Ramadan Blog: Ramadan 1425 / October-November 2004
1 November 2004 / 17 Ramadan 1425
I'm concerned. It seems there are spies on the ‘net and it is not the safe place that I thought it was.
Yesterday, my sons and I were deciding what to cook for iftaar. They had some great desire for kurie kitchrie (that's an Indian rice thingie with yoghurtie stuff gooi-ed on top). I was lazy, however. So I told them that I thought it was a good idea but that they must maar cook it themselves. At murmurs of dissatisfaction, I suggested that I would help and guide - you know, the kind of thing a father should be doing.
But they still refused. THEN, they sommer dropped the bombshell which froze me in my tracks. And which gave me the first indication that I had been compromised.
'Why did you put it on the internet that we cooked??' they demanded viciously.
'How can you tell everyone about our sugar beans?' they asked accusingly.
I backed towards one corner of my room, afraid of what might happen if I gave the wrong answer. So I didn't answer. I don't deal with interrogation very well. (Ask their mother who dealt with interrogation by South Africa's Security Branch excellently.) And was afraid that they might bliksem me.
Fortunately, they were feeling merciful - must have been the fasting (and the threat of starvation). And so they ended it quickly with a: 'We are not cooking because you will just put it on the internet again!'
Buuuttt.... they are my kids and I suspect that they secretly love me. So they did end up cooking kurie kitchrie (which was absolutely lovely) with some guidance from me.
And if there was a lesson I learnt from yesterday, it is that after that sugar beans story, I am never going to tell you people about my sons ever again! Sellouts! Impimpi!
I pray for her
31 October 2004 / 16 Ramadan 1425
I think that blogging and email have been two of my means of procrastinating over the past few days. You see, I’m supposed to be marking student essays – 280 of them! First year students! And I have to have them all done by this Thursday – a physical impossibility. I am making it even more impossible (is that possible?) by procrastinating.
I love teaching; I love the research that my job obliges me to do; I would prefer to not have to mark essays and exams. Alhamdulillah, this makes me a normal university teacher.
Apart from emails and blogs, the other factor that has assisted in slowing down my marking is consultations with students. Unlike most other lecturers, I don’t have specific consultation times. I prefer to have an open- door for students. I sometimes think this is a huge mistake.
Students wanting to talk about the exams; students wanting to know about their essays (why do students expect that 280 essays can be marked in one day?); post-grad students wanting to talk about their research; students thinking that having a discussion with me about Marx and all kinds of leftist politics or about Palestine will be a break from their studying; students wanting to give me long explanations for why they still haven’t completed their essays that I’m supposed to finish marking by Thursday so they can use them in the weekend to study for their exam on Tuesday.
Then there's the student who is homeless and has psychological problems. He accosted (not physically) a female lecturer some weeks ago. Just before that, he refused to leave a colleague’s office because he disagreed with a point my colleague had made in a lecture. He’s been seen by campus security taking a bath at one of the taps in the gardens. He was, at the time, naked. So I need to ensure my open door is not too open.
But the one student that came to me early in the week still weighs heavily on my mind. What do I do about her? Is there any way to help her? Helping her to salvage as many credits as she can this year is part of what concerns me. The other part is thinking of how to help her to survive her life for the rest of this year and into the next.
Lerato (not her real name) and another student saw me in the passage and the other student stopped me and asked whether I would talk to Lerato since she has ‘some problems’. As we walked into my office, I noticed the bandages, one on each wrist. We sat down and I asked what the problem was. (Since I was fasting, I forgot to ask if she would have tea or coffee.)
Lerato is almost 20. In December, she met her father for the first time. She suddenly felt ‘fulfilled’, like her life had been completed. She had waited for this moment for 19 years. In February, he told her he wanted to have nothing to do with her. Since then this has been her second attempt at committing suicide.
Her marks for the first semester indicate that she is a talented student. (She got those marks despite the knockdown blow in February.) This semester she broke; she has handed in only two out of eight pieces of work (one of the two being my essay).
She spoke to me for about and hour, cried a lot, was devastated that her life had been made empty again, asked me what was wrong with her that her father didn’t want her in his life. She hasn’t told her mother any of this. It seems her mother is a tough woman who might not take too seriously this obsession that Lerato has. Of course, the mother probably has her own very legitimate issues with the father.
