This week the Holy Month for the Muslims begins. It is a couple of years ago that Yasir explained Ramadan in Islamabad to me. We met in a small guesthouse where I stayed at the time. He was doing the night shift. I asked him a lot, and he taught me a lot. So I learned from him, besides other things, how to practise Ramadan, the Holy Month for the Muslims.
Peaceful encounters, quiet religion
Islamabad. Shortly before 7 p.m at Jinnah Super Market in the centre of the Pakistani capital. The crows are creating such a noise that even the cars that are trying to find a parking space cannot be heard. There is an astonishingly quiet atmosphere here. Usually people, voices, cars and loud small motorbikes are swarming around here. Not to mention the signal-horns.
But now, in these minutes, it is calm all over this place. I am here with my Pakistani friend Riaz. It is warm, not really hot but the humidity comes for free, we are sweating even without moving. We speak quietly as do around one hundred men sitting only a few meters away from us. They sit opposite each other on a carpet made from bast (fibre from trees and plants) protected with some plastic sheets. In front of them are small plastic cans with water and small plastic glasses and a fruit salad and, as I know, this tastes good. On top of the salad is a tasty liquid yoghurt cream, with unknown spices, that has an interesting taste.
The men don’t speak loudly and some don’t speak at all. Some are watching the sky as the half moon illuminates parts of the market – before the lanterns are switched on. Others seem immersed or even meditating. They are men of different ages, they wear jeans, polo shirts, fashionable clothes with brand logos or (unpolitical) slogans – or shalwar kamiz (traditional outfit). Different generations and lifestyles seem to be assembled here but they all share one thing: the same faith.
Yasir explains Ramadan to me
Islamabad: Three minutes after 7 p.m at Jinnah Super Market. As if they’d received a secret sign everyone is moving. The men on the bast carpets, the waiters in the cafés and Riaz and myself as well. Then, smoothly, quiet chatting turns into noisy conversations. The crows don’t seem to have any chance to be heard now. But it was not a secret sign. Almost at the same second one could listen to an Imam of a mosque, somewhere far away in the distance: “Allah is great!” Repeated four times. Everyone is praying a short prayer. We are drinking a sip of water. Everyone starts eating including Riaz and myself. We break the fast and this is called Iftar. It is Ramadan in Pakistan, where they call it Ramazan.
In Ramadan, Sehri and Iftar are two new words for me
Yasir is 22 years old and the one who, night by night, sits at the reception at the guesthouse where I am staying. He has explained Ramadan to me. “When you do the fasting,” he says, “you get up after three in the morning, well before dawn. Then you eat and drink. After this meal, we call it Sehri, you may not eat, nor drink the whole day.” Smoking is also not allowed and this makes fasting even more of a challenge for me.
Shortly before 4 o’clock it’s time for a short prayer and some water. And then fasting begins again. In the evening, with the sunset, it’s Iftar. Yasir has written down the prayers for me and how to fast in the right way. I am not a very religious person, but I stuck to it. For one day I fasted in Ramadan.
I wanted to show my respect for the people in this country as well as to their religion.