Nearing the end of June, Saharawi people are wrapping up their month-long fast called Ramadan. Ramadan is a holy month for all Muslims, and as such, the Saharawi look forward to this time of increased religious devotion and celebration with family. As we began Ramadan this year I interviewed a few Saharawi in order to hear directly from them what they find important and meaningful about this time.
Everyone I asked agreed on the basics of Ramadan – it’s either 29 or 30 days (based on the moon) of fasting (even from water!) from sunrise to sunset. The times are determined by scientists in Saudi and spread through the news and the mosques, so that each day (more than usual) is dictated by the calls to prayer which are broadcasted throughout the camp.
Daily life varies slightly from family to family, but is all similarly shaped by the fasting schedule. The day begins with waking around 4am to have ‘as-hur,’ the last food and drink before fasting begins. Some will eat a simple breakfast-like meal but others, feelings it’s too early for food, will drink some water or milk. Then come the first prayers of the day, and with that, fasting begins.
During the day there is a lot of sleeping, broken up by cleaning, going to work, playing traditional games, and preparing some parts of the evening meal in advance. The kitchen gets quite busy around 5pm as daughters start putting together special foods for ‘luftur,’ or the breaking of the fast. The essentials are dates, milk, and a kind of soup called ‘herira,’ and many families will add cakes, fried snacks, and different juices. After cleaning up a bit, many people head to their neighborhood mosque for night prayers, which are extra special this month because of an added set of Ramadan prayers and women’s inclusion at the mosque.
The month of Ramadan has increased religious significance to the Saharawi and Muslims in general. Many in the camps emphasize the increase of rewards believed to be given by God during this month, as well as the increase of punishments for bad deeds. This belief inspires a greater focus on their faith during this season. In general, in addition to the added sixth daily prayer (there are normally five), most people try to read the Quran through once or twice. Giving is also an important part of Ramadan as it is a requirement to be generous on the morning of the Eid.
The day after Ramadan they have a small Eid – which means ‘holiday’ – to celebrate breaking the fast until next year, and a large Eid a couple of months later to commemorate how Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son and God provided a substitute. On both Eids, it is important to visit relatives and feast and wear new clothes!
Ramadan is a special time for our Sarahawi friends and even though it is HARD, especially during the summer, they cherish it immensely. I encourage you to meet a Muslim in your city as they finish up their fast and celebrate, and ask them what Ramadan is like in their context and yours.
Post By: Heather Jost, June 27th, 2019