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One of the best memories that I always remember from my second homeland is about having Ramadan there. In December 1997 during Ramadan in Canada the time from dawn to sunset was very short while after breakfast (Iftar) it was long-lasting night time.
Of course, this is not that easy nowadays as Ramadan comes in summer where daytime is much longer than night and Muslims are having short sleeping time without altering the working hours. Some questions used to bother my mind; will fasting in Canada give me a chance to enjoy its traditions with the beloved ones and friends? Will I have a chance to be fasting next year with my family in our homeland? Will I have a chance to cook the most popular Ramadan dishes and share them with my new (Muslim or non-Muslim) friends in Canada? The most important point to explain to my Canadian friends was how I should not eat or drink (even a sip) from dawn to sunset for the whole month.
There are different ethnic divisions across Canada and these questions are major ones in all Muslim minorities around the world.Working hours for schools, clinics, governmental offices or even malls are not changed. Considering oneself as a good role model for a non-Muslim friend, one is always conscious not to make a mistake that could affect one’s fasting in this holy month In Canada twenty years back, Ramadan experience was completely different from Ramadan in Kuwait. A very short fasting day compared to the long night as it used to be in December. Inviting or being invited by some friends as a part of cultural exchange is always something to behold. You really stop or alter your life routine as family gatherings become the order of the day with family members sitting around the same dining table to have their meals.
The Muslim community in Canada has grown and developed significantly in recent years, it is about 3.5 percent of the population. It is not unusual to see Muslims of a local community gather in the mosques which used to have more functional job as a social club beside being a house of worship.
The most enjoyable part is when you have a non-Muslim friend trying to empathize with you and trying to practice fasting this holy month (or the first couple of days of it). Adding one western Canadian plate to Iftar meal beside Arabic (Iraqi) main course as I invited my Canadian friend for our iftar and she used to cook something special during her Lent. Is it a challenge or an exam for me? Being in Kuwait for few years and working in a multicultural environment are enhancing my experience with some challenges. The way of talking or sometimes gossiping to some work colleagues or dearest friends, giving enough space to the first year arrivals of my colleagues teaching them the Do’s and Don’ts of Ramadan in a Muslim country. Switching off our minds from the political news, at the end it is all about self-discipline. The flow of TV drama with unexpected scenes sometimes. The birth of drama/new media superstars either presenting TV series or the heavy flow of Ramadan Fatawa programs/shows on live as some people ask about the way they perform their worship (Ebadat), praying or paying Zakat. I am not against the idea of having drama show, I would prefer to have selectively good ones. I admit that sometimes I follow the good historical one.
The act of fasting calls Muslims to practice self-discipline and sacrifice, as well as show compassion for the poor and less fortunate people. They are required to be generous and increase their charitable activities (Sadaqa) in this holy month.
Is it a time of spiritual self-discipline (challenge) or it is just to abstain from any food or drink for such a long day time and high temperature (Exam). Fasting is religiously practiced in all Muslims countries for spiritual and physical cleansing.
Unfortunately some people are reacting negatively with Ramadan. It witnesses more sleeping hours after work in waiting for the sunset prayer, or as some parents believe it is not good luck for students’ exams and achievements as they are fasting and writing their exams on the first week of the holy month.
On the contrary, fasting should be a call for meditation as a way to cure many physiological disorders as blood pressure and heart fatigue beside its benefits of creativity and patience. So do yoga exercises and meditation. On a physical level, as we know going without solid food clears the intestines,fasting can markedly increases flexibility and help energy flow well in yoga postures.
Fasting is spiritual cleansing. “Twenty-nine or thirty days to explore the line between the interior of the body and the surrounding world, to think about what is brought to us and what we owe. Yoga is a practice, not unlike fasting, that allows us to practice linking the inside- the private experiences of the body and the mind, with the outside, the pulsing breathing actual world.” Ramadan is an exam period for a Muslim’s faith, patience, tolerance and the intention as well as a challenge for Muslims to accomplish the best of it.
By Su’ad Al-Ahmadi
M.Ed. & B.Sc. Science Teacher/A’Takamul International School