With the advent of Ramadan around the globe this weekend, Muslim and non-Muslim bloggers everywhere are wishing each other Ramadan mubarak (or “blessed Ramadan”). As is the case each year, bloggers have found a variety of topics to talk about, from the Qur'an to the difficulties of Ramadan, to the fast itself.
Ramadan Kareem…from the White House?
One popular topic amongst bloggers this year is U.S. President Obama's Ramadan speech, in which he wished all Muslims a blessed Ramadan. Middle East Blog, whose author is Egyptian, appreciates Obama's sentiment but wishes for a bit more:
Obama is a charming, charming talker. He peppers his words with Islamic references to both make Muslims feel that he understands them and their religion and is educating others about the faith as well. He highlights the most significant issues in the Muslim world – the war in Iraq and the Israel/Palestine conflict. He even draws on fears that many Muslims have about how Swine flu may affect making Hajj (pilgrimage) this year.
Of course, I take all this in the way it’s supposed to be taken. Obama is doing a brilliant job at trying to reach out to Muslims through words. However, I can’t help but feel that speeches such as this one merely gloss over the lack of action that he promised us.
Egyptian chronicles has mixed feelings about the speech as well, but adds a fun fact:
Allah Akram* president Obama , another speech to the Muslim world , this time it is short yet with too many points : Iraq, Palestine , and the Muslim world. Nice short smart speech for sure.
By the way the most expensive “ LE 18”and finest dates in Egypt is called Obama this Ramadan ;)
Reading the Qur'an
Beyond fasting, Ramadan is a time for reading (or re-reading) the Qur'an. Special prayers for Qur'an recitation are held, with the intent of reading one thirtieth of the Qur'an each night for the entire month. Some bloggers are writing about the experience.
A strange thing happened yesterday. As I was reading the Qur'an, listening simultaneously to the sheikh reciting, I found tears running down my cheeks. Before this is misinterpreted by anyone, it was simply because I was moved by the beauty of the Arabic. It's true that I am sensitive to language – it is my life – and that words, beautiful or ugly, are able to affect me deeply, but I was surprised to experience such a strong reaction.
Malaysian Anas Zubedy has initiated a project called “Let's Read the Qur'an” for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to “read the Quran in the language they understand most and find in it areas of common value for our day to day living.”
HoongLing, from Malaysia, is taking part in the project, and even fasting. Of the experience, she writes:
I have “announced” of my fasting this Ramadhan through facebook. Lots of feedbacks and it was intriguing to see the comments of many friends. No, I am not a Muslim but I am a bangsa Malaysia, when asked am I a Muslim (therefore fasting).
Fasting during Ramadhan isn't new to me. I did this as soon as I have the liberty to cook and sahur at 5am. Puasa for 4 years during Ramadhan and then stopped for 6 years due to gastric. This year, I am back on track. My colleague suddenly asked me today, the reason I fast.
The answer was simple. I was a church-goer for 6 years, apparently to learn and improve English and then only discovered Buddhism when I was 13 years old. Buddhism (yes, I am a Buddhist) encourages Buddhists to go search and find out about other religions before deciding one that is right for him/her. With this “freedom” of choice and Malaysia being one of the easiest place on earth to learn diversified cultures and religions, so why not? I went on to learn about Islam and eventually practise them in daily live.
Difficulties During Ramadan
Although most Muslims are grateful for the arrival of Ramadan and the challenges it brings, life is ongoing and it is impossible to escape from its difficulties at times. An American Muslim in Morocco is a blogger experiencing her first Ramadan in the Muslim North African country, and is experiencing some disappointments. She laments:
Here’s what I imagined…that family’s prayed together at each and every call to prayer; that people greeted each other with As Salam Alaikum on the street, so much so that I would have trouble keeping up with the number of people we passed; that people would be more willing to help each other; and that the level of respect youth had for elders was eons beyond American kids. I imagined that no one drank, no one tried to cheat another, and I imagined that the the stares and comments American women complain about where figments of their imagination.
Here’s what I found…teenage girls wearing the tightest revealing clothes while walking next to their fully covered mothers in veils and djellabas; dirty streets where people litter forgetting that Allah gave them this Earth to live on and care for; people having to fend for their lives to cross the street as cars speed toward them not even bothering to slow down; and so many people drinking that they have to dry-out for 40 days before Ramadan…
From Palestine, the stories are more complicated. In Gaza, noting the poor quality of fresh food, and the effects of the Israeli blockade on the fishing industry and medical practices, says:
With all of these facts and clear evidence of the systematic destruction of Palestinians lives and means of existence in Gaza, one can hardly expect Ramadan to be filled with joy as in former years.
Lastly, Ramadan is a time of reflection, and many blog posts during this time reflect that fact. Canadian Sana of KABOBfest, wishes readers a happy Ramadan, reminding them:
We are reminded briefly of the pains of millions around the world, many in our own backyards and on our streets, suffer without the comfort of knowing that at the end of the day there is going to be a meal waiting to fill the roaring stomachs. We fast to starve ourselves – starve us of our egos, our materialism, and our individualism. When we fast we experience, together, the realities of an empty stomach and the realities of a fed soul. And of course, take this month of communal dinners and support to get to know your brethren – Muslim or not. Starve yourself of your shyness, your lethargy and your inhibitions.
From Indonesia, Titus Jonathan reminds us to be happy:
Ramadan will always a beautiful month if people offer smile each others. Let the smile becomes our home where we are able to take some rest on the hot earth and share kindness each other, not only for a month, but also for another eleven months onward. If smiles exist everywhere in Ramadan, everyone will always miss Ramadan, and expect to come again, soon.
Happy Ramadan, with an outpouring of smile everywhere.
Finally, from Syria, Abu Fares leaves us with a lovely reflection:
I hope we work on eradicating the disparity between the rich and poor so that the wealthy don't feel that they are doing the needy a favor with their alms.
I hope we become free to live the way we choose to and liberate our minds from the vice of judging others.
I hope we believe in ourselves enough not to wait for miracles to happen but instead work out butts off to make viable wonders come true.
I hope we come to terms with reality, cherish the physical world and see the inherent beauty of the universe with wonderment and joy not in awe and fear. ex nihilo nihil fit.
I hope we never lose the impulse to learn, the will to travel and the urge to discover the unknown.
I hope we reach the point when no one believes that it's worth dying or killing for a cause.
I hope that no man has to toil for bread, no child sleeps unfed and no woman is coerced in bed.
*”Allah Akram” means “Allah (God) is most generous”
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