I spoke to her for a long time, trying to advise this young, smart woman whose life could be completely messed up within the next couple of weeks – if she makes it through them. I wrote her a letter that she could use to try and get her other lecturers to give her extensions for the work already overdue and to ask them to try and defer her exams. I contacted the campus counselling services and made an appointment for her to see them. I invited her to visit me and talk whenever she wants to.
I quietly prayed for her. Prayed that she would gain the strength to be confident again. Prayed that the inner Light of Allah within her breast would carry her through this. Prayed that she would recognise that Light and see that she too is divine. Prayed that she would get over this damn man who just dumped his daughter without taking any responsibility, walked in and out of her life with a few words and left behind a devastated young woman who had been about to make something great of her life.
I pray for her now.
But I have essays to mark. I can’t spend too much time praying. Or thinking. Certainly not emailing and writing blogs. Trying to find her? I don’t have the time. I think I’ll check with the counselling service. But I need to get through these 280 essays.
But maybe I shouldn’t think too much about this. Maybe I’ve done what I could and I should leave it to Allah to sort this out as only He knows how. Or maybe my saying this is shirking my responsibility.
Another beautiful, young woman. Life messed up by another man. May Allah have mercy on all us men.
Am I confused? Or just dumb?
27 October 2004 / 12 Ramadan 1425
I’m a South African. I’m a Black South African. I’m a Black South African Muslim. I’m a Black South African Muslim activist. (I need to say this because I believe it is important that people know where I’m coming from.)
And I’m a Black South African Muslim activist who is confused. Now I’m not saying that my confusion is because I’m a Black South African Muslim activist, but it might have something to do with that.
As a Black South African Muslim activist, I spent a long time last year – from about an hour after the first American bombs began falling on Iraq until Bush the Son declared his mission accomplished – standing, shouting, talking, debating and delivering jumu’ah khutbahs outside the US Consulate in Johannesburg. Many, many weeks with many, many comrades who organised, mobilised and stood there no matter what the weather, no matter how many Zionists and American supporters were vulgar and wanted to beat us up, no matter what kind of provocation we got from consular staff.
As a Black South African Muslim activist I played what I think was an important role in mobilising for and organising South Africa’s contribution to the 15 February Global Day of Action and other such days of action.
As a Black South African Muslim activist I am currently facing court action for my alleged role in ‘organising an illegal gathering’ – a protest against the visit to South Africa of Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Perhaps Olmert didn’t like our ‘From Iraq to Palestine, Occupation is a crime’ slogan.
As a Black South African Muslim activist in the ‘80s, I joined my compatriots in attacking (not physically, I should add) the US for its ‘constructive engagement’ policy with South Africa – at a time when we were calling for (and many of you were making real) sanctions against the apartheid state (South Africa, not Israel).
As an African Muslim activist I still remember that it was the US – in the form of the CIA – that helped assassinate Patrice Lumumba and install a brutal dictator in his place, resulting in decades of a major crisis in one of the richest countries on my beloved continent and, thus, a problem for the whole continent. A crisis that the DRC has not recovered from.
As a Third World activist, I remember that day, 11 September, when Allende was overthrown and the butcher Pinochet installed in his place.
As a Black South African Muslim activist I remember that while our freedom fighters were training and fighting with the PLO in the ‘70s and ‘80s, American security forces were working closely with the Israelis.
As a Black South African Muslim activist teaching at a university, I have asked my students to describe to me in their exam what they think the world would look like today if Mossadeqh had not been overthrown by the CIA in 1953.
As a Black South African Muslim activist, ‘Vietnam’ is an evocative word.
As a Black South African Muslim activist I am angry that the US has set up a military base and security force training operation in a country neighbouring mine, Botswana.
I could go on and on. But I think I have made the point: as a Black South African Muslim activist I believe there is a lot that successive US governments have to answer for to the peoples of the Third World.
