The Islamic holy month is different this year as restrictions imposed by the Netherland’s authorities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have banned large gatherings, and activities at 22:00.
What is Ramadan? Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam (Faith, Prayer, Alms, Fasting, Pilgrimage). During this sacred month, we -Muslims- fast so as to get closer to God.
The month is spent by us fasting during daylight hours, we start by having pre-dawn meal that we call (S’hoor), then we abstain from food and drink the whole day and we break our fast immediately after sunset.
The holy month’s flavor has changed for me and my friend Aya seeing as we are away from our beloved ones, and myriad activities and gatherings are cancelled after what we call “al iftar” that is the evening meal with which Muslims break their fast at sunset that coincides the call for the evening prayer “Al Maghreb”.
Ramadan is supposed to be a symbol of unity, joy and overflowing streets; have we had the chance to find that in the Netherlands?
Normally, Muslims ask their beloved ones to come over in order to break the fast and pray together… Aya and I had been worried about fasting alone in Zwolle, we were depressed, feeling tired all the time, and having trouble sleeping at night. We were easily irritated and angry, and we lost appetite…
The very first day of Ramadan was also hard for us, I personally could not go to the university because I had not been able to sleep at night.
Fortunately, our classmates and friends encouraged us to fast and one of them fasted with us even though he is not religious.
Here was his feedback after breaking the fast:
“This was the whole point for me of trying this. No religion or spiritual matter is more important than me than trying these things to understand the people I don’t know that well yet better. What you go through a month is a real challenge and I love how you push your discipline and persistence. I am looking at the moon and now I understand the symbol of the crescent moon way better.”
The second day, our Arab friends called us and told us that we can eat together from now on!
So, what we do is that we mingle with other fasting Muslims who come from other Arab countries such as Egypt, Libya and Amman… We arrange for iftars together, and we share our cultures through our different meals.
Surprisingly, our friends filled the gap that our families left inside of us!
Aya and I thought that Ramadan would be tinged with sadness this year, for we cannot go to mosques and we are away from the ones we love. However, we learnt something new. Good friends no matter their religion is, can substitute for families for a while, they can help us out in anything we need without thinking twice