Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan Mubarak

This year's Ramadan, observed by Muslims everywhere, began this morning at sunrise and continues until September 9 at sunset. The basics are fasting each day from morning until sunset and reading the thirty parts of the Koran in remembrance of its revelation to Mohammed in these thirty days from crescent moon to crescent moon.

It's the ninth month of the Moslem calendar, the holiest month of the year — a little like Christmas, if Christmas were restricted to the month of December instead of running amok from Halloween to Valentine's — and a lot like Lent.

In Ramadan, prayers and austerities rule the daylight, but after sunset friends and families gather and share meals, iftar in the evening, leading off with a single date, suhur the breakfast in the dark before sunrise. (There are common-sense exceptions for diabetics, the elderly, travellers, pregnant women, etc.) Those who cannot fast are expected to feed the poor. Ramadan cards feature the crescent moon, calm nights, and religious sentiments as schmaltzy (or not) as anything associated with holidays more familiar to Westerners. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al Fitr — three days of alms-giving, celebration, and fireworks.

Just as in the West with Christmas and other holidays, there are some flagrantly commercial and discordant notes, such as this one by Burger King in Dubai. It makes you wonder.

During Ramadan, the Gates of Heaven are open, the Gates of Hell are shut, while Satan and all his imps stand chained — to their own vices, in all likelihood.

Then you remember the Tiger Woods Dubai golf resort and all the American ex-pats. So BK is peddling their cheeseburgers to morally bankrupt American tax avoiders, and the obnoxious "crescent moon cheeseburger" is just a money-sucking gimmick with a BIG Cheshire Cat asterisk. Good old too-good-to-be-true-land — Dubai, U.A.E., as the Big Rock Candy Mountain, as Disneyland. Of course there's a Burger King! And of course, they're tone deaf.

The thirty parts of the Quran, reading one part each day (&/or night) of Ramadan, are these, as given chapter and verse according to one authentic Muslim source. Yes, Muslims read the entire Koran each Ramadan, including the rather exhortative verse that says some may find such a discipline difficult, but not the faithful! Ramadan makes a cakewalk out of Lent. (See above. There's no "obligation," and the readings come during Taraweeh in a congregational setting. Sorry for the errors.)

Day 1. Al Fatiha 1 - Al Baqarah 141
Day 2. Al Baqarah 142 - Al Baqarah 252
Day 3. Al Baqarah 253 - Al Imran 92
Day 4. Al Imran 93 - An Nisaa 23
Day 5. An Nisaa 24 - An Nisaa 147
Day 6. An Nisaa 148 - Al Ma’idah 81
Day 7. Al Ma’idah 82
- Al An’am 110
Day 8. Al An’am 111 - Al A’raf 87
Day 9. Al A’raf 88 - Al Anfal 40
Day 10. Al Anfal 41 - At Tauba 92
Day 11. At Tauba 93 - Hud 5
Day 12. Hud 6 - Yusuf 52
Day 13. Yusuf 53 - Ibrahim 52
Day 14. Al Hijr 1 - An Nahl 128
Day 15. Al Isra (or Bani Isra’il) 1 - Al Kahf 74
Day 16. Al Kahf 75 - Ta Ha 135
Day 17. Al Anbiyaa 1 - Al Hajj 78
Day 18. Al Muminum 1 - Al Furqan 20
Day 19. Al Furqan 21 - An Naml 55
Day 20. An Naml 56 - Al Ankabut 45
Day 21. Al Ankabut 46 - Al Azhab 30
Day 22. Al Azhab 31 - Ya Sin 27
Day 23. Ya Sin 28 - Az Zumar 31
Day 24. Az Zumar 32 - Fussilat 46
Day 25. Fussilat 47 - Al Jathiya 37
Day 26. Al Ahqaf 1 - Az Zariyat 30
Day 27. Az Zariyat 31 - Al Hadid 29
Day 28. Al Mujadila 1 - At Tahrim 12
Day 29. Al Mulk 1 - Al Mursalat 50
Day 30. An Nabaa 1 - An Nas 6

Note that "Day 5" is the lunar date, 5 Ramadan 1431 A.H., corresponding to 15 August 2010 A.D.

My favorite translation of the Koran among those on my bookshelf is Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali (Princeton University Press, 1988). N. J. Dawood's 1956 Penguin Classics edition of The Koran is a close second, but his chapters are arranged in a quirky, non-traditional "Biblical" order to avoid off-putting Western readers unaccustomed to sorting verses by size. Laleh Bakhtiar's translation — poetic, erudite, accurate and interpreted from a woman's point of view — is very high on my list. In addition, some older English translations of The Quran, apparently in the public domain, are online at USC and elsewhere — including the pretty Al-Islam edition published by Saudi Arabia.

Here's the Ramadan Kareem Blog, to make up for my obsession with legalistic detail. They have iftar recipes, culture notes, travel hints and other down-to-earth stuff.



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