And so to my confusion…
I have been very confused over the past few days as I read articles on this progressive Muslim website where a Muslim brother goes into a long justification of why he is a US marine. It doesn’t make sense to me. I am confused when I see an entire article from the US’ Air Force Times posted on to this website. Just doesn’t make sense to me. I am confused when I read an article on this website where the author, a Muslim, proudly announces that he is an advisor to various ‘national security institutions’ in the US. Boggles my mind. I am confused when I hear of Muslims campaigning for Bush. I am bewildered. I was confused when I heard a Muslim, responding to a question on the Palestinian right of return, say: ‘I’m from Jerusalem. My family is from Jerusalem. I don’t want to go back to Jerusalem. Why should I go back to Jerusalem.’ My mind reeled.
Now my confusion may be simply because, being a Black South African Muslim activist, I don’t understand these things.
Maybe its because I’m still sore that after 17 months, one of these ‘national security institutions’ still can’t decide whether to give me a US visa so that I can speak at UN and academic conferences.
Maybe it’s because, being a Black South African Muslim activist, I still have horrible images in my mind of the necklace (a burning tyre filled with petrol) that was used against the impimpi (collaborators) in my country, and I can’t bear to think of fellow Muslims as impimpi.
Maybe it’s because tens of thousands of martyrs from Iraq and Palestine and Latin America and Vietnam and Afghanistan and Africa cry out for justice and I think that progressive Muslims should be trying to help deliver that justice – instead of being in bed with those who perpetrated the murders in the first place.
Maybe it’s because, being a Black South African Muslim activist, I simply don’t understand these things. I don’t understand ‘Muslims for Bush’. I don’t understand ‘Muslims for Kerry’. I don’t understand how hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Muslims voted Bush four years ago.
And because hundreds of thousands voted Bush, and because 10,000 Muslims are part of the Occupation Forces in Iraq doesn’t make either of these ok. If every single Muslim in the US voted Bush and massacred civilians in Iraq, it still won’t make it ok.
Maybe I say things like this because, being a Black South African Muslim activist, I see things in black and white. You know: coloniser-colonised, occupier-occupied, perpetrator-victim, imperialism-third world. Maybe this is my problem. Maybe I should see more greys. Allow things to be hazy rather than so clear that they hurt my eyes.
Maybe it’s not good being a Black South African Muslim activist; it’s just too damn confusing! Maybe… maybe I’m just dumb?
28th October 2004 / 13 Ramadan 1425
I woke up this morning and on my way to the bathroom suddenly became really irritated, disappointed and angry - at myself. And once this kind of irritation gets under my skin, it's difficult to get it out. I just have to ride it out, I guess.
Yesterday, I was teaching a class - from 17:00 until 20:00. Just before 18:30, I duly took a break for a few seconds, went off to the water fountain and broke my fast with a drink of water. I would eat when I got home (which I did at around 21:30). But what about my Maghrib prayer? Well, I decided - as I have done the past few weeks that I have had this evening class - that I would join my Maghrib and 'Isha prayers later that night.
Got home, had something to eat, chatted and messed around with the kids for a while and then, after they had gone to bed (they had, of course, prayed their Maghrib and 'Isha earlier), went to pray.
All fine thus far, except... I forgot that I had to pray my Maghrib as well as my 'Isha! And only remembered it this morning. That kind of thing is really irritating!
It's especially irritating since I had made a kind of "Ramadan resolution" that I was going to pray all my salawat this month. I would like to outside of Ramadan as well, but every now and then I don't hear the fajr alarm (and adhaan) and that messes up the schedule. But not hearing the alarm and sleeping through fajr is excusable; forgetting my Maghrib is less so! (Before anyone says it: I know that forgetting to pray is as good an excuse as sleeping through it, but hey, I'm allowed to have my own pet irritations now and then.)
So there goes my resolution. And here is my irritable self for the rest of today. I hope I don't get bugged by any students.
On the 9th
25 October 2004, 10 Ramadan 1425
The 9th of Ramadan has become a day of ritual for me. Since 1998, I have been inviting a certain group of friends over for iftaar on the 9th. Since this ritual started, I have developed new friendships and have interesting relationships with lots more people – young and old. Yet, the 9th of Ramadan group is largely the same people. I realised yesterday that the last time I had seen the one couple was last year, 9th of Ramadan.
