The Khans from Karachi Pakistan have been living in Montréal Quebec for 4 years now. Despite the fact that their children attend a French-Canadian public school and have acclimatized quite nicely in Montréal, the parents, Aasmaa and Faisal, still maintain their Muslim faith and fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Below they recall some of the experiences they have had with fasting while everyone else was fast-fooding!
Ramadan is incredibly important in Islam. It is the holy month of being together with Allah and increasing our self-control in the areas endangered by gluttony and sloth – bluntly stated bodily pleasures are to be avoided. By fasting we try to prove our loyalty to and faith in Allah, as well as try to teach our children patience and spirituality. Technically speaking Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar year and usually has 29 to 30 days. We consider this month to be of importance, because it is said that the Qur’an was first revealed here, and the gates to heaven are opened and that to hell is closed, keeping the demons enchained. This is the only month in the year, where all religious Muslims who are healthy and old enough, must fast. The process, called sawm, begins at sunrise and we are allowed neither to take in water nor food until the sun has completely set in the evening sky. The only two meals we consume during the day are the souhoor which is consumed very early in the morning before the sun has risen, and after the last light fades from the sky we prepare the iftar, the evening meal.
In Karachi this was no problem at all, in fact Aasmaa and I welcomed this change in pace. Things slowed down a bit and daytime sort of turned into nighttime with people staying indoors during the day resting and talking and during the night we would share food with family, friends and neighbors and stay up longer. Besides, we were completely used to it. A year without Ramadan, I can’t even imagine what that would be like!
Therefore, we decided to continue this tradition even after we moved to Montréal. Our children were still too young to fast then and now it is difficult to convince them of the merits of fasting, as they have been quite westernized over the course of the past 4 years, so only my wife and I fast.
It is funny that even though it was such a normal thing for us to being this ritualistic fasting all day followed by the delicious meals Aasmaa would cook after sundown, we felt slightly strange doing it in Montréal. Especially because we were very friendly with the neighbors as our children all went to the same school, and they would frequently invite us over for a barbeque, particularly in summer while the children are on summer break. Let me tell you, I never thought that it would be difficult to smell grilled chicken and baked potatoes during Ramadan!
I also had some difficulty explaining to my coworkers with whom I always go out to lunch at work, that I would not be joining them for a few weeks. They were certainly perplexed when I didn’t even accept their offer of tea or coffee! It was also a bit of a struggle for me to sit through a company lunch meeting at my favorite Indian restaurant in Montréal. I can honestly say, I felt as I did when I was a child and did not understand why my mother would not let me eat!! I made sure to eat two helpings of everything that night!
Thankfully we have seen every Ramadan through safely so far without any unnecessary slip-ups and give-ins. It is part of our culture and even if our children do not necessarily share in this enthusiasm for Ramadan it connects me and my wife to our heritage and despite the actual distance makes us feel a bit closer to home. So, Ramadan mubarak everyone!
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons