Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ramadan: body and soul

A.Akak has invited us on his blog to recap the Ramadan experience, and knowing what a blabbermouth I am, it's better to just answer him and elaborate in this page.

From the various comments he received the main points I gleaned were:

(1) Ramadan in a non-Muslim country is difficult and does not have the same taste as back home (but may carry more Ajr because of the effort one is making).
(2) People have become more materialistic in Libya.
(3) Blood has thinned in Libya.

( you are welcome to share your point on all three).

As for my personal Ramadan experience? It is my favourite month of the year and comes exactly at the time you need it. The time you save while you don't have to worry about the other meals during the day is spent usefully catching up on a number of things that you wanted to do including most importantly your faith if you are spiritually inclined.

The number of days is just right, not too much and you are bored and not too little and you don't have the time to settle in.

I love Ramadan in any Muslim majority country but Ramadans are the nicest in Arab countries, call me biased if you wish but that's how I feel most comfortable. However...

if you are fasting with some friends in a foreign land it maybe possible to feel OK as well.

The TV shows are always nice in Ramadan because they are all fresh and it's the season (not sure why it became so but hey I'm not here to dissect that aspect). I also know that the rest of the year they will be rebroadcast. Many bloggers have written about TV in Ramadan in the Arab world, critical, for, indifferent or even advocating a boycott.

Apart from the spirituality, family ties and to do list I usually enjoy watching a few Ramadan shows - not too many as I don't have time for TV, but one or two at most.

Not since " Places in the Heart" in 2005 have I watched a TV show with such interest, I even remember doing a Ramadan TV series post.

This year I've been watching Bab il Harra Part III, I have missed the first two parts in previous Ramadans but I know that there is Bal il Harra fever all over the Arab world. The best description of this series I found was by blogger 'on the edge' :

"My favorite show we watch each night (making Moe translate anything I might miss) is Bab AL Hara . It is about a old town in 1929 Syria .Much like the British soap opera East Enders , it is centered around a neighborhood and it's residences .There is something for everyone ; murder , intrigue against the French colonial government , gun running , romance , neighborhood fights ,deaths , weddings ,family problems that people are still facing today such as spousal abuse , drug addiction , and divorce .The characters are all strong even the women , which I like because they are not wusses ! The men show tender sides which most Arab men try to hide but are known to have now and then , lol .And like I said before , there are many relevant issues featured , that are you still have in this modern life . The show is so popular that it is in Wikpedia ".

In case you are not hooked, MBC channel's website is offering you to watch it online free as well the next day if you missed some episode. I decided to check for myself how this worked and ended up being hooked on my second show for this year the Egyptian soap opera Ba3d il furaq (after the separation). In one week I watched all 19 episodes online then was all caught up with the TV and could follow it daily. Nothing special it's just another romantic story with star crossed childhood sweethearts.

So if you livve in Europe or the US and do not have access to satellite reception you can watch your favourite Ramadan series online here, just let the episode cache then it's cool ! enjoy without the advertisements :)

Tomorrow Monday is the last day of Ramadan in Libya, and since I hardly go out I have no comments about shopping or bad manners that others have experienced.

Though I'm satisfied with my Ramadan, I wish that I had more time to do extra duties for my eternal soul as one never knows when God will take the gift of life he has entrusted to us and I am not 100% sure that I will deserve his heaven and not sure that I will see another Ramadan either. After all we are growing older.

Eid Fitr Mubarak to you all!

Update 30/9/08

I received this cartoon about the Ramadan series in the Arab world - from left to right : Syria, Egypt, Gulf countries :P Enjoy


Curt from Houston said...


Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I'm somewhat of an agnostic but I always get a good vibe from the family getting together.

What I find as somewhat bizarre is what other cultures make of Western holidays and traditions. This may be a little off topic, but if you want some light distraction, check out what the Asians (specifically the Chinese and Japanese) are doing with Santa Claus and the Western marriage ceremony. The Japanese are actually hiring fake priests to perform their marriage ceremonies. How weird is that? Just thought I'd pass it along since I've been a little serious with you lately. Also, I'd love to get your take on this sort of practice.

Anonymous said...

Happy and Joyous Eid Fitr to you and your family.

Highlander said...

Many holidays have been commercialised extensively Curt including Christmas. The Japanese on the other hand love to play roles and entertain themselves. I mean look at what they do with karaoke?

The find the western marriage ceremony exotic which is why they dress up like this to get married.It's the same think as me finding the Hindi marriage ceremony absolutely fabulous and I would love to enact it not sure though that my groom would want to take part :P so it's flattering I guess. It is on a similar vein that you or why dressing in what we label ethnic clothes that are in reality everyday clothes in another cultures. I admit I like the western marriage ceremony it's solemnity and simplicity are refreshing.

Canyamacan, Thank you for the beautiful wishes and the same to you my friend.

a_akak said...

Eid Mubarik

وكل عام وانتم بخير

Fe Aman Allah

فى أمان الله

Khalid said...