We get together, break our fast, share food, laugh, make lots of jokes, a little bit of gossiping, some catching up. If we feel like it, we pray taraweeh together (led, of course, by men and women – Farhana is the best Qur’ān reciter in the group so we all prefer that she leads). We play some music – Arabic, Hindi, English, various African pieces, whatever gets our fancy at the time. And, except for yesterday, I always cook butter chicken.
Three days ago my sons asked me whether this 9th of Ramadan I would also be cooking butter chicken. I told them that I had decided not to but that I would cook something else instead. To which Shir’a responded with shock. ‘How can you not cook butter chicken?’ he asked. ‘That’s like not having turkey on Thanksgiving Day.’ I explained to him that Thanksgiving was a racist American holiday and that it wouldn’t do to compare that to the important 9th of Ramadan. I think he bought it.
Another change this year was the venue. We decided to move it from my cramped little flat to my sister’s much more comfortable house where we could have our meal in the garden, next to the swimming pool. It was a beautiful, peaceful evening, punctuated by our laughter and the sound of all our kids playing.
Oh, what is so special about the 9th of Ramadan?
It was on the 9th Ramadan, seven years ago, that my wife, Shamima, breathed her last. And the bunch of us that have been getting together every year since then includes some of her and my closest mutual friends in Johannesburg. It is an occasion for us to remember a close friend, comrade and (in our minds, at least) an icon of various kinds of struggles waged here and which we feel strongly about.
But I don’t want to write about all these struggles – you can read about them on her website.
Shamima had had cancer for about four years before her death. Those were four painful, challenging years for us both (and our kids). It was a period during which she had to have two doses of ‘high dose chemotherapy’ (about six months worth of chemo over a 24-hour period) and weeks of radiation treatment. After all that, her hip collapsed so that she had to use crutches or a wheelchair, her one optic nerve dried up so that she remained with double vision till the end of her life, her lungs filled up with fluid so that she could neither speak nor breathe without coughing.
And through all of that, she never stopped. Farid Esack, in his obituary to Shamima, quoted the ḥadīth: ‘If the last hour strikes and finds you carrying a sapling to the grove for planting, go ahead and plant it.’ And so she continued planting: writing, participating on shows on the community radio station she was a founder of, travelling across the country three weeks before her death to speak on her favourite topic - women in Islam, advising people on how to deal with the position she had just vacated in the Muslim Youth Movement – head of its Gender Desk…
It was a trying time for us both. We probably fought more in that time that at any other in our marriage. But that period was also a period of enormous growth for us. It was a time that helped us understand differently and more intensely our relationship with each other and, more importantly, our relationship (together and individually) with our Creator. The period before her death was one of the two most spiritually uplifting in our lives. (The other was our hajj, in 1997.)
We learnt about mortality, about always being prepared. We learnt about reliance on Allah, about the importance of being able to give ourselves completely to Him and putting our trust entirely upon Him. We learnt about the necessity to be comfortable and happy and contented. To have peaceful hearts, even as we were dealing with chaotic situations around us.
I think it was during this time that I began to really understand something Shamima had said a long time ago. Twelve years earlier, soon after we had had our first meeting – about five hours locked up together in a room at the C.R. Swart Police Station in Durban – she said something to me which I thought was very arrogant. She had said: ‘You know, I’m God’s favourite child.’ Although she had repeated that statement later, I didn’t challenge her about it – until after we were married.
I then told her that I thought her seemingly flippant refrain was arrogant and inappropriate. Shamima smiled at me, her very typical smile, and said: ‘You are God’s favourite child too. You just don’t know it yet.’ I think it was while we were trying to deal with her illness, twelve years later, that I got it.
When I think back to that time and the relationship with Allah that we realised we needed to develop, I often think of the word ‘appropriation’ as explained by Paul Ricouer. Ricouer, of course, was talking about texts. I think of that word, however, not in relation to texts but in relation to Allah. Contrary to what the immediate understanding of the term appropriation might be, Ricoeur does not understand appropriation (of texts) as a process of taking possession. Rather, he says, it is a ‘letting-go’. ‘Relinquishment is a fundamental moment of appropriation.’ I often think of that understanding of appropriation, of ‘letting-go’ and how this is the ideal relationship one should have with Allah, where one is able to simply ‘let go’ to Him.
