madly in love with Iraq

12.10.06

Ramadan

Fasting is a tradition I kept since I came here.

I am far from being a devoted Muslim, but I’ve been almost always a devoted Iraqi.

The main reason was to share something, anything with the Iraqis in general and my own family in particular.
The sensation of being in common with them during this month makes me very happy indeed. We lost the normal dialogue long time ago, as I feel ashamed and embarrassed to include them in my problems for fear of sounding petty or silly.

This practice is not ideal outside its normal environment. The feel of it requires being in a Muslim country.
Some people in here create their own miniature Ramadan to celebrate the event.
They join together to break their fast and later go to mosques or Muslim community centres, while others prefer to go to Arabic cafes or restaurants and stay late which is the usual custom back home.

In my case, it was always impossible; I work long hours and I rarely have time to socialise with friends and relatives during week days.

Still I do create something just to grasp this feel of yet another illusion of mine.
I phone home daily to check what they are having for Iftar, I hook myself to some special programmes on Arabic channels, and the most important I pull my sleeves up and get into Iraqi cooking, and venture new recipes.

This Ramadan is different.

My family cannot deny their fears and worries anymore. The total collapse of public services and security turned their Ramadan as everyone else to hell.

My brother is jobless, my nephew cannot reach his school anymore; while my two nieces go on and off; most of our neighbours had left Baghdad, so no exchange of food or late gatherings. My sister-in law speaks of the silence and the lack of any conversation in our household. “If it wasn’t for the children and the atmosphere they make, I would have lost it long time ago”.

My family’s only outing is a walk to a mini-market across the road.
“Survival” and that is the name of the shop; is our only survival as my mother puts it.
“It is our reward after the usual slavery of the day. We pray all the way that it is open when we arrive!”

I phoned a close friend in Baghdad to say happy Ramadan, and found the woman in a state of shock. She was leaving early morning on the first day of Ramadan to work, and found a human head just thrown in the middle of the street.

Another was forced to leave her house and I cannot trace her till this minute.

I can list endless disasters about people I know and don’t know that sound so unreal and impossible to believe, but they are happening and in broad daylight.

Suddenly everything looked worthless to me.

The Arabic Ramadan series which are known to be very good and especially made to capture the viewers became very difficult to follow.
Some man worried about corruption and his political career, another trying to protect his son from drugs, another torn between his wife and mother.

Those programmes started to get into my nerves. I felt jealous. Why do we have to be different? Why can’t we have their problems?
Why our problems have to be unsolvable? Why is it our turn all the time? Why can’t these wars happen somewhere else?

This Ramadan became a sad occasion, I found myself restless all day, thinking of food and a smoke in the evening.
We were told that during this month we are supposed to think of the deprived and less fortunate human beings………..and look at me…

Deprivation is an understatement when it comes to Iraqis, less fortunate is even worse, no fortune is more likely.

Asking God and being spiritual doesn’t seem to work.

So I stopped.

9 Comments:

  • Dearest Hala,

    You should never give up. This is the essence of Ramadhan - to strengthen our relationship and solidify our belief in God.

    Words fail to describe how we feel about the hopeless situation back home. All we can do is pray for them and continue to have hope in helping the good people.

    Kind Regards,

    By Blogger Little Penguin, at 9:28 pm  

  • Please Hala do not stop your prayers, we still do need them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:48 pm  

  • Hala, this is the first Ramadhan for me that I did not feel excited about. The coziness of Ramadhan has gone with everything else we lost during these few years.

    I don't know if hearing the news of your family is harder than living their conditions but you must be stronger.

    Despite all what we are going through still we are fasting, maybe not with the same spirit and we are almost like the dead living but at least do like we do and fast with us and pray.

    By the way, Allah yesa3id your friend who saw the head in the street. I try to control my mouth while talking to my friends who live outside and I fail all the time so I find myself saying what i'm going through while I'm asking myself if the receiver is believing it or making fun of me and end up sounding like an idiot so I stopped telling people who live outside what I feel or what I see for I lost a couple till now.

    By Anonymous Miraj, at 12:48 pm  

  • hala,
    i agree with everyone here, you shouldnt give up.
    miraj is right, despite everything we endure everyday, were still fasting. though were obvisousely not nearly as excited about ramadan as we've been before.
    i just think that no matter how hard things get here, your faith in Allah should never get shaky.
    were only on this earth for so long and we were told before that our life (as muslims) is a test of faith. yes its hard, and there are many times when i myself say whats the point, were just waiting for our turn to die.
    but even then, you have an obligation to Allah to carry out his commands whether you are near or far from your family, whether your sad or happy, hopeless or optimistic...etc
    plz dont give up, your faith as a muslim is all you have that matters.
    i hope my tone wasnt too harsh and you understand me..

    By Blogger white rose, at 6:34 am  

  • Dear Hala,
    I am not a Muslim, but I encourage you to continue to seek the stars through the clouds. We are all on the same journey. Sometimes it rains so hard we can barely see the road in front of us. He is a Prayer-Hearing, Prayer-Answering God. The challenge is to believe that we are being answered. I am not having to endure your tests and difficulties. However I feel some kind of connection to your life and the lives of all the bloggers and commenters that I read now.

    By Blogger EdoRiver, at 12:53 pm  

  • i tried to think of something to write here but anyways i don't really think there are words for this, or anyone whose thoughts are in iraq. i think it's good to be angry, though, you just have to find a place to direct it all so it won't eat you alive. you know i am not muslim but i thought this was sweet:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpWpMqdpPmM

    my jewish friend posted it of all people. she said she thought it was beautiful and it reminded her of sephardic ceremonies she'd attended. to me it sounds like a thousand other iraqi songs i have heard but in a good way. things like that make me happy.

    good luck with the rest of he month.

    By Anonymous nadia, at 8:54 pm  

  • Try to stay strong, remember that people all over the world are praying for the suffering of the Iraqi people to end.

    By Blogger waiting for the barbarians, at 6:12 pm  

  • Hala
    I empathise wholly with you, what you describe could be an extract from my diary of 5 years ago.
    I no longer have faith, but would nevertheless urge you to try harder to hold on to yours, at times of greatest difficulty those with even a glimmer of belief can have that most elusive of things inner peace

    By Anonymous Magda, at 8:46 pm  

  • Faith is what keeps you going when everything seems darkest. Getting rid of it in these times is like throwing away your liferaft when your boat capsizes. It is at THAT time that you realize that this liferaft, which seemed so unimportant when your boat was floating, actually was the most important part of the boat.

    Keep it up. We're all praying for you.

    By Anonymous Cump, at 3:55 am  

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