Tuesday May 19, 2020

Written by Mohammed Ismail

 

My first memory of Ramadan goes back to the 1990s when I was a child. During this period, Ramadan used to come during the hot summer days.

I remember an old man called Abu Bakr who used to live in our neighbourhood. He lived alone in a small old house with a blue door and windows.

We used to take a plate of whatever we’d cooked to his house and say: “This is so you can break your fast”. Sharing plates of food and meals with our neighbours is a great tradition of ours. It shows friendship and solidarity.

We used to laugh about our plate going all around the neighbourhood and then coming back to us because everyone sent something to each other during the holy month of Ramadan.

I have lots of wonderful memories like these from my childhood. I particularly remember how my friends and I would compete over who could fast for longer! Mind you, I can’t remember who won.

What I do remember is that the weather was hot and the hours were long until Maghreb time when dusk hit.

Sadly I don’t remember my first iftar. But, what has stuck in my mind is my father making salad before Maghreb and reading from the Qur’an. He’d always tell us to pray to Allah before the call of prayers, saying:

Heaven’s doors are open at this moment. Ask Allah what you want.

However, as energetic hungry children, we were more interested in diving into our steaming hot bowl of soup!

Savouring the fun and flavours: Ramadan

Palestinian woman at a local women’s cooperative preparing a traditional dish Maftool to be sold at local supermarkets as part of Islamic Relief’s Cash for Work programme.

 

The best thing for us as children in Ramadan was when we’d go to the markets and visit all the stalls. Rows of colourful vegetables, pickles, spices, and hummus were all on display and I loved it!

I still don’t know why these things remind me of Ramadan specifically but the sights and flavours still linger in my memory. A plate of chickpeas with sumac and cumin still holds a strong connection to Ramadan for me.

As children, we used to make homemade lanterns during Ramadan. We’d take an empty milk can, make some holes using a big nail and then put a candle inside.

We’d circle the neighbourhood singing: “Hallo, ya Hallo…Ramadan Kareem, ya hallo“. This is an Egyptian song for Ramadan and it brought me great happiness. Mind you, I still don’t know what the words mean!

I don’t know why we as humans love to reminisce about the past. We often tell ourselves that the past was better than now. Maybe this is the effect of memories. When we remember laughter, we feel we’re not as happy now as we were back then.

However, I’m sure we will make more happy memories which we’ll go on to remember fondly when we grow older.

Originally from Egypt, Qatayef is a tasty Middle-Eastern dessert, popular during Ramadan.

Some of the great things we still do are sharing special moments with family and friends.

With the current lockdown in Gaza, things are however a little different. But insha’Allah, in the future we’ll still visit our parents at their home and enjoy my mother’s delicious cooking.

One of her dishes I especially love is her Qatayef. These are small pancake-like rolls stuffed with nuts and dipped in syrup.

Just like when I was a child, there’s also always a place on the dinner table and in our hearts for my mother’s signature dish: Maftoul, known as Palestinian couscous. Warm, spicy and rich, it’s fantastic!

As a child, when we’d get together as a family, there’d be 20 children running around the house and lots of noise. And this is what helps make Ramadan so special. Alhamdulillah!

Islamic Relief Palestine: Celebrating Ramadan together

Islamic Relief Ramadan children’s activities in previous years.

 

As part of the Islamic Relief team, we also share such great memories of working and celebrating together.

We’d invite hundreds of people to break their fasts with us at Islamic Relief and be joined by orphans and their families.

It’s sad that we won’t be holding any of these meals this year due to the spread of coronavirus. However, I’m sure that we’ll come together again and enjoy these special moments once the pandemic is over.

Masha’Allah, Ramadan is every Muslim’s favourite month of the year. Despite the pandemic, people are still on a spiritual journey to get closer to Allah Almighty.

In past years, we’d pray taraweeh at the mosque, where lots of people would gather – men in one section and women in another.

This year, going to the mosque is impossible as we remain in lockdown. However, I’m finding praying at home with my wife and children to be such a bonding, enriching experience.

My little son Kareem simply plays during the prayers, climbing on our backs during sujood as we bow down to Allah Almighty.

We also sometimes read the Qur’an with my five-year-old daughter Yomna. She’ll also help us prepare the food. The funny thing is that she sits with us at the table when we break our fasts and only eats when she hears the call for Maghrib prayer, even though she’s not fasting.

After another blessed iftar, as I now write this blog, it’s almost suhur – just three hours after midnight. There’s a man outside circling the streets with a drum calling everyone to get ready for suhur.

It’s so special. I think of him as someone just doing a good deed and asking for nothing but blessings from Allah.

It reminds me of an old man who used to circle the neighbourhood calling the name of my father and other neighbours to wake us up for suhur. Al Mosaharaty, as he was called, would knock on our wooden windows and make prayers with his heavenly sound.

I am sure everyone has their own special memories of Ramadan. I’m also sure that this year, we’re making different memories and will have new stories to tell about Ramadan in hard times to come.

But, what’s important is that we’re all walking on our own special journeys of spiritual cleansing and care and goodness for others.

Alhamdullilah, this month is and always will be a source of happiness for me and a time I look forward to every year, insha’Allah.

Ramadan Mubarak from everyone here at Islamic Relief Palestine.

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