The morning that Shamima died – at 1am on the 9th Ramadan (8th January) – she was surrounded by family and friends praying for her. Her eyes had opened – after about 24 hours – and I held her hand as she took her last breath, as her process of appropriation was completed.
There were many of us that cried. There were many of us that celebrated, for a life well-lived. I was in the latter group. Except that I had two reasons (at least) to celebrate. I celebrated Shamima’s life well-lived and I celebrated my life, graced by her presence.
It is that celebration that we continue, every year, on the 9th of Ramadan. Friends that were close to her, people who felt she had much to offer our crazy world, the woman who led her funeral salah, her husband. The spirit of ‘that mad Shaikh woman’ – as she came to be known to some of her detractors – lives on. And for those of us that meet every 9th of Ramadan, even if we don’t even mention the name ‘Shamima Shaikh’, we meet to know that that spirit lives on within us.
Hamba Kahle, Shamima. Eyakho indima uyifezile.
Go well, Shamima. You have fulfilled your task.
Sugar Beans, two hours late
21 October 2004, 6 Ramadan 1425
I got home last night about two hours after iftaar, having taught a class from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. I expected, not unreasonably, that my kids would have just had some very rudimentary iftaar and were waiting for me to cook something substantial. I was ready for the task.
I walked in to the house, greeted them and asked, not unreasonably, what they had had for iftaar. They had cooked, Shir’a told me. Uh huh. ‘Cooking’ could mean making the pasta-out-of-a-packet (which, by the way, Minhaj makes much better than I do) or throwing burger patties into a frying pan (chicken, of course; no red meat in our home).
‘What did you cook,’ I asked, wondering whether there was any left-over pasta-from-a-packet for me.
'Sugar beans,’ Shir’a replied, VERY unreasonably.
‘Did you find the recipe?’ I asked. Dumb question. Of course they found the recipe, else how would they do it. I asked the dumb question because I was so surprised that they would try to be this adventurous.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘We tried to find the recipe but couldn’t. So we just put onions and tomato and some salt and chillies and jeera and those other spices in the pot. And some sugar. Do you add sugar? How much of sugar do you add? And some vinegar.’
I was shocked! (I didn’t dare ask what ‘other spices’, of course.) My babies cooked a real meal – without a recipe! Ok, now, of course, I had to taste it. Partly because I was really curious to know what it was like, this recipe-less sugar beans. And partly because I was hungry and too tired to cook anything just for myself. If I were cooking for the three of us it would have been fine. But to cook for just one person?
So I dished out and… it was wonderful. Great. Tasty. Lovely. Everything was just right.
I told them that that’s what I thought. And that it was as good as the sugar beans that I cook (and I’ve been told that my sugar beans are very good!).
‘Naah,’ Shir’a said without turning his head. ‘It’s not very nice.’ And he went back to doing his homework.
‘Hmph!’ I said to myself, and dished out a second helping. Mean kids. Can’t even take a compliment. But I was beaming. My kids cooked a real meal!
Shame on my country!
20 October 2004, 5 Ramadan 1425
Some of you might have gathered from my previous posts that I have been somewhat obsessing over the past few days about the disgusting fact that my country and my government would be (and, as of this morning, are) hosting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert the racist, illegal settler, and supporter of ethnic cleansing. The same.
So… I just got back to my office from a protest at the Sandton Convention Centre where he was due to address a South Africa-Israel Business Seminar today. In about 30 minutes he will be signing a ‘protection of investment’ treaty with South Africa’s Trade and Industry minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa. We are angry, upset, disappointed, enraged, outraged! This is supposed to be the post-apartheid South African government. And at this time! With what’s happening in Gaza, with the ongoing building of the apartheid wall…
But it’s not only the Palestine solidarity movement here that is upset. South Africa’s largest trade union federation, Cosatu, has come out in support of our position and in support of the protests. As has the South African National NGO Coalition, the Landless Peoples Movement, Anti-Privatisation Forum, etc. And over 100 Palestinian and solidarity organisations from around the world endorsed the call for the visit to be cancelled. We marched, we met with the Department of Foreign Affairs… and he’s here. An embarrassment and shame to my country.
