Mosque Bandaraya in Kota Kinabalu
I spent the last 60 days in Malaysia, a country with 60% muslim citizen. After half the time, a wonderful stay in Perhentian Islands, a visit of Cameron Highlands and a stop in Kuala Lumpur, I flew from West Malaysia to Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Suprisingly, in Sarawak and Sabah I found even 65% muslim population in the malaysian part of Borneo.
Small fountain in KK. The big one is under mainténance.
During my stay in the city Kota Kinabalu, called KK in the line with KL (Kuala Lumpur) with approximately 200,000+ citizen, I had a first time experience with the beginning of Ramadan at July, 20th.
Currently we are in the last quarter of the fasting month of Ramadan. I would like to take the occasion to explain this exceptional month, giving basic informations and showing backgrounds as well.
Ramadan (in arabic: the hot month) is the ninth month of the Islamic moon calendar, it is the month of fasting. The previous eighth month is called "Shaban" and the subsequent tenth month is called "Shawwal". The month has 29 days, but never more than 30 days. The beginning of fasting is described in the Quran as "... when you see the crescent moon ....." and ends "..... when the crescent moon is visible again, but not later than the 30th day.".
The last dinner before Ramadan, called "Iftar", usually they spend this meal together with the whole family and it is time to prepare yourself at the latest for the beginning of Ramadan.
It is one of the duties of muslims to fast during Ramadan, it is called "saum". Fasting refers between the time of dawn and dusk.
The Quran itself does not provide detailed instructions about fasting times. That's why there came updates and additions to assist each muslim for knowing when fasting starts and ends and also how to conduct during this time.
Usually fasting starts with the dawn, but it can vary from country to country. The Quran says, "Fasting starts ... if it is possible to distinguish a white thread from a black thread at the dawn ...".
In general, this is not the first dawn when the sky is brighten up. It is the time when there is a clear white edge viewable at the horizon. Simply said, you can equalize this time with the time of the sunrise.
Fasting means not only to refrain from eating and drinking, but also other enjoyments, such as refrainíng from smoking and sexual activity. Social life is marked by a change in this time. You spend more time with the family and can't be distracted by worldly things.
Exceptions from fasting exists for elderly and sick people and pregnant women as well. They have the opportunity to catch the fast in the form of "Qadha" afterwards. However, pregnant women also tend to fast, although there are studies which have shown that both, the birth weight of babies, as well as the length of pregnancy is reduced thereby.
I was wondering how does this relate to the children in the practice. All of us remember our own childhood. We ate several times a day and had all day long candies, chewing gum, icecream and other snacks. How can it be, that muslim children hold on the whole day without any sweets? The response on my question was almost identical, and everywhere I asked, it sounds logical.
The parents promise their children a high amount of money for a period of fasting. As more days they stay without eating and drinking, as more money they will get. This will improve significantly content of their piggy bank.
In case of contempt, there are so-called penalities. When a woman gets her period during this time, she has to fast this days following Ramadan. Is anyone sick during this time, he has also to fast afterwards. In special cases is there a penality for up to to 60 days fasting.
Thus the fast runs smoothly and it causes no health problems, there are already ahead of Ramadan many hints and advice, issued by islamic groups. I've found among others, the following list and find it very interesting how muslims prepare themself for this special time:
"11 Tips for Preparing for Ramadan:
Try to fast on Mondays and Thursdays as of today.
Start reading the Quran everyday after Fajr prayers.
Spend some time listening to recitations from the Quran.
Train yourself to go bed early Sun did not you do not miss the Fajr prayers.
Keep yourself in a state of Wudu most of the time.
Evaluate yourself each day before going to bed.
Thank Allah for good deeds, and repent to Him for your mistakes and sins.
Give yourself time alone, so that you can meditate, make dhikr and Tasbeeh.
Start giving Sadaqah each day, no matter how little. Make it a habit like eating and drinking.
Spend more time reading Islamic books, especially the Quran, Seerah, Hadith, Fiqh and.
Find time to help others with your wisdom, knowledge and talent.Try to write articles on Islam for Muslims and non-Muslims."
© Islamic Voice, Shaban / Ramadan 1423 H, November 2002 and www.zawaj.com
Atkinson Clock Tower in KK
The very active CouchSurfing-scene of Kota Kinabalu called their members and non-muslims to sympathize in order to show solidarity with the muslim brothers for the beginning of Ramadan. Even in my hostel, the women from the reception were initially willing to support their muslim friends and neighbours.
I had previously read a lot of things about Ramadan. It was often recommended to avoid traveling in predominantly muslim countries during this time, as many restaurants could be closed. My experience is a bit different. Indeed, there are some of the restaurants really closed. But Ínstead they are building every day a small city of tents and offer there all kinds of culinary delight between 2pm and 7pm. I heard similar from other cities and I am quite sure, the hungry tourist will find some delicious food around this areas.
However, I found that most food is prepared and sold by muslims (of course it is a muslim predominated country) ...... How do they feel preparing and selling the food, even they are not allowed to eat or taste the food?
Now I am back in Bangkok and here was the beginning of Ramadan overshadowed through a explosion of a car bomb in a southern province again. Seven people were injured in the town of Sungai Kolok, said the police and blamed the extreme muslim insurgents for the attack.
It is less then four weeks, I traveled through Sungai Kolok and changed the bus there. I recognized this area as very peaceful and the people have been so friendly.
Because of these incident and other issues I've been looking for a competent interlocutor in Bangkok...