I have been exhausted! This Ramadan is wiping me out! I first started observing Ramadan in 1996. I believe it was in March that year and I was living in Chicago. That means it was cold outside and the days were short. This year, living in Saudi, Ramadan in September; days are LOOOONG and HOT! So far the fasting has actually felt good, but it’s after I break my fast that slumber takes over me and I am out of it. I’m only typing this now because our AC was out today and the workers could not come and go on the roof to fix it earlier so they are here at 11:30pm. I set pallets up on the family room floor, so that we could sleep out their because the bedrooms were too suffocating. However, I have a sun-room sitting smack dead in the middle of the family room (yes, it was murder all day with all that sun and no AC) and since the workers are on the roof I had to leave the room. So this is the only opportunity so far I have had to blog. Which leads me to something I would like to discuss or mention.

There have been negative comments made on Ramadan in Saudi. For the most part, people have noted the lack of productivity and there was some exaggration about the work and school schedules being adjusted. I can not generalise, but I would like to give an example from what I am familiar with (I know as a Western Muslim I may not be in the know). The impression given after reading some of the comments, is that in Saudi all people do in Ramadan is stay up all night stuffing their face and then sleeping all day and that the work and school schedules accommodate this. As I mentioned earlier, my AC was out today. As I type I feel the cool air flowing through, thanks to the two Saudi workers who just left my home at 11:46pm and all the Praise is due to Allah. When my husband called this morning they said that they would not be able to come until the next day. This was because the maintenance crews do their work in extreme heat on top of our Villas. They took in some orders and postponed others. Obviously there has been a schedule change because they are out tonight repairing AC units, so as not to decrease or slow down productivity.

My husband works for the Government and my children attend government schools. They are on special Ramadan schedules. Usually the children start school at 6:45am and get out between 12:30pm and 1:30 pm depending on their schedule (the boys school starts a little bit earlier so that they are not out and about harassing the girls…my guess). Now my girls start school at 9am and get out at 12:30 and 1:00. My husband who normally works from 6:30am -2:30pm is now working from 9am-3pm. I am so thankful for this blessing. I do not see any signs of laziness or weak faith based on this. The temperatures are way over 100f. We are fasting almost 14 hours a day. Where I live they call the adthan for fajr at 4am and we do not break fast until a few minutes before 6pm. I have never fasted this long and in such extreme heat in my life, but if Allah allows me to live to observe another Ramadan it will only get longer and hotter. La hawla wala qawata illa billah!

As for the big extravagant meals and eating all night; I’m sure some do this but not all. Certainly not most of the people I know. Many people have large families and also send plates over to the neighbors. My family’s Ramadan has been really simple. We have basically soup, salad, and sambosa; unless we are invited out for an iftar. We also have several plates coming from several neighbors and we are not able to eat half of the stuff we get. Both my dh and I only eat once. We are both too tired to stay up all night eating. I would say that the first 20 days for most people are normal, but the overindulgence may take place in the last ten days because the schools are closed and many people go on vacation. The masajid are packed the last ten nights for both taraweeh and qiyamul layl. If people stay up all night, it is often times for a good reason.

In America I would often adjust my work schedule and take the last two weeks of Ramadan off and I know many other American Muslims who did the same thing. Sure people may stay up late but that does not make them any less of a Muslim or make their sacrifice less. Often times we see other Muslims in Ramadan that we have not seen all year. I know my typical last ten nights of Ramadan when I was in America was spent in the masjid from iftar to fajr. We would take small naps, other times we may just stay up all night read Quran, pray, and/or enjoy the company of good companions. It’s no different in Saudi accept they don’t have Islamic Centers and the masajid are for worship only and not socialization (unless you are in Mekkah or Medinah and trust me almost everyone stays up all night in worship and just taking in the wonders of Allah – Subhanallah!). So they may have family visiting or guest and socialise a bit. However, that does not mean that they have lost focus, because they still do all of the acts of worship and then some. You cannot take Muslims who are not religious and their practices during Ramadan to generalise about all Muslims in the Muslim world. That tells a lot about the company you keep, and if you are merely relating gossip that you have heard than what does that say about you? all Muslims are not on the same level of practice. also, not all Muslims have the same worldly status. I can tell you that here in the Eastern Province where the great maturity have actual jobs, work is being done. Perhaps the men that people are complaining about are businessmen or work for themselves or something but the ones that hold down jobs are working (OK – maybe not all because truth be told my dh and his department don’t do anything all day during Ramadan – but clock in, but that’s another blessing because many of them read Quran during work hours…their not being trifling there really is nothing for them to do).

I’m not sure if this post is making any sine, as it is way past my bedtime! I was hoping to give another perspective on these habits in Saudi during Ramadan. For the record, this is a typical day in Ramadan:

3:30am -4am  sahoor (pre-dawn meal/early breakfast)

4am adthaan for fajr

4:30am Masjid prays fajr (I already prayed as soon as they cal;led the prayer and am sleep!)

5am-8am Sleep

8am wake up get kids and dh out the house

9am-12:30 If you are a woman you are probably home with the younger children who you try to keep occupied while you read Quran, if man you may be at work, if last ten nights of Ramadan everybody is still sleep.

12:30pm-3:30pm afternoon prayer, kids are coming in from school, possible nap

3:30 pray and start preparing the food for iftar

6pm bum rush the table/sufra to get your grub on (usually dates, water, sambosa but for my family we eat everything), pray magrib.

6:30 men go to masjid

6:45 most people come in for the main course, but my family usually only eats appetizer type food which was already eaten at the call of the adhaan)

8-9:30pm go to majid for isha and taraweeh prayers

10:00 bedtime (in my house), many may eat again

Last ten nights of Ramadan

2:30am Go to masjid for Qiyaum Al Layl

Now as you an see, during the last ten nights of Ramadan your day starts at 2:30am and you do not go back to sleep until after fajr. Quite naturally, if you do this then you will sleep more day hours than usual. There were comments that in the west the Muslims are the same all year round and fast under the same conditions that they do all year round. Alhamduillah, that is their situation, but that does not make it wrong for those who adjust their schedules. Most of the Muslim I know were very disappointed if they were not able to partake in all the Ramadan worship and festivities. Again, I just wanted to clear that up, beause it really disturbs me to see Muslims fault finding, belittle, and looking down on other Muslims. Non of us are perfect and Ramadan is an opportunity that allah gives us to make up for some of our imperfections. At the end of the day, we are all still sinning slaves of Allah in need of His Mercy.

Our Lord! We have indeed believed: forgive us, then, our sins, and save us from the agony of the Fire
[surah Ali’ Imran; 3:16]

O Allah! make me among those who, when they commit an act of virtue, rejoice; and when they commit a mistake, seek forgiveness.