Anyway, despite the fact that it was an illegal protest (and more on the way until he leaves on Saturday) we all got away without being arrested; just a little shoving by the cops.
Sorry about imposing this on you. I needed to vent on this Ramadan afternoon. Else I wouldn’t have been able to properly teach my class which comes up in 20 minutes. Which class I’m going to be teaching through iftaar. Which means I’m not going to have iftaar with my kids today. Now that sucks! Makes me almost as unhappy as having that racist thug in my city.
In or out?
17 October 2004, 2 Ramadan 1425
The second fast, and the second iftaar that I have spent at home. That’s something of an achievement.
More than a week before Ramadan had begun, I had already received invitations for iftaar. I had even received two invitations from people who had insisted that I (and my kids) must go over for iftaar every day.
Now such invitations are very honouring and anyone would feel thrilled to know that s/he is loved and/or cared for that much. It’s great and I appreciate them very much. And I like taking up these invitations – sometimes. They are a good opportunity to socialise, they allow me to reciprocate and, of course, it means another day that I don’t have to rush around after work like a crazy person trying to get together an iftaar that my quite-fussy sons will be happy with.
But I do have two problems. One is a practical one: my anti-social sons don’t like to eat at (or even visit) other people’s homes. In Ramadan they accept it as part of the Ramadan spirit but still make it clear (to me only, thank Allah) that they would much rather eat at home.
My second problem is that I have this strange feeling that some of these invitations is by virtue of my being a single parent. But more, only by virtue of my being a single father. I have no empirical evidence to back up my suspicion, but I suspect that if I were a single mother I would not receive as many invitations.
Unfortunately, this is how it is in our world. Women, as we all know, are supposed to be good at this cooking-and-raising-children thing. So they don’t need any help. But men, poor men, they need all the help they can get. Of course, after this statement I could start whining about how we men are underestimated and stereotyped as incompetent care-givers and home- makers. But that would be foolish. This issue is not about men at all; it’s about women.
It’s about the notion that fulfilling these tasks is actually the woman’s job and, really, she should have learnt how to do it. (Or, even if she hasn’t learnt, she should just be able to do it. After all, Allah must have taught her, right?) She shouldn’t need anyone to help her. She was born a woman and that means having babies, raising them, cooking, cleaning house, etc. What’s wrong with her that we should invite her for iftaar every so often. Maybe once in a while – just to fulfil our neighbourly duties. But there’s no need for more than that, is there? Now a single father, on the other hand… Poor guy. He shouldn’t be expected to do women’s work. How does he manage? And it’s bad enough he has to do all this stuff the whole year round. But at least in Ramadan he deserves a break.
And this attitude affects not just whether and who gets invited for iftaar, but it affects much more profoundly how we live our lives. As I type these words I remember a quote that, for a long while, was appended to the end of posts to the Network of Progressive Muslims mailing list:
‘In order that we believing men and believing women, God-conscious men and God-conscious women, can reclaim our full humanity, reclaim our Islam, we need to revolutionise our categories of maleness and femaleness. We must reject the idea of uncontrollable male sexuality and evil women.’
It is these ‘categories of maleness and femaleness’ that are problematic. I recall how, in some communities in South Africa, after long battles ensured that there was space available for women at the ‘Id salah, many women refused to go. Not because they did not want to, they just couldn’t. They had to ensure that the ‘Id meal was ready for when ‘the men’ returned from salah. The only way to ensure that they would be able to attend the salah would be to ‘revolutionise’ our understanding of what it means to be a Muslim woman and what it means to be a Muslim man. The only way they would be able to attend is if the men also took responsibility for preparing the meal so that it was ready for when ‘the Muslims’ returned from salah.
Of course, my feeling of being privileged as a single (and widowed) man (as compared to a single and widowed woman) is not limited to issues of food and prayer but includes a whole range of other issues. But, those will have to be left for another time. It’s past midnight and I need to get my three- and- half hours of sleep before suhur, fajr, another media interview, meeting students, rushing off to meet officials from our Department of Foreign Affairs (trying to convince them to cancel Ehud Olmert’s trip), more students and preparing another iftaar (if, that is, I don’t get invited out).
ps: For all those who have invited me for iftaar or are planning to invite me: I love to have iftaar with you! Please don’t stop the invitations.
pps: The quote above, in case you are wondering: my wife, Shamima Shaikh. May she be basking in His Eternal Beauty.
