An insight of Ramadan
It is the month of Ramadan – a special time for the Muslim society. In a short interview our friends Prathisha Hoffman and Hasan Al Khuder are giving us an insight on this incredible tradition, which can teach us all to be better human beings and to always think for those in need. “Fasting, in our case, is not only about not eating or drinking, but it is also to avoid negativity and unkindness. To remind ourselves to always be kind to others, not get angry and upset people’s feelings and most importantly to try to understand each other more. ” .
- What is the major challenge for you when doing Ramadan in a Country different from your homeland?
Not everyone knows about the fact that we fast during Ramadan. So there are situations where people offer you food and drinks. Usually people understand, but it can be awkward having to explain the situation.
One of my friends works in the hospital and his doctor in charge kept reminding him to drink while working but he always had to decline.
Another difference between Germany and Syria is that the days are way longer. So you break fast often very very late, sometimes at only 10pm in the long summer days.
- Do you feel in Germany (or Bochum) there is a general understanding of muslim’s practices such as Ramadan (Due to the extended muslim community living here: 3rd country in Europe for muslim population) or not really?
From my experiences, especially in the University and with the people in my dorm, everyone has been very understanding and accepting. People were mostly respectful and even if they did not know certain customs, they would be eager to learn.
A negative experience was with my former landlord. She was not disrespectful but would often make fun of my beliefs and fasting because she was not religious. I am not one to judge what she believes in but the same should go for her respecting my beliefs and what is important to me.
- What are, from your point of view, good/negative sides of doing it in Germany? (for example, longer daylight hours)
Good: I am still able to be in touch with my beliefs no matter where I am;
Negative: You do not have your family, or the community with you while doing Ramadan. So the atmosphere is very different than back home. It is a little lonely. Everyone is fasting around you, everyone shares food with you for breakfast, the sounds of the mosque can be heard and gives another special feeling. The special sweets and foods and drinks that are sold only during this time, even the programmes and TV shows are different during Ramadan.
In Germany you can find everything of course: Mosques, food etc., but it is different and you need to go search for it, rather than just having everything around you during these special times.
- Can you tell us why this month is so important for you? What does it represent?
The month of Ramadan is important because it reflects my beliefs and my respect for my religion. I believe the month of Ramadan and fasting is a representation of faith. It is also a reminder of the people in need. God told us to remind ourselves during this month that there are people who are less fortunate than we are and that we need to reflect and give more and help more if we can. It is also a form of one’s own spiritual cleansing, in a way. Fasting, in our case, is not only about not eating or drinking, but it is also to avoid negativity and unkindness. To remind ourselves to always be kind to others, not get angry and upset people’s feelings and most importantly to try to understand each other more.
- How is your routine changing during this month? What are the major changes?
My daily routines regarding work and university do not change. Of course, because I do not control them. But in Syria usually the working hours could be decreased. Here that is obviously not the case. After working hours, I might be more tired than usual, I would sleep a little and the major change of course is the one major meal a day. And since here in Germany the breaking fast time is so late, my sleeping schedule is pushed back a little. I usually wake up before sunrise to eat and drink something small before the morning prayers and before the fasting begins again. On the weekends, I sometimes just stay awake till the sunrise but other than that there are no major changes in my schedule. Just a little time shift in my sleeping schedule.
- How do you usually celebrate at the end of the day? (Sharing with others this moment , eating something special everyday or only on some days? Has Covid19 influenced this?)
We usually do not really celebrate. Of course we enjoy the break fasting in company of others and it makes a big difference. The food is not so special. It is just food we would usually eat but because of the motion of sharing with each other, things are a little bit more special. As it is a month of reflection and understanding people in need, we do not celebrate the end of the day but we “celebrate” in the sense of just sharing our food with others and breaking fast together. Although we do have daily desserts after breaking fast. This of course differs in many countries and with many people. There are big celebrations and big feasts but within my family and community, we only celebrate at the end of the entire Ramadan month, on Eid. Being in Germany and with the current situation though, it is harder to even break fast together with other people. This reminds me more of the importance of having family and people you love around you.
- What is the greatest challenge for you? (Not drinking/eating/seeing others doing that/ ….)
I do not mind at all seeing others eat or drink, but probably the hardest part would be being thirsty by the end of the day.
- How will you celebrate the end of this month? How would it also be in your country of origins, Syria?
In my country, we would usually have family gatherings and would visit our relatives. Parents would buy new clothes for the kids, they might get a nice toy or something nice to eat. It is basically like the Islamic version of Christmas. Of course we have our own special kind of sweets called Maamoul in Syria, which are cookies filled with pistachios, walnuts or dates which are always given to guests with a cup of tea. This goes for other Islamic Countries as well of course, but with their own variation of sweets and treats and food. Also there is the Eid prayer, which takes place on the first day of Eid in the early mornings. Whoever wants to go to the mosque can go, it is not mandatory, after this short prayer people would congratulate each other, greet each other and share sweets and treats with each other. A nice start to the day.
- Do you wish for non-Muslim people to try this experience? Why?
I do not wish in the sense of wanting them to but personally it might be a good experience of reflection and whoever wants to can try it and see how this month would affect him or her physically, mentally and emotionally. It could maybe be seen as detoxifying your body or a way of avoiding unhealthy food, but anyway it might prove to be a good learning source.
There is a small group of people who do think that Muslims who fast are torturing themselves and they look at it in a negative and impossible way. I wish this group of people could maybe try it out and maybe change their view on it.
Thank you for that wonderful interview! Ramadan Kareem to all our friends in the world!