So apparently sleep deprivation is a large part of Ramadan. Who knew? Aside from several hundred million Muslims, that is.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I get up at 4:00 A.M. in an frustrating attempt to eat. I’m not hungry and I don’t want to eat and it makes my tummy all gurgly. Oh, and drink, too, to avoid dehydration during the day, drink so much your stomach expands. I have until Fajr, the first daily prayer which marks the Muslim’s version of dawn (actually first light, not sunrise) at 4:43 A.M., although it still looks awfully dark out there to me.
So all of this mild discomfort and annoyance naturally begs the question: What the frak am I doing this for? Oh, yeah, … God.
As a mnemonic device, its a pretty powerful one. As I question my motivation, my mind naturally turns to God. One smart cookie, that one. Of course, I don’t rightly believe in God, so that leaves me in a bit of a pickle as my mind turns back on itself and starts gibbering away about empathy and compassion and experience and solidarity and how I’m not really a Muslim so I could just go back to sleep. Instead I drink more water.
Then at 4:43 the adhan rings out (yes, there’s an ap for that) and I take three minutes to listen to the Muslim call to prayer. I try to hold it in my mind the way I would hold the meditation bell. The adhan is beautiful and I can imagine one could spend a lifetime happily failing to perfect it.
The next prayer, Shuruq, will be at 6:00 A.M., just as my workday would be starting, I imagine, if my day adhered to natural rhythms. It will be full light by then. Dhurh is at 12:55 P.M. around lunchtime if there were such a thing during Ramadan, Asr at 5:48 P.M., and the last prayer, Maghrib at 7:50 P.M. or sundown. It really puts the flow of time each day into a new perspective and I’ll admit it feels more natural than our modern consumerist lifestyle allows for. The times change each day, creeping slowly with the seasons. I like that.
Immediately following Maghrib is break of fast, Iftar, which I’ll enjoy again this evening with Vanessa’s family. They were wonderful hosts to me last week. Her husband Brahim is a wonderful cook and charming host. Her mother Pat full of stories of travel and adventure. Their son Salim is a ball of energetic genius, Zoe the cat a calming presence, and Wally the dog a guardian spirit. Moreover, it’s nice to be surrounded by family, even if it’s not my family, from time to time.
Following Iftar is dinner. I kid you not. We eat and two hours later we eat and a few hours later we get up at 4:00 A.M. and eat again. Of course, tomorrow morning I’ll go back to sleep in Salim’s bed (thank you Salim!) turned guest room. But this morning I have to catch an early train, so I might as well stay up.
By now it’s 5:00 A.M., it’s still dark, Colin is blissfully snoozing away, the cat is strangely energetic, and I’m stuck somewhere in between – a befuddled Buddhist thinking of God.