In Morocco Ramadan officially ended Monday, July 28th with the sighting of the new moon in the next month of Shawwal. Tuesday, July 29th marked first day of Eid ul Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. Greetings of “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid) abounded, in person and throughout social media.
As there wasn’t too much that I could observe on a first-hand basis about this aspect of Ramadan, I will relate a couple of stories that others reported to me and conclude with a few final thoughts about this unique month in the Islamic calendar.
From Tomas: Tuesday morning he was out on our balcony about 7 – 8 AM as the father/patriarch of the family who lives behind us came down the hill dressed in his finest, celebratory clothes. He was singing “Allah Akbar” (God (Allah) is Great) over and over. He and Tomas greeted each other – the man speaks mostly Spanish, which Tomas doesn’t – so the words were augmented with gestures. “30 days of fasting,” said our neighbor. “Now – FIESTA!” And on along the path he went (presumably to the mosque) again singing “Allah Akbar!”
From me: Later that same morning, I looked out my kitchen window and saw two younger members of the family chasing chickens for dinner. Yes, I thought – today they celebrate in grand style. When Tomas came back from the roof of our apartment building and reported that there was a chicken up there who had made it up three flights of stairs, I thought: “Smart chicken.”
Immediately upon the completion of Ramadan the traffic on our road increased exponentially. However, as Ramadan came at a time of year when most people take vacation (and most people stay close to home during Ramadan) it was hard to say whether the increase in traffic was due to the Eid or if people were now starting to come to the “Med” (Mediterranean) in earnest. However, we did notice that for two or three days, our normally quiet beach was crowded with families who set up tents, umbrellas and blanketed privacy screens, so they could enjoy the beautiful weather and water together. Tomas’s beach cave was in use by others and he had to walk much farther than normal – and then up into a ravine – to find a shady, private spot for his meditation. (By last night (Friday) our beach was again empty. I expect it will fill again during August and September – high tourist season in this region.
From Tomas and Johannes: Wednesday was our friend Johannes’ birthday (today is Debbi’s) and we decided to gather for a group meal atop our roof that evening. Tomas and Johannes made a shopping run to Oued Laou that afternoon to “get a few things.” They reported that the traffic on the road was unbelievable, parking was challenging (although Johannes created himself a perfect spot) the beach in Oued Laou was crammed with people, as were the restaurants, now that people could once again eat and drink during the day. The mood of the people was truly festive and celebratory. Our party went into the wee hours.
From me: It seemed to me that the Eid ul Fitr was again a time of celebration among family. Our neighbors behind us seemed to have more company than usual, so perhaps extended family celebrations were the norm. Our neighbors beside us seemed to have gone elsewhere, judging from the lack of lights in and around their house (which are usually on most of the night.)
From Debbi, Justin and Julian: They returned from Chefchaouen by bus on Tuesday afternoon and reported that the final leg of the trip from Tetouan to Aouchtam had been filled to overflowing with whole families that got off along the way, presumably to celebrate Eid ul Fitr with their extended families.
The Eid festival occurs for at least one day and in some regions up to three days. Here, we observed two or three days of families visiting and very full beaches.
It is difficult to draw any comparisons between western holidays and Ramadan or the Eid ul Fitr that follows. Some say it is like Christmas for a whole month but it really isn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Looking at Ramadan from the most ideal perspective that I can imagine, there is an opportunity each year for several hundred million people to embark on a “spiritual retreat” together for 30 days and then have a great celebration at the end of it.
My own brief experience with fasting catalyzed two additional weeks of inner processing and clearing that was really intense and resulted in “outing” some deeply buried mental and emotional patterns that I was then able to clear more than ever before.
There is another perspective (and probably infinite ones in between) at the other end of the spectrum that was called to my attention by a reader who commented: “Interesting to investigate how many Muslims do Ramadan not just taking care of the well-known external appearances but of the core of the question.”
I replied that it might be hard to document this and ultimately, it is between each individual and Allah. However, in speaking with a couple of my Arab friends (one of whom has never practiced Islam and the other who was a devout follower for 30 years and then discontinued her practice) I gained insight into the near impossibility of “leaving the Islamic fold” due to the extreme pressure from family and community to keep “strict observance” or be “ostracized.” I got the impression that to even question any part of Islamic beliefs or practices was seen as something too formidable to consider. And so I can understand why many Muslims (perhaps especially those of the younger generations who are born into the faith) might choose to “go along with” the outward appearances, feeling that the rejection they have witnessed (or been threatened with) is too great a price to pay. As I said, these are two extremes on a spectrum of possible ways to observe Ramadan.
Tomas and I heard of one instance between one of our friends here and a Muslim neighbor where there was an angry altercation between them. Tempers flared on both sides and appeared to “end” in upset with both parties. Then, the next day our neighbor came and apologized to our friend, asking him to forgive the outburst. I had just had a fight with my friend and I was very hungry, because it was just before fitr.” This smoothed things over between them and Tomas and I made note that the Ramadan practice of “abstaining from violent thoughts” had motivated our neighbor to take responsibility for his behavior and seek resolution with our friend.
Would I participate in Ramadan again? Yes, I would. I think there is a tremendous benefit from doing this inner work “in community.” There was a “wind beneath my wings” effect that allowed for diving deeper within myself and also buoyed me up at the same time.
But I also realized that this fasting process is available to me at any time – I just have to decide to do it. And that’s what it always gets down to, doesn’t it? Our decision to commit to our own personal process. Perhaps this is a major benefit of religious traditions – they give us a structure with which to make that commitment.
PEACE SHALOM SHANTI SALAAM