Ramadan starts today.

How many of you know what Ramadan is?

That’s about what I expected. Okay, here we are. Ramadan 101. Ramadan is a month of fasting, but since the Muslim calendar is lunar, it’s a lunar month, not a calendar month. Also, because they follow the lunar calendar, it’s not at the same time every year. It changes. And it doesn’t officially begin until the new moon is sighted. So even though it was scheduled to start yesterday, the new moon wasn’t seen until today. So today, it officially begins.

The purpose behind Ramadan – well, let me start by saying that Fahim or any other Muslim may understand (may? Who am I kidding? Will) understand this better than I, but the general idea I get thus far is that it’s to remind the person who’s fasting what it’s like to be without.

Anyway, he can only eat between about 6:21pm and 5:00am – the times change as the path of the earth around the sun changes, but it’s pretty close. Basic idea is during Ramadan, a Muslim can’t eat between sunrise and sunset. My question is this – What if that Muslim is livin in, say, the North West Territories in Canada when Ramadan is in the summer? There, if you’re far enough north and time it just right, the sun doesn’t go down for weeks at a time. Poor Muslim would be dead by then. And no, I’m not making light of this – I’m completely serious.

The only thing they have going for them is that no sane (!!!) person would ever voluntarily live in the North West Territories.

I kid. My sister and her family lived up there, as did my friend Estere, a cousin (for a very short period of time), and both of my brothers have spent a lot of time up north working. The pay is really really good, but the cost of living is also extremely high. There are, however, fairly decent tax incentives to living up there, assuming you actually pay taxes. Which I’m sure everyone I know does, and faithfully and honestly, too. 🙂

But seriously, back to Ramadan. What if? What happens then? What happens to Muslims living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada if Ramadan is during the summer? Sun comes up at what, 5 or 6 am, and doesn’t go down until 10 or 11pm. So they’d probably only get to eat between, for example, 11 pm and 3 am. I’m fudging numbers here, of course. And if Ramadan is in the dead of winter, they only have to fast between 10 am and 4pm, which really means skipping only one meal.

It seems to me that there’s a lot of room for flexibility here – if you don’t like Ramadan where you live, go somewhere else for a month where it’s easier to do it. Yeah, of course I’m being facetious. I’m just wondering, that’s all.

In my church, we also believe in fasting, but instead of doing it for one month straight, we generally fast on the first Sunday of the month for 24 hours. It usually works into something like from one dinner to the next dinner, so you’re really only skipping two meals (assuming you’re a three meal a day person). Then we’re to give a generous fast offering to the church (generous meaning at least the value of the meals you skipped, but preferably more), and that money then goes to the poor and the needy, whether that be in the form of local people who are experiencing financial hardship, or to famine victims in Ethiopia. But then, we’re also supposed to fast with a purpose, not just starve ourselves. Start the fast with a prayer and stating the intent of the fast, and close the fast the same way.

Fahim, I do know from observation, closes the fast with a prayer. That and eating dates, if possible, but that’s a story for another day. Starting it I don’t know – I do everything I can to not be aware of anything in the world at that time of morning. But considering that as a Muslim, he prays frequently, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it also started that way.

On to other things.

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