A normal month
19 October 2004, 4 Ramadan 1425
I realised last night how good Ramadan is for my relationship with my kids. I don’t know why that is the case, why we have a nicer relationship in Ramadan than the rest of the year (I’m not, of course, saying that we have a bad relationship outside of Ramadan).
Last night the three of us were sitting together on my bed, I preparing for my tafseer programme, Minhaj and Shir’a working on their school speeches: Minhaj on a speech on the current situation in Palestine and Shir’a on why Morocco was his most aspired-to travel destination.
Then Shir’a read his speech to me, asked me to help him with some suggestions, correct it, etc. Then Minhaj did the same – which is very unusual.
But it’s not just that. It’s the banter, the messing around, the teasing, the insulting, even the fighting between us that’s so great. (Maybe I should keep fighting with them after Ramadan?) Oh, and the preparing iftaar together, of course. I think we also have a desire to just work with each other and help each other out in Ramadan (I don’t know; I’m just grasping at straws here).
Yesterday we accepted an invitation to have iftaar at a friend’s place. It wasn’t the same somehow. Maybe I’m becoming anti-social like the kids. Or maybe all of what is in this post is related to what a friend wrote to me after she read my last post to the journal.
‘BTW,’ she said, ‘I can totally understand why Minhaj and Shir’a would prefer to eat at home. Especially as their dad travels and works a lot. Normality and familiarity can be a bit of a treat sometimes I guess.’
Maybe that’s all this is: a treat resulting from normality and familiarity. And perhaps that’s why it needs to end at the end of Ramadan. Perhaps my kids think like their mother and I do: normality is boring. It’s only tolerable in small doses.
And maybe Ramadan is just the right-sized dose.
16 October 2004, 1 Ramadan 1425
Time. It’s a big problem for many people during Ramadan – including for me; there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. Suhur kinda starts messing up my day. And then all the other Ramadan rituals… Add to that my various organisational responsibilities and I find that there's too little time in the day for quiet reflection, contemplation trying to strengthen my relationship with Allah and sleep, in between all the other stuff.
And today, my first fast of Ramadan (yes, some people started fasting on Friday, I today), disappeared into a two-an-half hour rally and march in the South African summer heat (and it was a hot day!), a halqa and a brief nap to try and recover from these.
The march was one of three held in different cities in South Africa today in protest against the imminent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday. Olmert is due to arrive with a delegation which includes 23 company executives in order to strengthen trade links with South Africa. He is also expected to sign a protection-of-investment treaty with South Africa. The Palestine solidarity movement here is calling for the South African government to be in the forefront of a sanctions campaign against Israel and not, as is happening, to strengthen trade links. And while Israel continues assassinating and arresting Palestinian leaders, it looks to South Africa to ‘learn about its peaceful transition’. Since I was fasting, I didn’t puke when I mentioned this in my speech.
So, it was quite an exciting morning of toyi-toying, sloganeering, media interviews, etc. As usual, the Muslim community was largely absent from the Joburg march (although Muslims were the main contingent of the Cape Town one).
Fortunately, the time thing is not a big issue for me as far as iftaar preparation is concerned. Between my kids and I, we are able to prepare a decent iftaar for ourselves within about 45 minutes. And, for me, one of the many good things about Ramadan is that my two teenage sons are much more enthusiastic to assist with cooking during this month than at any other time of year.
Pity, though, that we are not going together for taraweeh. They have just gone to the mosque down the road (about 50m away), which I won’t attend because there are no facilities for women. And since I don’t have a car right now, I’m unable to get to my regular mosque. Sad, I enjoy the post-taraweeh socialising at the mosque.
But, the day’s not over yet. As soon as I’m done with this post, I need to start preparing for the radio tafseer programme I will be doing daily after taraweeh. It’s a great deal of fun. But it also helps to reduce the time I have available to myself, to be with Allah (and for sleep).