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Chapter 2, Revelation 185 of the Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.[Quran 2:185]

That means no smoking, drinking. The word  comes from“ramida” “which means scorching heat or dryness.”

I’ve experienced Ramadan in Thailand a few years back. I was mostly with Middle Eastern Muslims.  I wrote about my Algerian friend, in my first post on Ramadan  , who had a personal fatwa (declaration) against me for not converting to Islam. I didn’t because he didn’t deserve the ten fold return for finding a new convert.

I’d go to Thai mosques. They welcomed me. They wanted to convert me as well. I met Philippines Muslims. “Obama is Muslim and I’ve waited all my life for him to be elected the President of the United States.” And the Obama Bar on Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta isn’t doing good business either. But Bali certainly capitalized.

“Bloody bad traffic,” said one Balinese taxi driver. “I’m stranded at the airport,” said a young Australian traveler, part of a large group of ‘Schoolies,” who were stranded at Jakarta’s airport the morning Obama flew into Bali for a conference. Me and my partner in crime and travel writing, just breezed in on the early morning Garuda flight, while Barak was drinking Java coffee with  other members of the delegation.

It’s now day five of fasting. Early days. Things have slowed down on the streets of Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta. The swimming pool at my apartment is empty. It’s a bonus for me – now I can do my laps with out anyone trying to dive bomb me ( that would never happened really).

It seems the time clock of Indonesians has changed time zones. Instead of getting up in the morning, most Muslims are up by 3 am, and eating  sahur, their first meal of the day. On TV, the popular comedy shows that are usually shown during prime time viewing hours  are now being shown at 3am onwards. “It’s so we can watch TV and relax before the fasting,” said one local here in Depok.

Even the advertisements are playing up and capitalizing on  Ramadan. One ad shows an elderly woman, parched from fasting and weak. But to save the day is a local brand of paracetamol.  And all the shopping malls play Ramadan songs, so that shoppers can be mindful about their consumer choices. While the the artists, a term for actors, are getting in on the Ramadan spirit.  Some of the men wear their imam hats and make semi-sage remarks. Another show has Imam‘s who are comedians. They are the laughing-stock and light relief of a Nation going through hunger pains.

No doubt Ramadan is a big religious   festival here in Indonesia. There are solemn moments too.

As I write this – it’s only 2.07 am  – I hear the drum rolls from the mosque in my apartment compound, and the Imam is starting his prayers. These early morning prayers have shifted from 3 am. I’m wondering if there is some syncing going on with Mecca.

The other night I watched the prayer from Mecca. I heard the Imam pray, and read the English subtitles.  “There is only one God. There were prophets. One got killed by  a disbeliever. But God made sure that Mohammed wouldn’t go the same way as Jesus. God accepts Mary as the mother of Jesus, but doesn’t accept that there are other  gods.”

Another big part of Ramadan, during this holy month when prayers and charity will have more significance, in the eyes of Allah, is to give charity. My friend has change in a bag, which she keeps in her car. We pass some street beggars at a busy intersection. She starts reciting the Koran, “Alhamdulillah,” and gives them some change. She and her children even eat on the street. “We want to know what its like how the poor people live,” she told me .

I went to the mosque tonight and paid my respect. Three young boys sat next me and chattered away. A man told them to be quiet. But they wanted to know where I was from and practice their English.

Time for prayer. I didn’t have a prayer rug. A man sits down next to me and places his beautifully patterned rug on the ground, with the gates of Mecca weaved into it. No problem –  a gift from God.  I just rested my head on the prayer rug. He didn’t seem fazed. I wasn’t.

I get back to my room. I meet a man who was praying at the Mosque. “Are you a Muslim,” he asks. ”

“No,” I reply, ” but I am interested in Islam. And what better way to learn it than attending a mosque.”

“But do you know the steps of praying?” he asks.

“No, ” I  reply again.  “I just follow the person in front of me! ”

One thing I did recently learn. Everyone told me that they would have breakfast at 6pm, the time of sunset. I thought that’s a bit late for having breakfast. Then  a friend told me that it was break-fast. Now I get it.

My friend, Mohammed, who is an Imam, and the Marketing Manger of Moshi Moshi Furniture sent me an email today, encouraging me. I’m not going to edit it. I like the way he writes English and his message is quite clear:

bagus bro muslim is only name but you are best man if you billive if god is only one god is never slip god is big god handle everything all in the wold we nothing in the front god, is whay we pray to the god give me way righ way better way and everything from god ,because we blend only god know everythig. Wallohuaklam . Alloh akbar . Alhamdulillah . Amin . Wassalamualikum warohmatullohi wabarokatuh . he he you are oke bro thanks .

It’s this spirit of Ramadon that makes humans seek a higher order so that they can have order in their own lives.

This is my second  post on Ramadan. So far  it’s brief and fleeting, but there’s still 25 days left. “But you’re not fasting, ” I can hear my readers say and I blush.

Happy fasting Indonesia. 

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2 thoughts on “Garuda’s feast is Ramadan, a month long of fasting

  1. Pingback: Peter Pan, Luna May, Harley Doc, and Sexy Nurses – this is not a fairy tale! | FARSIDE TRAVEL STORIES

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