Saturday, August 11, 2012

Assalamu Alaikum and Ramadhan Mubarak,

The blessed month of Ramadhan has many different identities depending on where it is being welcomed, the traditions, habits and foods may also differ according to the region or country.

Where I come from, Makkah Al Mukarramah, Ramadhan has a very unique sense, in this month people from all over the globe come to the holy land to have a taste of what Ramadhan tastes like over there. Weeks before the month starts, people start marching to Makkah, either from within Saudi Arabia, or from far far away, either to spend the whole month there, or for just few days with Umrah. Makkah becomes very crowded and its streets are filled with nonstop traffic. Makkah becomes sleepless.

Minutes before Maghrib, you see queues of people lining up to get there share of some of the most delicious Hijazi cuisines,  these dishes are available the whole year, but some of them only get popular during Ramadhan as a crucial Iftar meal, the Iftar table is not complete without: Foul and Tamees bread, Shorba, Soobya, Sambosa .. and a lot lot more I can't even think of. Zamzam water is a must to break the fast.

It is a habit to share Iftar food in Ramadhan between neighbors, you give your neighbor a dish and they give you theirs. This how love and compassion is spread and shared, also food. 

"Shurek Bread" 
Shurek or Sherek: Hijazi style bread. Made with special dough, it is eaten with yogurt or dates, dipped in Foul (a dip made with Fava beans), with "Dugga" (a powder made out of many spices), or just eat right away.

Tamees according to many is Hijazi originally, but migrants from Afghanistan and Yemen has mastered is making. You see a lot of "Foul n Tamees" shops around Makkah. Tamees bread is usually big, around 40cm in diameter. It has many varieties, like cheesy, buttery or crispy.

Shorba is a famous Hijazi cereal soup, the texture is more to a stew then a soup sometimes. Contains delicious lamp chunks, which gives it that unique taste.

Made out of wrapping dough flake, filled only with a generous amount of cooked ground beef.

Soobya is the drink of all drinks during Ramadhan, this very delicious drink is made of malt and raising mix (dried grapes). The most popular of all is made by 'ammu Sa'eed Al Khudari, everyone in Makkah know this guy.

Kibda literally means "liver", this dish is basically made of fresh lamb liver, cut into pieces and cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices, Kibda is eaten usually with flatbread. Sometimes besides liver, lamb gut is added (stomach, intestines) hearts and also kidneys .. believe me it's delicious i'm drooling right now!

Basbosa is a famous desert in the middle east, it's get popular during Ramadhan and Eid.

During Taraweeh prayer time, the air is filled with beautiful recitations of the Qur'an, there are many Masjids in Makkah, if you drive a distance you'll see at least 3 or 4 Masjids on your way .. so imagine how amazing it is when every single of these Masjids sound their speakers high for everyone to hear.

Taraweeh in Al Masjid Al Haram is sensational, the number of people attending there is magnificent, the lines may sometimes reach outside to the streets! Subhanallah, so coming early like after Asr is recommended, and let's not forget the beautiful recitations by famous Imams like As-Sudais and Maher Al Muaiqly, 

During Ramadhan tailor shops get really busy, everyone is pre-ordering there Eid thobes (Jubbah), clothe shops are also crowded. Hijazi people have their own unique fashion.

Indeed, Ramadhan in Makkah is like no other, Makkah has a special place in the hearts of every single Muslim, Muslims across the centuries have been migrating there to have the honor of living there, even before the beginning of Saudi era. That's why Hijaz (the west side of the Arabian Peninsula) is made of many cultures. E.g Bukharies from central asia, Malays from southeast Asia, Yemenis and Africans, which have influence everything you see now in Makkah.

By Majid Maetalong
SCIENCESS Exco - International Students Affairs Bureau.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Assalamualaikum and Ramadhan Kareem..

"The month of Ramadaan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guidance for humanity, as a clear proof of that guidance, and as a criterion for distinguishing between right and wrong" (2 : 185).

In as much as celebrating the Prophet’s birthday (the Milad un-Nabi) can be read as a celebration of the greatness of the Prophet (SAW) in his aspect of the perfect man (Insan ul-Kamil); and in as much as Yaum Ashura can be read as a celebration of the saving of Nabi Musa (AS) from the tyrannical pharaonic oppressors; similarly Ramadaan can be read as a celebration of the revelation of the Quran during this month. It is a celebration of the Quran as both a living guidance and a living proof to humanity. It stands as a living proof of the divinity of Allahu Ta’aala, as a living proof of the authenticity of the prophethood of Muhammad (SAW), and of the supremacy of revelation over all else.

But the Quran is also a Huda (a guidance). And as Huda – as true guidance – it teaches us how to live our lives as complete human beings. It teaches us how to live our lives with respect, dignity, honor, and love. It further teaches us that Allahu Ta’aala is a divinity that embraces the concerns of all humanity.It is also important to remember that the guidance and concerns of Allahu Ta’aala are not limited to mere theoretical or idealistic utterances. The guidance of Allahu Ta’aala plunges us into the mainstream of our earthly existence. One of the ways in which Allahu Ta’aala has done this is by making the fast obligatory upon all of us.Not only are we required to sympathize with the poor and the hungry, but we are thrown into the very experience of hunger.

