time.