Ramadan 2012 has now begun in earnest here in Malaysia and for all those who aren’t sure what it all means I’ll explain…
Ramadan, the word, is taken from the Arabic ‘Ramida’ or ‘Ar ramad’ which means intense heat or dryness and it was in the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar that the Quran was first revealed and it was also during this time that Muhammed was given revelations. So it’s a pretty big month for Muslims.
During the month Muslims are required, or encouraged, to fast. Not continually but only during the hours of daylight which means that not a scrap of food nor a drop of water will pass their lips while the sun is up; no mean feat in Malaysia! This is supposed to be a time of spiritual reflection, worship and sacrifice. A time for Muslims to practice self-discipline and empathy for those less fortunate than themselves.
Breakfast will usually start around 3-4am, that’s right people, just when you’re getting back home wondering how you got that cut on your arm and phone number written in lipstick on your chest there are millions of people getting up to have breakfast. Which will start with 3 or 4 dates as this was what Muhammed ate during his time of fasting and they are thought to cleanse the body.
From there it’s a long day until the next meal that usually arrives around 8 -10pm then it’s a couple of hours kip before starting it all again.
So as the mosques are gearing up for the masses to exercise their spiritual muscles and the masses are gearing up to, well, go hungry for a month here are a couple of tips.
After all that starving yourself there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a festival called Eid ul-Fitr or Eid and translates to ‘Festivity of breaking the fast’. In Malaysia it’s called Hari Raya ‘Celebration Day’. Epicurious have some great recipes to try out whether it’s Ramadan or not. During this 3 days of festivities Muslims are encouraged to forgive and forget any disagreements or differences that may have happened during the past year.
In Malaysia balik kampung is the term for the mass, and when I say mass I mean it’s the biggest temporary migration of people on the planet! Muslims migrate from the cities to their hometowns to spend time with their families. Roads are jammed, nothing is running and the streets of cities are visibly quieter which is nice for us traveler types. There are still lots of celebrations in Kuala Lumpur I’m happy to say and we’ll be heading out with some friends to join in the feasts…maybe not the fasting thought.
So to all our Malaysia Muslim friends Selamat Hari Raya and Maaf zahir dan batin.