By Abdulaziz Al-Orayedh Physics teacher at Industrial Technical Institute — PAAET
This yearly festival that all Muslims have every year is a time to reset ourselves physically as well as morally and emotionally. The idea is to detach yourself from what is so basic to do, to eat and drink. In the daytime we refrain from one of the basic activities that our lives depend on, that is eating and drinking. This enigmatic act of self-deprivation is a human manifestation of being cut off from all of the material world that we live in and are part of. All religions follow the same practice of fasting for a set period that varies in length and obligations according to the canon they observe.
Christianity for one has a very demanding system that can vary in the length of days for fasting and the scope of bans and obligations, which can last up to 40 days. And Christians for one have more than one system of fasting. But in Islam the obligation is set to one lunar month of the calendar year that is the month of Ramadan. And it is the same philosophy behind the main theme of fasting, to feel the fragility and limitations of human beings and the ability to control our temptations. Muslims fast for one lunar calendar month of about 29 days. The fasting starts on the first day of the lunar month starting with the new moon.
This lunar month shifts its starting time every year by 11 days as the lunar year is shorter than the solar year. So every year we start Ramadan 11 days earlier from the previous year, making Ramadan at all times of the year, winter, spring, summer and fall. This makes the experience of Ramadan new every year.
The hardest Ramadan is in the summer period. In the late 1970s, Ramadan occurred in the summer months, and summer time in Kuwait is a thrilling experience. In a late 1970s Ramadan, I do not remember the exact year, the electricity was cut off from all of Kuwait due to a major failure in the main power stations that supplied electricity. In that year we all had to enjoy Ramadan the old fashioned way, the way our ancestors used to, without the benefits of electricity such as air-conditioned homes.
That was a very surprising experience as it was the first time I tried to fast, but I had to try it the old-school way Being without electricity, one of the miracles of modern science, and I may add in a Kuwaiti summer, had its special fl avor. Every day I and my late father, God bless his soul, would go the ice-shop to buy a block of ice. People were queued in lines stretching as long as two hundred meters or so. We had to wait more than two hours in the heat. We had no choice.
In the afternoon the neighbors would gather in the shade outside of their houses. It was too hot to be caged in the concrete boxes we called homes, as all the rooms in our houses were a burning hell. So, the time in the afternoon and just before sunset was spent in the neighborhood in front of our homes. The old men including my father gathered next to our garage. We youngsters made our group in front of our next-door neighbor Abu-Hussain, and young girls gathered in an indoor yard. Most important of all, our mothers were toiling in the kitchen preparing the Iftar, the breaking of the fasting meal. They were the real heroes who made sure that we had something to eat at the end of a hot Ramadan day.
We would all gather, me, my father and mother and little sister, around our breakfast meal and wait for the Magreb Athan, the call to the evening prayer. We used to have an old glow lamp. I was keen to sit next to it as was my sister. It was tedious and agonizing to wait as time neared for the call to evening prayer, to hear the call for the Magreb Athan. By the time it came, I was worn-out. Even to drink water let alone eat was a hard task. I was young during that Ramadan and fasted for the first time the old-fashioned way without electricity.