Tuesday April 20, 2021

Written by Mohammed Ismail

Alhamdulillah, it’s the holy month of Ramadan!

All over the world, Muslims have been preparing for this month in different ways. Here, in Gaza, I see the holy month as a celebration, a time for solidarity, and an opportunity to get closer to Allah.

It is true that many people feel the burden of fasting and getting tired, but for many others (myself included), this is the best time of the year.

Here’s how Gazans have been preparing for this holy month.


Ramadan decorations

Lights and lanterns are very popular during Ramadan.

This part is the best – especially for children. I remember when I was a child, the shops would start showing Ramadan toy lanterns (fanoos in Arabic) in all possible colours and shapes.

I was part of a big family, yet my father managed to buy a fanoos for everyone including me and my siblings. These days, I go to the shops with my children to buy lanterns.

The old memories overwhelm me. I feel I am selecting one for myself, but at the end, I let my kids select their own lanterns. We also buy other decorations such as fairy lights that we hang on the wall.

Sometimes we also make paper lanterns at home, even though they don’t survive for long with young children at home!

Here in Gaza, neighbours and communities decorate the streets with lights and big lanterns. When the month starts, you can feel that this is a big carnival and you can hear the sounds of prayers and Ramadan songs from speakers at the local shops and neighbourhood homes.

My son Kareem finds every lantern or crescent shape while we drive and he tells me: “Dad I found Ramadan!”. This decoration rush reaches almost all the shops, the supermarkets, the streets, and also the mosques.

You really do feel that Ramadan is a very important guest visiting and everyone is preparing their best to receive it in the best possible way.


Solidarity visits

I have always witnessed the solidarity of the Gazan people on every possible occasion.

People are so supportive of each other. The social fabric provides support to all members of the community.

In the different neighbourhoods, people gather to visit the houses of vulnerable families. Mostly, they take packages of dates, dried fruits, canned products and other things.

Furthermore, male members of the family go to visit their married sisters, aunts and other female relatives. Usually, during these visits, the men take gifts of dates and Ramadan food items.

Some men gift their female relatives cash.

My father, my brother and I used to visit my sister as Ramadan begins, but due to Covid-19, it’s become harder to meet and gather in one place. We keep in touch through social media and telephone, but we miss the usual Ramadan traditions very much.

In recent years, lots of youth started forming charity groups that work to help people in need. They organise voluntary days to visit elderly people, orphanages and hospitals treating children with cancer.

These groups try to send a message to vulnerable people in society to let them know that they’re not alone and so they know that everybody is supporting them. They run recreational activities with music, Dabkka (Palestinian traditional dance) and fun activities.

I always see their photos on social media. I hope I can join them one day. However, sister Bodour from Islamic Relief is one of the most active people doing charitable activities – she supports children with renal failure and elderly people. She is always there for them.

She told me: “I can’t feel the joy of Ramadan without helping. These children are suffering greatly. We give them some balloons and toys and their joys is beyond description.”


Ramadan markets

Ramadan is the time when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. However, this month is also a real celebration of food.

I do not know how this tradition started, but I’ve noticed that we have the best food during this month. As the month approaches, lots of families start thinking about food preparations.

Some make a list of meals for the thirty days. Some prepare things that can be frozen such as pastries but, the thing I like most is the markets. I always notice that there are plenty of things offered in the markets.

A shop near my house starts selling qatayef (Ramadan sweets like stuffed pancakes). The guy running the shop plays prayers and the Qur’an over a huge speaker. My kids hear these sounds and they start telling me: “Dad, Ramadan came!”.

They still think Ramadan is someone who visits and they wait for Ramadan to arrive. They also hear mosaharaty, a person chanting Islamic songs and supplications to Allah who beats his drum while waking in the street. When they hear the mosaharaty, they know for sure that Ramadan is here!

I really think Ramadan is a time of celebration and joy. However, there are people who live through hard times. It is our duty to celebrate charity with them and help them. It is our duty to enable their voices to be heard.

There are people who live alone and we should celebrate in solidarity with them to let them know that they are not alone.

This year Ramadan is once again taking place during a global pandemic that has changed every aspect of our lives and taken away our loved ones. We should therefore be there with those who are most affected and need our support.

Ramadan is a time to celebrate good deeds, compassion, empathy and humanity. Let’s embody these values.

Ramadan Mubarak from the Islamic Relief team in Gaza!

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