The Short Summer Night Is Dinner Time
[TUE JUN 6 2017; B2-B3; ’Ruoka-aikaa lyhyen kesäyön verran,’ Tuovi Mäkipere]
* The cold is good for fasting because of not feeling thirsty all the time.
* This is the second Ramadan in Finland for Hassan El Ammari, who lives in Hämeenlinna.
When you spend a month feeling hungry, you end up thinking about nothing but food. Hassan El Ammari practices Ramadan, the holy month of Islam, by fasting during daylight hours.
– I do currently feel like buying all of Lidl. But the purpose of Ramadan is not to follow one’s desires.
This year, Ramadan in Finland began on May 27. Fasting throughout Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The others four are the declaration of faith (Shahada), prayer (Salat), charity (Zakāt), and pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).
During Ramadan, one is only allowed to eat between sunset and the first prayer at dawn.
Because this year’s Ramadan occurs during the brightest Finnish summertime, Muslims in Hämeenlinna would only have between 22:30 and 2:30 to eat.
El Ammari has lived in Finland for two years. He has noted that the cold summer has been good for fasting because of not feeling thirsty all the time.
That was not the case in 2012, when El Ammari made his pilgrimage to Mecca. In the holy city of Muslims situated in Saudi Arabia, daylight temperatures climbed up to 50 degrees Celsius.
– In that kind of heat, cold water is all you can think about.
Ramadan is more than just not eating or drinking. El Ammari describes it as refraining from following all desires.
During daytime one is not allowed to smoke or have sex, for example.
– Ramadan brings all Muslims together. We all want to lead respectable lives.
El Ammari explains that Muslims give alms to the poor and donate to charity, especially during Ramadan.
– During Ramadan, one gets to experience what hunger feels like. It’s easier then to feel for those who are starving.
The purpose of Ramadan is to get closer to God, and to live according to the teachings in the Qur’an.
– Of course, one is never supposed to behave badly, but during Ramadan, one is especially supposed to focus on doing good deeds.
El Ammari’s Ramadan entails more praying and reading of the Qur’an than usual.
In Libya, El Ammari’s home country, all of society takes part in Ramadan. Workdays are shorter than during other months, for example.
Ramadan is, in addittion to a time of faith, a time of family and friends.
The meal served after sunset is called iftar. It is shared with loved ones.
The meal served before the first morning prayer is called suhur. El Ammari points out that because of the short Nordic summer nights, he only has time for iftar.
Last week, El Ammari broke his fast visiting Helsinki. According to the rules of Ramadan, he will carry out that fast day later on.
The last ten days of Ramadan are especially important.
The month of fasting ends with a grand celebration, called Id al-Fitri. In Hämeenlinna, Muslims gather to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
In the celebration, tables are full of food, and revelers are wearing new clothes. Children are given presents and allowances.
Preparations for the celebration take patience, for the foods cannot be tested while being prepared. One must wait until sunset.
Everyone has their own favorite food. Different kinds of desserts are especially numerous.
– I’ve already prepared for Id al-Fitri by buying a nice, big bag of dates, El Ammari says.
Ramadan is not just fasting
* Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, lasting from 29 to 30 days.
* The month begins with the new moon, so it’s different for each country.
* The time of Ramadan moves back by 10-11 days each year.
* The month of Ramadan includes fasting between dawn and dusk.
* During daylight Muslims must also refrain from other desires like smoking and sexual activity.
* During Ramadan Muslims must live according to the Qur’an, which entails not lying and speaking ill of others, for example.
* Fasting is obligatory past puberty.
* Those suffering from chronic illnesses need not fast. The temporarily ill, pregnant, or nursing, are not required to fast, but they need to make up for it later.