When I was considering what to write this week my first inclination was a cross country trip I made to the fort of Al Uquair on the Persian Gulf coast. Then a friend and driller working out of Kuwait recommended Ramadan since it was about to begin. A flood of memories returned and I thought this was a very good topic for this week. This Ramadan marks a special time in my own life. So, this week lets take a look at the Muslim’s Holy Month of Ramadan and the sacrifices that practicing members of the Islamic must make.
Ramadan is considered by the Islamic faith as the month that Mohammad revealed the Quran. Thus the writings of Mohammad, believed to be the prophet of God, were identified to what would become the largest religious group in the world. According to Islam God, or Allah as it is identified in Islam, spoke to Mohammad and told him what to write. Every month this revelation is celebrated as the Holy Month of Ramadan. This is where we see one of the quirks in the Western World and the Mid-Eastern world. The Western World uses the solar calendar and identifies a year as the time it takes to go around the sun. The Mid-East uses a calendar based on lunar cycles and each Muslim year and thus Ramadan falls 11 days earlier. This means that every 33 years Ramadan would make a full trip around the solar calendar and begin on the same day it had 33 years earlier. This is significant to me as the beginning of this Ramadan begins on the exact day that I saw my first Ramadan in Arabia 33 years ago; and this is one brutal time to begin the Holy Month.
While it is readily known when the first glimmer of the new moon will begin and ushers in Ramadan, it the religious leaders that make the announcement and the sound of a cannon in the distance officially announces that Romadan has started. Then every morning as the sun breaks the horizon the cannon goes off and fasting must begin. As the sun drops below the horizon the cannon proclaims that the fasting is now lifted. This fasting lasts for one month and is meant as a period of purification, inward searching and spiritual reflection.
The fasting is a true sacrifice for anyone that performs the ritual. From the time the sun rises until it sets drinking and eating are not allowed. Considering the temperatures in August reach well over 110 in many parts of Saudi Arabia, the laborers working outside endure a major hardship. They can rinse their mouth with water but can not swallow. Tobacco is not allowed and physical contact between a man and a women is not tolerated. Fasting is said to divert the thoughts away from worldly materialistic thoughts. Most countries stop work at noon during the month. If a Muslim is traveling he can break his fast during this period but must make it up at a later time. Westerners working in the Muslim countries are required to not eat, drink or smoke in front of a Muslim during Ramadan. Fasting is not optional. All Muslims are expected to do this with a couple of exceptions. These exceptions are children, pregnant women, the mentally ill, the chronically ill and the elderly; however the last two groups must make up for fasting by trying to feed the poor.
This year Rmaadan will begin when the firs light of the new moon is visible and this should be on or about July July 19th.
On a sidelight about Syria. A heart wrenching interview was aired on CNN where a freedom fighter told of running out of ammunition and receiving no aide as the civilians are being slaughtered. Not only did he beg for aid but he also wanted to know where the world support was. Last week it appeared that America’s threat of intervention would stop the massacre. Then pictures came to light of two hundred and twenty men, women and children being shot as they fled their homes under heavy bombardment of their homes.