كل سنة و انت طيبة


Anglo-Libyan said...

Eid Mubarak to you and your family

وكل عام وانتم بخير

The Lost Libyano said...

Eid Mubarak Highlander :)

The Japanese are actually hiring fake priests to perform their marriage ceremonies. How weird is that?

Its not weird if you think about it Curt.

The great 14th century Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun shed light on this phenomenon in his Muqaddimah:

22. The vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive mark(s), his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs. The reason for this is that the soul always sees perfection in the person who is superior to it and to whom it is subservient. It considers him perfect, either because the respect it has for him impresses it, or because it erroneously assumes that its own subservience to him is not due to the nature of defeat but to the perfection of the victor.

If that erroneous assumption fixes itself in the soul, it becomes a firm belief. The soul, then, adopts all the manners of the victor and assimilates itself to him. This, then, is imitation.

Or, the soul may possibly think that the superiority of the victor is not the result of his group feeling or great fortitude, but of his customs and manners. This also would be an erroneous concept of superiority, and (the consequence) would be the same as in the former case.

Therefore, the vanquished can always be observed to assimilate themselves to the victor in the use and style of dress, mounts, and weapons, indeed, in everything.
In this connection, one may compare how children constantly imitate their fathers. They do that only because they see perfection in them. One may also compare how almost everywhere people are dominated (in the matter of fashion) by the dress of the militia and the government forces, because they are ruled by them......
(pg.116 The Muqaddimah By Ibn Khaldun, Franz Rosenthal, N. J. Dawood)

Just wait until the Asian century begins.:)

Highlander said...

Thank you Anglo, Khalid and A.Akak and Eid Mubarak to you as well.

Highlander said...

Lost Libyano Eid Mubarak to you 3azizi! That's an interesting angle as well, thanks for bringing it up I forgot about emulating the victor yes that too is a possible cause with regards to the Japanese, not sure about China, maybe China are copying as well because they assume that Western recipe is the best ?

Some further comments to Curt..I must admit that we too in Libya have been affected in terms of our brides wear the white Western bridal dress which is not part of our customs.. up to a few years ago the compromise was to wear both the white dress and our white traditional wedding silk ridah but I see that on the decrease. We won't be doing the priest scenario too though not Muslims at least.

Rose Bud said...

Happy Ieed. I love this post.

naohama said...

I like what you wrote here which reflected most of my thoughts about Ramadan back home and here, there is no comparison at all actualy, but you know what! We tend to clutch to old habits which is bad, refreshing , new scenes, new ways to adpot with shedding the old ones is a matter of copromising with life here.
Still memories and home sickness kept nagging all the way nevertheless.
Yesterday a Libyan friend here in States told me that she, compering to others is a newcommer, and how many years was she here I may ask? She answered 10 years.
By God!!
What about me trying to be brave and muttering to my self : It is OK, I am adaptable, me the adventurer!
I am still then by thier catagories a fetus, a month and couple of days! I came here from my wedding Kosha to the airport, to here to find myself after a couple of day suddenely in Ramadan!
Well I think I am a real adventurer as it is!
Much talking eh!
Thank u 4 your post gave me the chance to vent my thoughts out.
Happy Eid 4 u & ur family.
عيد مبارك بأذن الله

Beacon said...

Eid Mubarak to you and your family. May Allah accept your fast and prayers inshala.

enlightened spirit said...

كل عام وانت بخير... عيدك مبارك ان شاء الله

WEDA said...

happy edi ....i wish u all the best

Maya M said...

Highlander, could you please show or give some link to a bride with traditional ridah? Because I failed to find one in Google.
It is amusing how people from other cultures embrace Western wedding rituals, while at the same time it becomes more and more difficult to persuade Western men to engage in such a ritual :).
About accepting Western clothing style in general (I mean everyday life, not special cases such as weddings and holidays) - I admit that for me, it is a prerequisite for feeling a common ground with people. I mean, I perceive people who dress differently from me as different inside, not sharing my way of thinking. When Americans invaded Baghdad in 2003, I hoped to see ordinary Iraqis in jeans and T-shirts the next day. And when it didn't happen, I knew there was trouble in store.
Another example - when I saw Wangari Maathai at the Nobel Prize ceremony dressed like a maid in a Brazilian soap opera, I just expected to hear something weird about her. Such as attributing HIV to white scientists (eh well, I didn't expect it to be quite so weird).
The way you dress reflects the way you think. Ataturk even thought that it works also the other way round. So he banned traditional clothing of his people, hoping to rid them of their traditional thinking. But it didn't work.
LL, thank you for the interesting quote. I am often engaged in arguments about persuation by force. I say that, like it or not, it is very efficient, while my opponents say that you cannot persuade anybody by force. They'd better read Ibn Khaldun!

Anonymous said...

Hope you had a great Eid.

All the best.

Libyeah! said...

thanks for the welcome, its good to be here

and i think you're spot on with those 3 points at the top.

kul 3am wa anti bikhair

LouLou said...


'About accepting Western clothing style in general (I mean everyday life, not special cases such as weddings and holidays) - I admit that for me, it is a prerequisite for feeling a common ground with people. '

Then I feel sorry for you. Seriously. There is so much beauty and fun in folkloric and ethnic fashion that anyone who fails to appreciate it is missing out in a major way.

Fashion is a product of history, tradition, climate and every culture's unique aesthetic and sense of art and what fits and what is comfortable. That you're uncomfortable with that and you want everyone to be clones of you is really your loss.

'I mean, I perceive people who dress differently from me as different inside, not sharing my way of thinking.'

Of course everyone is different inside. Who made you the standard all human beings have to conform to? Isn't that arrogant?

'When Americans invaded Baghdad in 2003, I hoped to see ordinary Iraqis in jeans and T-shirts the next day. And when it didn't happen, I knew there was trouble in store.'

I think that's the shallowest analysis of the Iraq War I've ever seen anywhere. It sounds like something one would hear on Jon Stewart.

'So he banned traditional clothing of his people, hoping to rid them of their traditional thinking. But it didn't work.'

Yeah because changing people's clothes doesn't instantly transform their minds. I hope this is not too much of a shock for you.

Highlander said...

Rose Bud, thanks I thought many bloggers would like it which is why I shared. I know how homesick you can be sometimes :)

Naohoma, mashallah I did not realise you were a 3aroussa, mabrouk and hope you have a great life abroad.

Beacon,Enlightened, Weda, 7mada and Libeyah thank you :)

Maya M,you have some interesting theories about dressing, but I'm not sure that wearing Western clothing is a prerequisite for being enlightened. As for Iraqis I'm sure you saw from their blogs and photos about Iraq pre-invasion that they did have jeans and t-shirts. it is post invasion that their life has changed... I'll try to find some links for the ridah.

Thanks to all for commenting and sorry for my belated replies.

Maya M said...

LouLou, I admit I am able to appreciate beauty only if first supplied with other things I find more important.
"Who made you the standard all human beings have to conform to?"
Exactly. An important reason for me to feel uncomfortable with other cultures is that they tend to deny me the right to set myself as a standard for myself. BTW, this was the subject of my very first comment on Highlander's blog, 2 years ago.
Highlander, you wrote I had argued that "wearing Western clothing is a prerequisite for being enlightened". I read my previous comment twice. Where did I write such a thing? I usually try to mind my language (though it doesn't seem to help much) and so used a neutral tone, talking about myself and people different from me, rather than about people who are enlightened and people who aren't. It is another matter whether I consider myself more enlightened than my opponents, and it is unimportant anyway, because we all know that people tend to have inflated opinion about themselves. The only place where I introduced values and claimed superiority was the bit about Maathai, but if somebody finds this wrong, I would ask whether I should feel OK also with, say, young men wearing swastikas.

Maya M said...

To me, it is amusing how people praising diversity invariably exclude from it opinions differing even slightly from theirs. I think this tells you all you need to know about diversity and especially about diversity-sensitivity :-).
Actually, I know only one blogger who truly supports diversity. She has the logic needed to see where it leads, and the courage to follow that logic. Here is a representative post:
Briefly, this blogger thinks that treatment of phenylketonuria (PKU) mustn't be mandatory. She argues that parents of babies born with PKU should have the option to let them develop the full-blown condition, with mental retardation, seizures and all, because treatment makes the babies grow as phenotypically normal individuals and so deprives mankind of diversity.
This example in a nutshell shows what I am trying to state about diversity: More often than not, it harms people.
Diversity in the political sense is expected to keep prosperity, security and freedom at lower levels than in an otherwise similar society without diversity. This is banal but probably sounds heretical in a world where people aren't allowed to say about diversity anything other than it is glorious to have it around. The situation is worst in Northern Europe. A friend living there says that she and her colleagues are periodically taken from work and forced to attend lectures about diversity, and thinks that she could lose her job if they knew she reads my blog. My opinion is that this approach of silencing dissent may give the impression that problems don't exist, but in fact makes them worse. It multiplies not only the damage done by diversity but also the natural unfriendly feelings between different people, creating the danger that the suppressed hostility will explode one day, as has happened many times in European history.
(I tried earlier to post the first part of this comment but apparently it was lost. I don't think it was moderated, because this isn't a North-European blog :-). H, if you receive it, you may delete it.)

Highlander said...

Maya - I understand your point and the way you bring it up makes sense, but this is why we should not be all uniform in looks, clothing etc... right ?

Maya M said...

You are right, we shouldn't be all uniform... because we aren't anyway, unless somebody makes us uniform by force. And this is very rarely justified. In fact, one of the reasons why I am suspicious towards the diversity in clothing is that this global diversity often reflects local forced uniformities - communities with a stiff dress code and severe measures against those members who violate it.