Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ramadan reflection #4: Changing times.

As I find myself in a different time zone this Ramadan, I realised how much the entire spirit of Ramadan for me in previous years centered around the light, smells and sounds of the equator.

Sahur, or the morning meal, always meant waking up a mere hour earlier than usual. Not long after fajr prayer, you could hear the birds chirping and waiting for sunrise. Since I also left for school earlier than usual, I was rewarded with beautiful red-streaked sunrises from the train platform. Here, sahur is a quiet affair interspersed with sounds from the street of drunk people or cyclists. It's also more than two hours before sunrise, so staying up is an option only if you're going to sleep all day.

At 4 or 5pm there would come my inevitable dip in energy levels and sense of humour, after a full day of school together with walking in the hot tropical sun. I remember being five or six years old with glucose levels at absolute zero (and not much fat reserves to draw upon!) and lying motionless on the carpet in the living room. I didn't want to break my fast and I was probably to weak to make it to the kitchen anyway. But clearly I survived :)

After iftar, or the breaking of the fast, I would have to quickly pray maghrib at home if I wanted to make it to the mosque for tarawih prayers. It was also fun to pick out tarawih-appropriate clothes: the most important being a hijab long enough to also pass for a telekung (a large and long prayer headscarf, often white and much-loved by many non-Southeast Asian Muslims) which had to be pinned down at the back to keep it in place when prostrating under huge ceiling fans.

The air at night is humid, but cooler. Cycling home, there would be crickets chirping and frogs croaking in the grass along the sidewalk. It would only be 9pm or 10pm -- still a whole night ahead for extra prayers or assignments.

There's no doubt that these sights, smells and sounds were part of what it meant to me, to be a practising Muslim then. This Ramadan is so different, in a different house, country, family, climate, and diet -- I am still finding my way to feeling as spiritual as before. Because this is not a religion of nostalgia, and I should be able to find things that make me feel as Muslim as I always have.
Read other Ramadan reflections here: 
#1 What is abstinence?
#2 Physical considerations
#3 The shortest terawih

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