Not only are we required to reflect upon our condition in a society with its mores, customs, habits, rules, and general routine – which looms far greater than the sum of its individuals, but it forces us to reflect upon the very nature of that society. It is so easy to become a cog in the political, economic, social, and industrial machine. In short to become a spiritually forgetful being in the material and mechanical processes of ordinary life.Fasting forces us to break this forgetfulness, and forces us to anchor the consciousness of truth and spirituality in every domain of our existence i.e. to act upon the truth of Islam and to live by its spirituality.

Fasting, by depriving us of the daily luxuries and niceties of our mundane existence asserts the supremacy of our essential condition as beings endowed with a soul (ruh) over our condition as material and temporal beings. Fasting, therefore, at once draws us into the bosom of Allahu Ta’aala and allows us to reflect upon the high moral, social, and spiritual values which Islam sets for us. In other words fasting focuses our attention on the broader meaning of Taqwa as expressed in the following verse:

"O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may learn Taqwa" (2 : 183).

The Arabic of the phrase in the above verse "so that you may learn Taqwa" reads as "l’allakum tattaqun". The term "taqwa" – in its narrower meaning - has been variously translated as fear, piety, self-restraint, and guarding against evil. However, to do justice to its meaning, and to better understand the link between the Quran as Huda (true guidance) and Taqwa as one of the most desired virtues in man, a more comprehensive understanding of the term is required. That understanding is dependent on our understanding of the nature of man and woman.
The Islamic perspective is that we, as people, are composed of both body and soul or matter and spirit. We are also considered to be both the viceregents of Allah on earth (khalifatullah) and his servants (‘ibaadullah). As viceregents we are ordered to perfect our earthly existence whether it be in our private, domestic, social, economic or political lives. As servants of Allah we are ordered to perfect our spiritual existence. Taqwa circumscribes both these conditions. 

In other words, and as alluded to earlier, it means to observe our duty towards Allahu Ta’aala in all our social and communal relations (towards Muslims and non-Muslims alike); and in our spiritual relations towards Allahu Ta’aala Himself. This is a difficult task and one of the means that Allah has given us to attain this level is the fast. But, and typical of Quranic "pragmatism", there are no false promises. In the Arabic the emphasis is quite clearly on the phrase "l’allakum" ("so that you may" or "perhaps"). The means to Taqwa, through the great institution of fasting, have been placed at our disposal. It is up to us to use, misuse, or even ignore the means. This condition is encapsulated in the following Prophetic saying : 

"For those who do not refrain from lying or acting on such lies, Allah has no need of their abandoning their food and drink" (Bukhari).

Taqwa can further be realized through three opportunities provided for us by the fast:
  1. The disciplining of the will (tarbiyat ul-Iradah)
  2. The purification of the self (tazkiyat un-Nafs)
  3. The purification of the soul (tasfiyat ur-Ruh)
The potential of fasting as such, and Ramadaan in particular, in making available these opportunities cannot be denied.

With regard to the disciplining of the will the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said : 

"For everything there is a purification and the purification of the body is to fast; and fasting is half of endurance." 

All acts of endurance are naturally a function of the strength or otherwise of the will. If the will is strong endurance is strong; if weak then endurance is weak. One of the primary aims of Sabr – as an act of will – is to bring the will of man in harmony with the Will of Allah. This is essential if we wish to be acknowledged as true ‘ibaad (servants) of Allah.

As for purification of the self (nafs) – here understood as the egotistic self (an-Nafs al-Ammarah bi s-Su) – the following Prophetic saying is a clear reference to the fact that fasting is intended as a conduit for such purification:

 "If anyone of you fasts then do not speak obscenely nor act obscenely. If anyone picks a fight with him or insults him then let him say ‘I am one who fasts, I am one who fasts.’" 

Here the outer manifestations of the nafs viz. that of obscene speech (rafath) and obscene behavior (jahal), are addressed with a view to bringing under control, and hence purifying, the inner self.

The purification of the soul, on the other hand, is contingent on the extent to which it is absolved from all sin. The Prophetic saying :

 "Those who fast with absolute faith and absolute contentment will have all their previous sins absolved",

 may be read as a definite promise to the effect that the absolution of one’s sins is guaranteed if the two ostensibly simple conditions of fasting with total faith (iman) and total contentment (ihtisaab) are met.
These three processes are intrinsic to the cultivation of genuine Taqwa, and few religious acts provide a greater opportunity for its cultivation than Ramadaan.

Allah says at the conclusion of the verse initially quoted:

 " That He wants you to complete the prescribed period (of fasting) so that you are able to magnify the greatness of Allah for His having guided you, and so that – perchance – you may be thankful" (2 : 185).

The greatness of Ramadaan therefore lies in the opportunity it offers for the development of Taqwa – a virtue that allows us to truly participate in that great cosmic celebration in honor of the revelation of the Quran as a Huda to all people, which is, as mentioned earlier, Ramadaan itself. It is a virtue furthermore, that allows us to magnify Allah Ta’aala as He ought to be magnified, namely, with complete awareness of our earthly duties and spiritual vocation; and, therefore, to be of those who are truly thankful to Allah. It is a virtue too, which is ultimately celebrated in the Quran itself, for Allah says:

 " The best of you are those who have learnt Taqwa" (49 : 13).

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks